Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California showed up at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas last week and he had a lot to say about the government’s role when it comes to technology entrepreneurs — mostly that it should stay the heck out of the way.
When talking about disrupted industries Issa said, “First of all, it’s not our job to protect dinosaur industries.” He said the large companies with large teams of lobbyists always come to Washington begging for protection, but they have to deal with competition, he said.
In a wide ranging interview, Issa said that he comes to shows like South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show, not just because he was once in the car alarm business, but because he believes it’s important for him and his fellow lawmakers to get out of Washington and listen to entrepreneurs and hear about their problems as they try to build companies.
“It’s really a confluence of the internet and new ideas all coming together in one place every year and members of Congress who have to be part of the regulating — or not regulating — get an opportunity to get an earful and an eyeful,” he told TechCrunch.
As for the internet, he’s all for leaving it an unregulated platform for innovation and business building.
“The internet has been mostly non-regulated and has flourished,” he said. “It has grown exponentially and many would say, the one way to screw it up is in fact to decide that government has a better idea for that which has been working so well without them.”
He had strong words for the taxi industry when it comes to Uber, calling taxis “a highly regulated and restricted system.” He said that Uber was a good example of breaking down these systems and bringing real competition and creative destruction to the industry.
There is little doubt that Uber is having a big impact on the taxi industry. When I got into a taxi while at South by Southwest, the driver complained the whole journey about competing with Uber.
Issa is no ordinary Congressman when it comes to technology entrepreneurship because he has actually walked the walk, running a successful car alarm business in the 1990s. Ironically in the 1970s Issa and his brother were accused of stealing a Maserati. Charges were later dropped and he eventually went into business protecting cars. In fact, it was his voice on the Viper alarm saying “Protected by Viper. Stand back.”
Several reports list him as the richest member of Congress with a fortune close to $450M.