Startup Nations Policy Hack

Startup Nations Policy Hack


The Startup Nations Policy Hack moves beyond dialogue and is for those who like to roll up their sleeves and get to work on hacking policy solutions to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship.

A New Approach to Developing Policy Solutions

In the pursuit of economic growth and job creation, we are all working to find smarter ways to enable the founders of new firms. However, generally speaking, our governments are not designed to swiftly adapt or react to unexpected regulatory issues emerging from entrepreneurial innovation.

Policymakers have therefore been testing new strategies, like using regulatory sandboxes that bring government and innovators together to assess the regulatory risk, which mimic the lean approach entrepreneurs take to arrive at viable solutions to launch in the market. More specifically, GEN Policy has developed a Startup Nations Policy Hack tool, intended to help convene stakeholders as teams to jointly refine, test, and develop –or “hack”– policy solutions.

Over a half day, the Startup Nations Policy Hack offers participants a means to devise a policy recommendation and move it closer to being thought-out solution viable for implementation.

Why Host a Startup Nations Policy Hack?

During GEW, you can test this approach in your ecosystem by convening a Startup Nations Policy Hack in an effort to:

  • Minimize risk of policy failure
    • Developing policy instruments takes time and resources. By considering diverse perspectives from across the ecosystem, you can help ensure that policies are not designed in a vacuum, and minimize the risk of policy failure.
  • Ecosystem validation
    • By engaging private sector ecosystem leaders in an effort to co-create policy, you increase your chances of generating buy-in from the entrepreneurship community, such as founders and entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, leaders of entrepreneurial support organizations that influence opinion in the ecosystem, regulators, and others.
  • Tangible outputs
    • Throughout the Hack, teams refine, soundboard and strengthen the policy solution through a facilitated process. This allows you to present to public sector officials more detailed policy solution proposal(s).

Convening a Startup Nations Policy Hack

1. Choose policy recommendations that can help lower barriers to entrepreneurs

Start by selecting a policy challenge which can make a difference to your entrepreneurial ecosystem. We recommend you select policy solutions proposed in America’s New Business Plan, which clearly defines some barriers many entrepreneurs face at the local, state and federal levels.

Your Startup Nations Policy Hack can take one or more policy recommendations, turn them into challenges, and form teams to develop specific solutions - all in a safe and gamified setting.

2. Form Teams

The success of interventions by policymakers depends on the participation and contributions of key stakeholders from across the ecosystem. Sort invited participants into multidisciplinary groups of four to six people around each solution.

For example, if your chosen challenge is to work on “spurring the creation of new funding models and technologies that serve all types of new businesses, especially those currently underserved by the capital marketplace” (see America’s New Business Plan for this example), the hack team might be comprised of a public official from an entity regulating funds, an entrepreneur from an under-served group, and perhaps an angel investor or a crowdfunding expert.

Or if the recommendation to be fleshed out is to “create pay-for-success models that provide federal support to organizations that serve entrepreneurs when certain agreed-upon benchmarks are met” you could invite leaders from entrepreneur-support organizations to be at the table.

Ideally, each team will include at least one person from the target beneficiary group, as well as a public sector official who can share the challenges of making things happen, and if all goes well, commit to raising the idea of implementing the policy solution(s) after the Hack. All might commit to at least keep the conversation going within the ecosystem after GEW to remove the identified barriers.

3. Enlist facilitators

The Startup Nations Policy Hack process includes a series of sequenced activities that are intended to guide participants through different stages of policy design, inspired by the lean canvas approach. These stages include: problem definition, defining metrics of success, outlining necessary resources, etc. See the Public Policy Lean Canvas sheet, which each team should have in front them.

At least one mentor should be available to the teams to keep the conversation focused on the selected policy recommendation, and to:

  • Act as facilitators in guiding teams through the Public Policy Lean Canvas.
  • Keep the discussion at the table focused on the chosen policy challenge.
  • Encourage participants as they unlock challenges to design a viable solution to the chosen policy challenge.

4. Feedback loops: Mentors & judges help teams fine tune policy solutions

Each team will engage in a deep conversation about the policy approach, within a time limit to arrive at a consensus, to then present their proposed solutions to a jury.

