Start-up businesses face a tough road. Entrepreneurs will struggle with funding, resources, and competing with bigger businesses for consumer attention. But there is another potential battle that start-ups could be facing: government regulation. To win that battle, many entrepreneurs are looking at the upcoming elections and wondering which candidate can guide them through the jungle of red tape.
Not every entrepreneur is the same, and preferences for specific parties differ, but there are a few factors they seem to be looking for in a potential candidate.
An open mind and a willingness to listen.
Uber Technologies, the company that uses an app to connect riders and drivers, has recently increased its focus on government relations. Uber introduced the concept of ride-sharing, wherein Uber drivers use their own vehicle to transport riders, who find Uber vehicles with an app.
Recent news stories have questioned whether ride-sharing is safe, especially shining a spotlight on insurance issues and background-checks for Uber drivers. In response, states such as New Jersey have proposed legislation that would more heavily regulate the ride-sharing industry and harm their ability to compete with taxi-companies.
Jennifer Mullin, the communications director at Uber Technologies in Chicago, explained that educating politicians is key for Uber moving forward. “Tech start-ups in general are usually introducing something new to regulators and law makers,” Mullin said. “It’s a matter of elected officials’ willingness to sit down and have a discussion with us about the industry before the act to regulate it.”
Mullin said that explaining Uber is easiest during face-to-face meetings with government officials, but that those meetings don’t happen without a lot of work. “Most of them have an open-door policy and they’re willing to just let us come in an explain how this all works,” Mullin said of the politicians she has worked with. “It takes quite a bit of time to actually make all those one-on-one meetings happen and to develop materials that inform and educate all those different audiences, for instance, at City Hall, or at the state house.”
Employees of start-up businesses, especially those that are introducing a new product or service, want a candidate with an open mind and an open door. If a candidate is not willing to listen to new ideas, they probably will not receive an entrepreneur’s vote. Uber fans in New Jersey are waiting to see whether Governor Chris Christie, who many expect to run for president, will pass the bill that could regulate Uber – if it reaches his desk.
Someone with a global perspective
Younger start-up owners often gravitate towards technology when designing new businesses, and Glimpse Social Network is no different. Glimpse, which launches at the end of June, uses live-stream video to connect members across the globe. “There’s a large social activism aspect that we’re trying to integrate into it, but being able to communicate while streaming is going to be one of our most important things so that there can be discussions going on about whatever the stream is,” said CEO Ethan Turner.
With a business based around global connection, it is no surprise that Turner wants to see a candidate who thinks globally. He refers to H1-B visas, which allow immigrants to enter the U.S. to work temporarily in specialized positions. He thinks that arrangements like this one, as well as outsourcing, will become the new norm. “It’s just a community of workers, and this is becoming the new job industry.” Turner said. “Where you have to compete is at the global level now.”
“So someone who is going to relax laws on immigration, someone who is going to relax laws on working out of the country, on travel, transportation, anything that’s going to speed up this integration of the world into America and America into the world, I’m looking for that in a candidate,” Turner said.
For an entrepreneur with a global perspective like Turner, a candidate who supports increased globalization and is pro-globalization would be ideal. Candidates who do not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, such as Bernie Sanders, might not be the most popular candidate for this brand of entrepreneur. Jeb Bush, who supports TPP and is significantly more supportive of immigration than his Republican counter parts, might seem like a more attractive option.
A driven, independent candidate
Voters are often attracted to candidates whom they can relate to, and start-up business owners are no different. Patrick Kreiser, a professor of entrepreneurialism at Iowa State, points out that small business owners have to be driven, independent self-starters to succeed, and will probably look for those qualities in a candidate.
“They probably have respect for people with initiative, people that are very hard-working, people that have sort of raised themselves up,” Kreiser said.
Turner voiced a similar opinion when he said that he was interested in a candidate with a “diverse mental background,” who had job experiences that were not related to politics. “I want someone who understands what it feels like to be the bottom worker, to have worked a job at McDonalds,” Turner said.
Entrepreneurs with this attitude may be wooed by Hillary Clinton’s LinkedIn letter to small-business owners in which she describes working for her father’s own small-business. Carly Fiorina also likes to talk about her time as HP’s Chief Executive, which may impress start-up owners.
An up-for-grabs vote
One thing is clear after talking to our sources: start-up business support is not just for one party. Mullin said that Uber is in a “purple state-of-mind” and is looking for “an open-mindedness to embracing technology and innovation, a general willingness to understand how this new industry works. That’s not a hallmark of the Republican Party or a hallmark of the Democratic Party; I think both parties have a general willingness to work with us.”
Kreiser agrees that entrepreneurship does not necessarily indicate a preference for Democrats or Republicans. Like many Americans, Kreiser said that it may not come down to economic policy at all: “‘I respect that person, I trust that person,’ I think would be an important thing for a small business owner in terms of looking at a candidate.”
by Angela Ufheil