Darrell Issa talks patent reform, entrepreneurship at Startup Grind DC - Technical.ly DC

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Mar. 19, 2015 12:22 pm

Darrell Issa talks patent reform, entrepreneurship at Startup Grind DC

After discussing patent reform and his own entrepreneurial path, the Republican congressman from California was hard pressed to find attractive features of the D.C. tech scene.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) discussed patent reform and other entrepreneurial topics at a Startup Grind DC event hosted by Brian Park, March 17, 2015.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) discussed patent reform and other entrepreneurial topics at a Startup Grind DC event hosted by Brian Park, March 17, 2015.

(Photo by Lalita Clozel)

On St. Patrick’s Day, some were getting merry, while others were learning the ins and outs of patent reform. About 60 people convened Tuesday at 1776 to hear Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) fire off dozens of one-liners, defend his patent reform bill and share entrepreneurial tips.

Issa, who is the richest member of Congress with an estimated net worth approaching $450 million in 2013, and 37 patents to his name, struck gold by founding car-alarm maker Directed Electronics. As head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is also notorious for his aggressive investigations of the Obama administration, particularly in the IRS scandal.

He appeared at Startup Grind DC with a five o’clock shadow and lots of memorable quotes in tow.

On politics:

  • After his phone rings on stage: “It could be [Attorney General] Eric Holder. He’s found Lois Lerner‘s emails.”
  • In response to why he entered politics after making a fortune: “I already had a sun tan.” He cited Ronald Reagan as his favorite historical figure; to him, the former president “under-promised” but “over-delivered.”
  • “I don’t mind the high taxes, I mind being vilified,” he said. “That’s what makes me a Republican.”

On policy:

  • “I totally support the brain drain of the rest of the world to America,” said Issa as he discussed his efforts to increase the number of visas to immigrants with a U.S. degree in the STEM fields.
  • “WiFi carries more data than cellular,” which is why the government should consider reserving more airwaves for unlicensed use rather than auctions.
  • “You’re creating a disaster for free enterprise” by regulating Internet of Things in the automobile industry and allowing the government to control or regulate encryption, said Issa.
  • On his patent reform bill, which is meant to discourage trolls by adding new requirements for plaintiffs in infringement lawsuits: “As a small inventor I’d love to have a lot of patents, but I need patents I can depend on.”

On entrepreneurship:

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Issa was asked to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the local technology industry. Here are some of his thoughts, which focused mostly on California:

  • “What works on the West Coast works in spite of our government.”
  • “The tech industry is thriving there on the strength of research institutions like Stanford University.”
  • “California’s past success keeps California succeeding.”
  • If you want to open a manufacturing business, don’t do it in D.C., which is better suited to fields like communications, he said. “Figure out whether your innovative ideas work with what you’re doing here.”

Startup Grind DC organizer Brian Park, who hosted the “fireside chat,” respectfully disagreed on these points.

There are research institutions in the area, he told Technical.ly DC, like the University of Maryland, though Georgetown is a bit “artsy,” he conceded.

He added that the federal government is precisely what draws researchers to the capital. “We have NIH, we’ve got HHS. … Where those guys from the research institutions go to. That’s the next stop.” D.C. and Silicon Valley are similar in that both have vast “pools of engineers,” he added.

Park also believes that D.C. needs a new tech industry giant, citing Opower, Cvent and 2U as potential contenders. “We had AOL, can we have another anchor company?”

Since December 2013, Park, who is also the COO of the national Startup Grind network, has been trying to unearth “big brand names that people didn’t know [were in] D.C.” through these events. He’s highlighted companies like Arlington-based Rosetta Stone, Reston-based comScore and McLean-based Capital One.

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