Andrew's recent post on Sarbanes-Oxley made me think back to all the pitches I've heard that have implicated legislation. There have been more than I care to remember. Certain legislation seems to garner more suggested startup advantage than others. I think the hands down winner has got to be HIPAA, the legislation concerning protection of medical information. For a period of time it felt like every third piece of technology I'd have pitched to me was practically mandated by HIPAA -- wireless security for hospital 802.11 networks, software to manage secure email communications with patients, provisioning and permissioning for network applications, etc. These days Sarbanes-Oxley has taken on a similar feel. And before that was e911.
With each new piece of legislation mandating a standard or requiring some service, a plethora of startups professing to solve those problems have followed. Yet, my reaction to each of these startups has been the same -- the solutions being proposed to address these governmental mandates are almost as artificial as the mandates themselves. In my mind, great technologies are often a reaction to pain-points felt by entrepreneurs in the context of their past roles. People who themselves have felt the pain are in the ideal position to assess the acuteness of that pain and find the best possible solutions. Despite that fact, individuals proposing to address new legislative mandates do not approach the problem from the same context because the pain being addressed (the legislative mandate) is being manufactured by the government and therefore has not been experienced directly by anyone. Given that, I find it very hard to get my hands around any of these solutions because they feel manufactured rather than evolved.