With Unanimous Vote, Oregon Moves to Ban Patent Trolls

A bill passed today in the Oregon Senate would make the state the first of its kind in the nation to ban the practice of patent trolling. As reported by OregonLive:

Senate Bill 1540 would make patent trolling a violation of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The bill would also allow an individual or business targeted by a patent troll to sue and recover attorneys’ fees.

Patent trolls are companies that buy often obscure patents and threaten lawsuits against hundreds or even thousands of people and businesses. The real aim is to get companies to fork over cash to make the troll go away. 

“We want to help and protect the small businesses who fuel our local economies,” said Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, who sponsored the bill.

Twitter CEO Wins Crunchies, Crappies

The power of Twitter lies within his chin.

In what might be a Silicon Valley first, Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, won two startup awards on the same night, highlighting both the achievements of his role at the company’s helm, and the controversies created in the process.

Inside the Davies Symphony Hall, Costolo won “Best CEO,” the Best Actor equivalent of The Crunchies, Silicon Valley’s lavish annual award ceremony co-organized by TechCrunch, GigaOM, and VentureBeat. Costolo’s newest accolade emerged from fierce competition, in which he edged out Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer, and runner-up-winning Travis Kalanick of Uber.

“This is really a team award,” said Costolo, in a gracious and brief acceptance speech. “It’s just such a delight to be able to get up in the morning and come to work with such enthusiastic, and creative, and courageous people. It makes it fun, it makes it exciting, and it never gets old, so thanks very much — I really appreciate it.”

Today marked the seventh year of The Crunchies, and the first of another event: The Crappies, organized in protest by the San Francisco chapter of Jobs With Justice. Playfully adorned with hand-written, paperboard signage, The Crappies organizers “awarded” individuals and companies for actions deemed problematic and harmful to the city and its myriad communities.

Dick Costolo was among the dubious cast of Crappies prizewinners, receiving the award for Best Tax Evader. The award references the company’s decision to relocate to the city’s Mid-Market neighborhood in the now-termed “Twitter building.”

In agreeing to the move, Twitter accepted a payroll tax credit pioneered by Mayor Ed Lee. The credit, misleadingly called the “Twitter tax break,” in fact extends to any company that relocates to the Mid-Market neighborhood, a trending district that incorporates areas of Civic Center and the Tenderloin, along with stretches of SoMa from 6th to 10th Street.

In guise of the real Costolo, local nonprofit worker and activist James Chionsini, playing a rather convincing Fake Dick Costolo, accepted the award. Chionsini’s last tweet, dated from almost a year ago, rings today with newfound prescience:

The Crappies have followed a wave anti-gentrification protests across the Bay Area, where private buses transport Google workers to and from the company’s Mountain View headquarters. The protests, widely covered in both tech and mainstream press, highlight the tensions rippled by the wave of a tech economy that fails to lift all boats.

“San Francisco is in a crisis,” decries Jobs With Justice. Median rental prices recently topped $3,000 for the first time in history, situating the City by the Bay as the country’s single most expensive place to live.

AngelList Enables Public Fundraising, Thanks to Silicon-Valley-Backed JOBS Act

A secret no longer.

A secret no longer.

Thanks to regulatory changes enacted by the JOBS Act, startups, beginning this Monday, September 23, startups may disclose their fundraising information to the public, rather than to accredited investors alone.

The changes were outlined in an email blast recently sent out to founders on AngelList, with the news freshly arriving in people’s inboxes.

President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law on April 5, 2012, after passing Congress with rare bipartisan support. Backed overwhelmingly by Silicon Valley, and supported by entrepreneurs across the country, the law rewrites and eases a number of regulatory requirements that currently burden emerging companies.

In addition to allowing startups to disclose their fundraising information (and ambitions) to the general public, the JOBS Act facilitates a number of changes that will likely prove a boon to a stagnant economy, including:

  • Increasing from 500 to 2,000 the number of shareholders a company may have before disclosing its common stock to the SEC.
  • Extend from two years to five years the period of exemption allowed for publicly traded startups to comply with the perfectly titled Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the costliest and most controversial measure of the regulatory act.
  • Provide simplified regulatory requirements for fundraising rounds up to $50 million, from a previous limit of $5 million.

