Startup Manifesto – Law Abiding Entrepreneur

With the UK leaving the EU (eventually potentially) we must refresh our approach to regulations. This involves us implementing new systems and alterations to improve our economy’s infrastructure.

First thing we must attain is a Data Adequacy Agreement. Due to us leaving the EU we will become a third country to Europe’s data protection framework. Without a Data Protection Adequacy Agreement startups will need contract-based legal structures to ensure the protection of Europeans data to their standard. Large firms won’t be affected by this however for a startup it will consume time and funding.

The problem here is that an agreement is not certain and we cannot begin the process until we’ve left. The consultation period for arranging the agreement could take sometime and there are a variety of issues that may prevent us attaining one. This means that startups may be under pressure to convert to contract-based legal structures in terms of data flow. As a result companies will be in a situation where they are stress-tested under this. To counter this I personally reckon there needs to be some support network for assisting startups with designing these contracts. The reason we need this is so that their ability to trade at full strength is not affected. If they falter then our economy will suffer as a result.

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Here’s a juicy suggestion! They recommend promoting innovation in regulated sectors via creating a cross-sector regulatory sandbox. A regulatory sandbox allows micro-testing of new innovative concepts under the observation of a regulator within a controlled environment.

The importance of this is that it allows new firms to operate outside existing regulations, many of which were implemented with large corporations in mind. By implementing a sandbox not only does it speed up innovation greatly, but also increases the competitive edge of small companies against leviathan firms. As a result a startup can trial groundbreaking innovations ahead of schedule under special supervision and if it works can lead to them being highly successful.

This currently exists within the healthcare system and has been implemented in the FinTech industry in 2015 and has generated a lot of attention.

In the manifesto they outline two objectives of this change. The first would be to make it easier for these revolutionary startups to come to market, and test out their propositions without being deterred or prevented by regulations. Secondly, it allows regulators to highlight particular hindrances in our current regulations by observing these small-scale tests.

Open Banking-Style

Have you heard of open banking-style? I hadn’t till now. Open banking allows consumers and startups to share their banking data via a secure API with approved third parties. These third parties can enabled to make payments on their behalf. The reason for this is to un-bundle financial/banking services and to enable customers to access third party services like accounting for example.

Open banking has a wide variety of applications. This very open approach makes more data available, reduces time needed on managing money day-to-day and you can easily switch services/deals to something more cost effective.

Of course, our fellow innovators would love to have more data available to better improve their services, obviously the owners of the data remain in control of how its shared. One particular field that’s spoken of is the energy sector. By utilising open banking-style demand-side response becomes a viable option, which improves our energy efficiency. It does this by understanding when peak times are, and how to reallocate additional energy without the need to generate more energy.

“With Open Banking, customers now have the opportunity to control their financial data – and release it from banks’ ownership. With customers’ permission, startups could access transactional data – such as spending habits and regular payments – and build innovative solutions to everyday problems at a rate never seen before.”

Thish Nadesan – COO of Cleo

Revolutionising the way the government collects, stores & shares data, well that sounds like a challenge. However do not fret, their is a suitable, tried & tested model out there. Estonia created a model called X-Road. The key fundamental behind the model is “allows the nation’s various public and private sector e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony”. The predicted savings of such a system is around 12 million hours every single year! That’s a lot of time being given back to us.

Just to clarify the way our government currently approaches data isn’t entirely concrete or secure. Remember the Windrush scandal?

The X-Road model was adopted in Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the UK government considered it back in 2013. After what happened in 2018 maybe we should learn from the success of others and implement it ourselves.

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Very soon the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) plans to introduce Age Appropriate Design Code. This is in an effort to make the internet a safer place. One such change is to have six different versions of your services (website) for the different age bands. This may be some hassle along with the additional requirements. However, it is in the pursuit of improving the quality of life for young people which, I’m all for!

We must ensure this is implemented in a pragmatic way. Once this is implemented all companies best comply to the standards regardless of effort it may take. Let’s hope there is guidance and support offered for the smaller companies that may be under a lot of strain.

With additional regulation of internet platforms taking place and seeming inevitable outside of the Age Appropriate Design Code there is a real risk of creating more barriers. A whopping 86% of UK investors are worried that policies aimed at tech giants could hit startups much harder. Instead of balancing the market it is in fact being tilted towards larger firms.

There are many potential changes that are becoming discussed. This is creating great uncertainty and increased risk to new tech firms, much like what Brexit has caused in our economy. The government should listen to Professor Furman review into digital competition on regulation. The general consensus is that the general regulatory landscape for digital businesses is kept simple to allow pro-competition and great levels of innovation.

The controversial topic of encryption

Now here’s a sensitive topic “protect encryption from politicised attacks” the argument is quite straight forward really.

DNS over HTTPS encryption has come under criticism by MPs who believe it undermines the ability to ensure the safety of children online. In essence it prevents any outside contacts to access your phones/computers etc. That is exactly the job that encryption should do and should remain like that. The suggestion of having a back door for law enforcement opens a whole can of ethical worms.

DNS adds a layer of encryption that strengthens protections for users whom are at risk of government censorship, and it can also provide user anonymity for vulnerable people who need to stay safe online.

We have a duty to ensure the safety of children and any human but allowing the government to intrude on our own lives is not the solution. I have to say, we must work to find a better solution to safe guard children and ourselves.

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