This week, I’m taking part in a beta test for a new service that connects Columbus, Ohio’s parking-space owners mostly with out-of-towners looking for a place to park for the Ohio State football game. The company is Platz Parking LLC, started by two current Ohio State students and a graduate. The app will launch for the upcoming Rutgers game.
I learned about the service at the twice-monthly Wake Up Start Up seminar, which introduces local entrepreneurs to other leaders in the Columbus community. To you out there who have been convinced that we are not an exceptional country, please attend one of these sorts of gatherings of entrepreneurs.
I was trying to figure out how Platz Parking was different from the already-popular Parking Panda app, when I was distracted by a competing presentation from a guy who claims a new company running with his idea to organizing garage sales in town just got $120 million in startup funding.
All of this was followed by a genial dentist who has patented a line of brightly colored jewelry, targeted at 8 to 11-year-olds, which slip onto brackets mounted on orthodontic braces. The colors can be changed frequently by the user, if necessary, to ride with the trends. From all appearances he got quite a bit of new business following the meeting from parents of fashion-conscious school children who might be interested in highlighting some recent family investments.
At R Street, we mostly write about public policy, and much of what we are writing about these days is pretty discouraging. A major reason for this is that so many people these days, prompted to a large degree by political advertising, confuse running the government with running the country. We get more hemmed in each year by the notion that we should only do what the government decides to permit. This works pretty well for many consensus threats to public health and safety, but government regulation becomes ever more invasive and, lately, more political.
Deploring the one-size-fits-all approach from the federal government doesn’t relieve us from the responsibility to make sure our city councils and state legislatures don’t strangle new or existing products to satisfy 50 people who signed a petition the next neighborhood over, or more importantly, to placate an existing business that has new competition.
There are cases where government should figure out how to preserve public safety in the event that some innovations present threats – cybersecurity and drones, to name two current issues. But once the link to public health and safety is established, the first impulse should be to figure out some commonsense rules, not to prohibit innovation altogether.
The good news is that the entrepreneurial spirit is just as alive in Columbus and Ann Arbor as it is in Boston and Silicon Valley. Buffalo, New York runs a “shark tank” competition called 43 North that drew about 9,000 contestants its first year, and awarded $1 million to the top finalist. The accelerating move to fund idea foundries, build virtual companies and gather people with great ideas together with other people who have resources is healthy for the nation. Governments ought to avoid getting in the way unless absolutely necessary.