Startup Policy Lab: launching a tech nonprofit

We hack policy and technology to innovate government.

Startup Policy Lab began almost two years ago with a simple goal: connect the startup community to policymakers. Fast-forward to today and Startup Policy Lab has evolved into a tech nonprofit, a West Coast policy shop.

People ask us this all the time: tech, nonprofit, policymaking, startups, how does this all work? We thought we’d have some fun and interview ourselves using questions people already ask us.

Why do we exist?

The policymaking system — the process by which people in government make and enforce laws — has to change in order to prepare policymakers for the challenges introduced by technology and entrepreneurs. Current policy has not kept pace with innovation, and that hurts industry. For example, policies governing drones have fallen behind innovators, private industry and even other countries.

There are many ways to change how policymaking and decisions are made— modifying technical architecture, upend legal regimes, organize the people, etc. — but our focus is to provide policymakers with the tools necessary to make more informed decisions.

Startup Policy Lab does this through technology, research, and programming that informs the policymaking process.

Policymakers have to make decisions. But policymakers generally don’t have access to high quality information (whether raw data, expertise or research materials) that can be impounded and acted upon quickly. The tools we build are designed to catalyze data-driven policy making.

We believe that policymakers can make more informed decisions if they have access to a larger pool of expertise in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This enables government to innovate as rapidly as society is evolving.

Are you a trade group and do you advocate for certain laws or legislation?

No. We are builders and we are conveners — operating as a bridge to bring together different stakeholders, but we do not engage in direct advocacy. Our tools are scalable and help policymakers at the local, state and national level make more data-driven decisions.

What do you do?

Government is only as effective as its resources. We believe the secret to innovating the policymaking process is to facilitate the access of resources for decision makers.

  • We develop software that help policymakers make informed decisions. We are developing new tools that empower policymakers to engage with experts and innovators to integrate innovation at the moment of policymaking.
  • We engage in independent research. With a focus on applied research and implementable solutions, we build big datasets and create multi-jurisdictional standards for policymakers across disciplines. After all, a white paper published into the digital wilderness is only useful if it can be discovered.
  • We use events to engage government with the startup community. The most important conversations happen face-to-face, and we are excited to expand our event series across the country with programming in New York and DC launching this summer. Innovation and policymaking are not limited to San Francisco or the Valley.

Who are you?

We are a team of policy wonks and technologists with a passion for making government operate more effectively. Our backgrounds include academia, startups, government (like the World Bank and White House), big tech companies (Cisco) and nonprofits (Mozilla). We have deep roots in the startup community and government which allows us to bridge the two.

Working with such a broad range of people has allowed us to develop an incredible community. One of our most critical partners and supporters is We call Runway our home, and the people here provide a supportive community that walk the walk of paying it forward. And one of our longest-running partners is Hackers/Founders the largest community of hackers and founders in the world with over 150,000 members, quite possibly one of the most passionate and diverse communities in tech.

We work with a lot of other great organizations as well: public, private, nonprofit and community organizations. We look forward to sharing more about those relationships in the future. We’re all about community.

A new approach to policymaking

It’s never easy being disruptive or creating a new concept that people aren’t familiar with. But something worth doing always requires a bit of work. We are incredibly excited to launch this adventure with innovators around the world in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

Our doors are always open for coffee. Get early announcements and news with our weekly newsletter and connect with us on Twitter (@startuppolicy@charlesbelle@moariane). Join us in making policy innovative.

Keep disrupting. Keep innovating. Keep moving forward.