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a weekly newsletter about Canadian start ups + public policy.

This is a weekly newsletter about Canadian start-ups and public policy written by Vass Bednar (me).

*Other contenders for the title of this newsletter:

  • Hillsong

  • Early Adoption

  • Artificial Rules

  • Third Reading

The name is not as important as the frame (or as rhyming). My observation/hypothesis is that early-stage companies are super under-serviced by policymakers, and that we typically talk about regulating tech when companies are already fairly sophisticated. That means that a lot of firms are left out, and left behind.

The reality is that policy realities may inhibit companies from scaling (or existing) in the first place. That’s why start-ups need a regulatory strategy to succeed.

Most of all, we need more startups to embed policy thinking into their product design processes, and more policymakers to take an entrepreneurial, experimental approach.

how will the newsletter work?

💡 cool case studies

Every week I want to creep one ~early-stage~ Canadian startup and think a little about their regulatory playground. 

*A friend told me “not to do Canadian startups” because I will “run out super fast” and I accept his challenge.

🏆 unlikely policy leadership

I’ll also shout-out policy leadership from tech firms, and I’m going to include non-Canadian companies in this spotlight.

💸 setting money on fire

One thing (of many) that perplexes me on the regular is how inflated a company’s valuation can be when it’s not even (close to) profitable.

Let’s marvel at a valuation versus how much money a firm burns, and contrast that with what kind of policy programs we could have funded.

📚 legislative pages

I’ll also offer worthwhile readings re: start-ups and public policy. Spoiler: they are few and far between, but we’ve got to root in something.

I typically have two recommendations for students or recent graduates that are in exploratory mode (the books came out at the same time, and I read them on my honeymoon because of course). “Regulatory Hacking” and “The Fixer” are great companion reads, because they take dramatically different viewpoints on the role of the state.

regulatory hacking

Every startup wants to change the world, but the ones who truly make an impact know something the others don't: how to make government and regulation work for them. As startups use technology to shape the way we live, work, and learn, they're taking on challenges in sectors like healthcare, infrastructure, and education, where failure is far more consequential than a humorous chat with Siri or the wrong package on your doorstep. These startups inevitably have to face governments responsible for protecting citizens through regulation. Love it or hate it, we're entering the next era of the digital revolution: the Regulatory Era.

I think that “Regulatory Hacking” should be taught in policy schools, and appreciate the favourable view it takes of the role of the state.

the fixer: my adventures saving startups from death by politics

A rollicking ride through a political savant’s adventures at the chaotic intersection of tech and politics

Described as “Silicon Valley’s political savior” (Fast Company), “Uber’s political genius” (Vanity Fair), and “Silicon Valley’s favorite fixer” (TechCrunch), Bradley Tusk has regularly found himself in the middle of some of the most heated battles of our time. And he usually wins, using a strategic mix of PR savvy, political brinksmanship, and an uncanny grasp of how the system really works. In The Fixer he tells the sometimes funny, sometimes appalling tale of his accidental education—and shows what the rest of us can learn from it.

This one is memoir-ish, but I chafe at the blunt approach Tusk takes, and don’t think that Uber has really set any new policy standards in terms of process (unless there is a way to characterize: agreeing with whatever, and reviewing the legislation later?).

🚀 space policy

Am I serious? Can I make this a recurring bit? That is something we will find out together. 

I just think that “space policy” is  going to become a “thing” and we should all learn more about it as we go along. I’ll try to find neat readings or governance problems we can think through here. Like, who legislates space and how? And who is responsible for all the space junk?

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*This is my MVP of a weekly missive on startups and public policy in Canada. If you are reading it, you may be a BETA reader (thanks!). Send me your thoughts on how it can be improved so that it’s more relevant to you.