imgres-14Focusing on H1-B Visas, patent reform and broadband spectrum access are the big issues concerning the technology industry this year, said Michael McGeary, co-founder and senior strategist with Engine Advocacy.
McGeary spoke with more than 100 people gathered on the rooftop of the Rattle Inn Wednesday night in downtown Austin.
He flew in for the event, hosted by Google, from San Francisco. He’s visiting other tech hubs around the country to spread the word about the need for startups to get involved in federal, state and local legislation governing high tech issues.
“I’ve been in Austin more than any other entrepreneurial community outside of San Francisco,” he said. “The energy here is really different than just about anywhere else.”
Engine Advocacy, a nonprofit organization, seeks to educate policy makers about the impact of the startup community and to help shape laws that govern it.
One of the hottest issues concerns H1-B Visas, which allows people from other countries to work in the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Right now, the federal government restricts how many H1-B Visas get issued every year.
The Startup Act 3.0 is federal legislation that seeks to create “75,000 new “entrepreneur visas” every year to founders who raise $100,000 for new ventures that hire at least two employees within a year and at least five in the following three years,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition, the legislation would create “50,000 visas per year for foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, and spend at least five years pursuing careers in those fields,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Some in the technology industry argue that restrictions on H1-B Visas keep out the best and brightest from the U.S. economy and instead sends graduate-level college educated workers back to their native countries to compete against the United States.
The Austin event was about creating a dialogue with technology companies about issues important to them in growing their companies.
“This event is about getting tech companies involved in the process,” said Claire England, founder of RISE Austin, a nonprofit organization, which puts on a free annual entrepreneurial conference.
“It’s really critical for entrepreneurs and startups to get involved in the process,” England said. “That’s how they can exact change.”
For example, entrepreneurs and startups helped change the crowdfunding laws to allow companies to seek funding from unaccredited investors. The law passed last year as part of the JOBS Act, which President Obama signed into law last April. The equity-based crowdfunding is still being held up though because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission must issues new rules to ensure consumers are protected in the process.
“The Google Austin office, along with Engine Advocacy, the Austin Technology Council, and RISE Global, sponsored this event because the tech sector is a very important part of our economy here in Texas,” Gerardo Interiano, said in a news statement. “We wanted to gather together with the tech community in a fun and social way and share what we believe are our key issues and challenges and opportunities for 2013.”
The Austin Technology Council isn’t advocating any particular issues at present, said Grover Bynum, senior advisor to council.
“We are advocating for Austin Technology and we’re here to support innovation.”