What Authoring Various Technology Laws Taught Me About Running A Startup

Author: Mitch Kominsky,

Building a technology startup is hard. You must pinpoint and clearly define a meaningful problem, create a validated solution, and address your customer’s needs in a valuable proposition. It also doesn’t hurt to be crazy enough to think you can change the world. Many people are surprised when I suggest that crafting and, ultimately, passing legislation into law, as a staffer on Capitol Hill has many parallels to running a startup.

The first part of the legislative process is identifying the relevant challenge in policy. For instance, when I served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Cybersecurity Committee Counsel, Members of Congress noticed the heightened cyber threat to the federal government information systems. We researched this specific problem, examined existing legislation and rules that governed various cyber matters, and brainstormed a number of potential solutions, as a foundation.

Image Source: Redbooth

Image Source: Redbooth

The next critical part of the process is engaging with relevant stakeholders. We met with private sector and security experts, including cryptographers, legal scholars, and all relevant parties to understand their viewpoints and experience. A major challenge is crafting language that passes constitutional scrutiny and how it involves other relevant parties, such as Committees and Leadership, of Congress. In the meantime, you are constantly negotiating with relevant staff and Members of Congress during this entire process.

As you build legislation (a product), you are constantly adjusting, based on feedback. Before the process is complete, most legislation go through various committee reviews, and you need to build support for the problem you’re trying to solve and its solution.

similar in failure

There are many moving parts in a startup that you are simultaneously working on. Both positions require a long and short-term strategy, driven by your constituents (customers) and mathematics (how many votes a bill will receive) and data. Most startups fail and there is also similarity to legislation, as only approximately 2% of legislation that is introduced becomes law - and many of these laws are non-complex, agreeable items such as congratulating the little league champions of a particular city.

similar in understanding

Running a startup mandates a deep understanding of your customers. The legislative process is incredibly similar. The major difference is that you often have a good picture of your constituents and stakeholders (customers) as you go through the legislative process and typically had close access, but must ask the right questions and understand what each stakeholder is seeking.

Mitchell Kominsky speaking in the Venture Smarter's fall 2017 Smart Regions Conference.

Mitchell Kominsky speaking in the Venture Smarter's fall 2017 Smart Regions Conference.

Mitchell Kominsky is the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Venture Smarter. Mitchell is leading the company's effort to build a platform, based on artificial intelligence, to help cultivate the Internet of Things ecosystem. 

Mitchell has served as a senior counsel for U.S. Senate Leadership on emerging technology, a Cybersecurity Counsel for U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and is the author of various cybersecurity laws. Additionally, Mitchell is a mentor at Matter.vc, a media-focused venture capital firm and accelerator based in San Francisco, California. Mitchell enjoys working with innovative teams and advises high-tech startups from seed stage to venture-backed companies with more than $30M in funding,