During the allocated time for team members to work together and ‘hack’ a workable solution, it is recommended that selected mentors from government, business and entrepreneur-support organizations rotate from team to team, spending about 10-15 minutes with each, to provide advice and support to participants as appropriate.

These mentors can also serve as judges who will listen to the first round of policy solution pitches and provide feedback. During this first round of pitches to a panel composed of the mentors, teams present their preliminary policy solutions, so that they gain some practice and feedback before their final presentations.

The final presentation of solutions should ideally be in front of a jury of 3-4 special guests, such as the head of your government’s entrepreneurship desk/agency, rock star entrepreneurs in your community and an investor. Each team should be allotted seven minutes to pitch their solutions, with another seven minutes worth of constructive feedback from the jury. This will allow for solutions to receive additional feedback and for key stakeholders to gain familiarity with the proposed solutions.

Suggested Run-of-Show

Approx. five (5) hours; 4-6 teams:

  1. Introduce the objectives, teams, and rules of the game (15 mins). Optional opening component: welcome remarks from a leader in the ecosystem – ideally a policymaker who led on the implementation of a legislative or regulatory solution relevant to startups – to build momentum towards solving policy challenges.
  2. Team members come together to brainstorm ways to refine the policy challenge and solution for at least one hour. They have the possibility of getting input from mentors.
  3. Each team presents their policy solution to a panel of mentors/judges, who provide feedback (estimate 15 minutes per team for the presentation and feedback)
  4. Teams regather to process feedback and work to further refine their solutions (30-45 minutes).
  5. Team representatives make their final presentations of their proposed solutions to the panel of mentors/judges who select their favorite(s). Optional: broader audience voting.

Helpful Tips + Recommended Resources

Invitation Process:

  • State clearly what the motivation is for hosting the Startup Nations Policy Hack. In your invitations to team members, mentors and judges, use factoids to describe the barriers to be solved. America’s New Business Plan will help you state with sufficient detail how different barrier(s) affect entrepreneurs. You are welcome to borrow material from the plan directly.
  • Encourage participants to prepare by issuing team member invitations with plenty of lead time (weeks if you can) for them to reflect – alone or in concert with others - on how to address the policy barriers. Encourage them to conduct further research, talk to others and read up on the issue. Many policy hacks traditionally present challenges to the teams only on the day of the event for drama, but for the Startup Nations Policy Hack we recommend that participants come ready to give meaningful feedback and concrete ideas in order to maximize the value of the Hack and its potential of delivering workable and innovative new policy solution(s).
  • You may choose to give team members who accept the invitation visibility before the event. This can result in their getting even more input from interested parties in their search for a solution. Please see a sample announcement, here.

At the Event:

  • If convening an in-person Policy Hack:
    • Offer team leaders the necessary materials (e.g. flip-charts, markers, large printouts of the Public Policy Lean Canvas, etc.), so they jot their ideas while remaining focus on policy substance.
    • There should be enough working space for each team to discuss, and for mentors to walk around each team work table to provide guidance, as necessary.
  • If convening a virtual Policy Hack:
    • Team facilitators should be charged with sharing their screens, using breakout rooms on platforms like Zoom, and filling out the Public Policy Lean Canvas based on comments from team members who raise their hands to weigh in.
    • Assign one mentor per team breakout.
  • Allocate no less than 90 mins total to the actual team work for meaningful collaboration to happen.

Additional Guidance

Startup Nations is a specialist network for public officials who are active in entrepreneurship policy development and implementation in their countries, many of which have convened Startup Nations Policy Hack locally. You may contact us with any questions, and even request suggestions on mentors you could invite for your Policy Hack teams, etc.

There is no fee to host local editions of the Startup Nations Policy Hack. If you decide to host this Signature Activity, we will provide you with the logo and other relevant materials. This will allow us to promote your event among our network, as well as feature its outcomes on our global platforms, such as the Startup Nations Atlas of Policies.

Please contact with any questions or simply to let us know if you will be joining in this global policy hacking effort. These are unusual times and governments are getting things done faster than ever before in pursuit of enabling their nation’s job creators to drive economic recovery. What you do can make a significant difference.

Good luck.