Tech powerhouses such as Google, Apple and IBM expressed their opposition to North Carolina’s HB2 quickly and forcefully, but as a Triangle entrepreneur put it, “discrimination like this hurts businesses of all sizes.” That’s why regional startups are mobilizing their own efforts to oppose the bill and get it repealed.
Those efforts include developing a web site and organized effort called StartupsAgainstHB2. Organizers say the web site should be launched this weekend. Alison Sutton @ HQ Raleigh says “We are working on a petition specifically for NC startups to take a public stance against HB2. We should have this finalized by Monday morning.”
CEOs in the Triangle are passionate in their opposition to the bill and their support for diversity.
Having a dramatic impact on business
Matt Williamson, CEO of Windsor Circle, says he is against HB2 personally, and Windsor Circle is as a company. He said the governor and legislature should consider the wide-ranging and dramatic impact on business the law is already having.
“This kind of encoded discrimination and backward thinking positions me poorly when it comes to getting people into the state for jobs at innovative, venture-backed companies.”
When you’re trying to attract smart creative people, he notes, considerations such as gender, color or sex just are not important. “We’ve seen the value created our own company by diversity,” he says.
But that’s not all.
A vibrant startup community needs to attract venture capital from outside the state. Most of those are in the Bay Area or the Northeast corridor. “They’re all progressive and see this North Carolina discrimination against people as a reason not to come to North Carolina.”
Williamson posted a video on the topic last week to Twitter.
Startups against HB2 being organized
Taylor Mingus, cofounder of Durham startup Shoeboxed, is organizing Startups Against HB2, including a web site in development. He notes that large companies with HR departments and established policies get statements out opposing laws like HB2. Smaller companies may lack the resources to do that but “it’s not just big companies that get hurt. A law like this hurts companies of all sizes.
“Anything you do to make the best talent reconsider coming here is bad for business and the economy,” he says.
It also contradicts the very story the state, and the Triangle region in particular, have been building for years: of being a place that welcomes diversity, creativity and people who think for themselves.
Mingus was among other startup entrepreneurs who objected to North Carolina Amendment One 4 years ago, but says national changes in attitudes toward the LGBT community “makes this law even more embarrassing.”
Embarrassment at what they consider backward legislation and very real fears about how it’s going to affect the talent pool are often repeated comments in the startup community.
Are we a pro-business state?
Eric Boggs, founder and CEO of RevBoss, based in American Underground @ Main in Durham, which builds a sales pipeline for B2B / SaaS companies, is also opposed.
He said in an email statement, “Governor McCrory should strive to create a business climate that reflects the inclusive values of the high-growth businesses that create jobs, attract investment, and drive NC’s economy.
“Instead, we get divisive, regressive legislation like HB2 that is an embarrassment to the state and widely opposed by the business community.
“You can’t enact legislation like this and then say that you’re a pro-business state,” Boggs said.
Aaron Houghton, a serial entrepreneur and CEO, who founded Bootsuite, iContact and other Triangle companies, said simply, “My opinion is it’s completely unnecessary and is detrimental to entrepreneurship because it discourages the primary initiative of startups in this region, which is developing our team talent pool. We need all the brilliant minds we can get. I couldn’t care less which bathrooms they use.”
In a post titled “Shame on you, Pat McCrory,” Terrence McEnally, CEO Raleigh-based Berniesez.com, wrote, “Some major powerhouses in the business world recently submitted a letter denouncing the legislation known as HB 2. BernieSez.com was not asked to sign on with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, etc., but if we had been asked, we’d be at the top of the list of HB 2 opponents. Governor Pat McCrory is plain WRONG! H B2 is RETROGRADE and antithetical to the progressive, forward-thinking North Carolina that BernieSez.com and its partners call home.”