Silicon Valley and the U.S. Department of Defense have had a long history of partnership — including the government funding R&D that was commercialized by major companies and is now used by people everyday. But lately, there’s been a more “commercial” evolution of technology, with both government and startups shifting focus in what they did (and didn’t do) before. So how startups should partner with the government — one of the biggest IT buyers in the world? MORE
When (now) two-year-old startup Zenefits was banned in Utah because it offered its HR management software for free, CEO and co-founder Parker Conrad felt upset, anxious, and scared. Especially because it was a B2B company with a much smaller supporter base: “If you’re Uber or Lyft, then you have this built-in constituency using the service and millions of people to complain and go to the mat for you… But man, we make HR software. That’s totally unsexy. No one’s even going to pay attention to this,” he says. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Conrad shares how Zenefits went from being banned in Utah to the state reversing the ban. MORE
a16z editorial: Aren’t some of those clashes due to regulatory capture though?
Ted: It’s not as black-and-white as “oh, they’re bad guys, they’re fraudulently taking payoffs”. As I see it, regulatory capture is really about two things: One, it’s about deep familiarity. The downside of having to deal with a regulatory agency a lot, is that you have to deal with the agency a lot. But the upside of that continuous contact through meetings and events is you begin to get to know each other, and understand how and why regulators do what they do. This form of regulatory capture is about knowing how to work the system… The other kind of regulatory capture is a form of back-scratching, where buddies that legacy incumbents have worked with for years are now in office. They are running things. The conversation is some variation of “Please prevent these new entrants from disrupting me.”
While the second form of capture sounds a lot worse, the first type is a subtler form of persuasion that’s hard to compete with. Instead of phrasing things as a favor, incumbents are framing things as “You’re right to be scared by this new technology”. MORE
It seems like we hear about new corporate (not to mention consumer) hacks in the news every week. Is this something new, or just a continuation of old patterns and we just happen to be hearing about it more now? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, longtime security investigative reporter Kim Zetter of Wired breaks down how hacks happen. What’s old (like phishing), what’s new (like spear-phishing and ransomware)? How are players around the world — whether for government or economic espionage — becoming ever more sophisticated, coordinated, and organized? And what can companies do? MORE
It has long been the case that technological change outpaces changes to policy and law. Beyond important safety measures, some regulations take the form of complex processes or workflows that simply don’t apply to startups doing different things. Or, that involve prohibitive fees, time, and other resources that startups can’t afford.
For companies on the frontlines of the so-called ‘sharing economy’ — What’s working? What needs to be changed? This segment of the a16z Podcast shares founders’ perspectives and experiences on what startups need to be able to innovate in this (and other areas!) in the current regulatory environment… Especially as software continues to eat the physical world. MORE
Life scientists currently spend more than 180 billion dollars every year to generate precious research results. Yet they don’t spend anywhere near as much effort on making the results of that research reproducible, searchable, and machine-readable. “Half the money we spend on research is repeated; the trouble is we don’t know which half.” The classic solution has been the physical laboratory notebook. However, in an era of geographically distributed conglomerates, massive biomedical datasets, and increasingly computerized workflows, we will not attain reproducible research through good note-taking alone. We need modern tools.
That’s where Benchling comes in. They’ve built a suite of apps, centered around a digital laboratory notebook, that help life scientists design, run, record, and search the results of their very expensive experiments. Already adopted by thousands of scientists across both industry and academia, Benchling’s technology could becoming to biomedicine what GitHub has become to software engineering. MORE
Every meeting a busy founder takes is time away from building the company. So it’s understandable why engaging corporate development groups is believed to be a waste of time, unless you’re selling your company. But there are actually several benefits to engaging with corporate development — it just depends on your goals, and on the particular mandate of the group you’re engaging. Understanding these differences is critical to deciding whether corporate development is useful for your startup or not… MORE