Many of these changes have gone into effect already, or, like the public fundraising provision, will take effect soon. Also stipulated in the act is a much-touted measure allowing non-accredited investors to crowdfund companies; however, specific regulations governing this change have repeatedly faced delays.

#sfbeta Endorses Boycott of Coca-Cola

#sfbeta endorses the the Boycott of Coca-Cola and calls on other startups to do the same.

Coca-Cola is a signature sponsor of the 2014 Olympic Games, which have come under intense scrutiny due the fierce anti-gay legislation recently enacted in host country Russia.

The anti-gay law has unleashed a series of violent actions against the country’s LGBT community, with police often joining homophobic aggressors in contributing to, rather than curtailing, hate-inspired violence.

“It’s a scary place for LGBT people in Russia right now.”

Despite the public outcry against the law, which Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leaves General Manager, has called “repugnant,” Coca-Cola refuses to withdraw their sponsorship of the games, and remains silent on the controversial law itself.

Reactions against Coca-Cola have been fierce and swift, driven largely by the LGBT and allied communities. A Facebook page called Boycott 2014 Olympic Games in Russia has attracted 55,000 likes, whose frequent posts attracted the attention of television pundit Keith Olbermann:

On August 29, demonstrators gathered in Times Square, crushing Coca-Cola cans and pouring the sugary drink conspicuously down city drains. Journalist Craig Takeuchi reports, via the slightly-ironically-titled Straight.com,

Queer Nation NY and RUSA LGBT staged a demonstration in Times Square on August 29 to protest Coca Cola’s sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The activist organizations stated in a news release that they are demanding that the company withdraw its sponsorship.

“By sponsoring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Coca-Cola is associating its brands with state-sanctioned gay-bashing,” Queer Nation cofounder Alan Klein stated. “Coca-Cola is sacrificing the safety and security of Russian LGBT people for profit—a position that opposes fundamental Olympic principles, runs counter to the International Olympic Committee charter, and that will tarnish its global image for decades to come.”

Klein also noted that Coca-Cola also sponsored the Olympics in Nazi Germany in 1936.

Crisp, clear, repressing.

Homophobia has no place in a just and civil society, and #sfbeta condemns the individuals who practice it, and corporations that condone it.

Besides, companies should know better: in the leadup to the 2012 United States Presidential Election, Aimee Castenell received over 115,000 signatures in a petition protesting Google’s sponsorship of ultra-conservative CPAC conference, and enjoined Google: “Don’t sponsor bigotry.” Aligning oneself with homophobia, whether in the form of a country, a conference, or a commentator, is never cool.

As an active voice in the startup and entrepreneurship community, #sfbeta calls for an end to Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

To co-sign your support (or express a rebuttal), please share your perspective in the comments below.

San Francisco Announces Entrepreneurship-in-Residence Program

Ed Lee, San Francisco's Startup Mayor (Source: AP)

Ed Lee, San Francisco’s Startup Mayor (Source: AP)

Recognizing that the spirit and practice of entrepreneurship can enrich and benefit government and the public sector, Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced the San Francisco Entrepreneurship in Residence, a new initiative from the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation.

Working in tandem with the Mayor’s office, talented entrepreneurial teams will build technology-enabled products to drive significant ends towards governmental goals: whether increased revenue, enhanced productivity, or decreased cost.

“We need the top entrepreneurs to work with us on opportunities that are actual pain points and needs of government,” says Mayor Lee. “San Francisco’s EIR program advances our role and vision as the Innovation Capital of the World.”

The program will last for 16 weeks, beginning mid-October of this year and continuing through February. Teams, of which three to five will be selected, will have unprecedented access to the $142 billion public sector market, tackling areas such as data, mobile and cloud services, healthcare, education, transportation, energy and infrastructure.

The moves comes as another inspiring moment for Mayor Lee, whose alliance with Twitter, Spotify, and other leading startups is revitalizing the long-depressed Mid-Market area, bringing jobs and prosperity to an area accustomed to empty storefronts and deserted sidewalks — a long-beleagured neighborhood that the mayor himself is set for a “total resurgence.