August 3, 2018

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The Next Generation of Innovation

By
Gideon Lett

We are in the midst of a digital revolution, the likes of which we have never seen before, and the pace of innovation continues at a blistering speed.  Tech and innovation have enveloped every facet of our lives and are changing how enterprises do business.  It is also fueling our economy and creating jobs for millions of Americans.  Right now, tech employs nearly seven million Americans, contributes $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy, and our tech ecosystem is the envy of the world.

However, without the right approach to state policy issues affecting the tech industry — from taxes and education reform, to employment policies and the regulatory landscape — the U.S. will fall behind.

That is why on July 30, TechNet hosted a panel discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 2018 Legislative Summit in Los Angeles with the CEOs of NerdWallet, Thumbtack, and Topia.  The CEOs’ conversation focused on their own experiences navigating complex regulatory environments across the country, and how states can nurture the next generation of innovation and prepare Americans for the rapidly changing 21st century economy.

Tech is enhancing consumers’ lives across the board, from how we shop and use transportation to how we make financial decisions.  To keep pace with these innovations and meet consumer needs, NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen highlighted the importance of state policymakers understanding emerging technologies, especially financial technology (fintech), which helps Americans make more educated financial decisions.  State policymakers in particular need to empower consumers to take advantage of financial applications and create streamlined rules for the online financing marketplace.

Tech is also revolutionizing the workplace.  More than 55 million Americans work in the gig economy, and for them, independent contracting or freelance work has taken the place of traditional long-term employment.  Plus, that number is only growing.  Thanks to innovative online platforms that make it easier to find meaningful, flexible work anywhere, this phenomenon has expanded beyond Silicon Valley and traditional tech hubs to cities and towns all across the nation.

To that end, Brynne Kennedy, CEO of Topia, and Marco Zappacosta, CEO of Thumbtack, argued that it is more important than ever that states take steps to develop a modern workforce.  Employers and workers alike need a flexible employment environment that allows workers to find opportunities that best match their skills, interests, and availability.  To continue supporting this changing workforce, states should invest in training programs and portable benefits, such as medical, dental, and disability insurance.

Although we face challenges, we remain optimistic that we can maintain our competitive edge, build the workforce of the future, and equip people with tools to make better financial decisions, but state policies matter.  TechNet looks forward to continuing our effective collaboration with leaders in state capitals across the country to create a public policy landscape that allows American ingenuity to thrive.

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