View From the Hill: A VC’s Perspective on the Potential Impact of Antitrust Regulation on Early Stage Startups
I was honored to represent the multifaceted perspectives of the Venture Capital industry and startup ecosystem at the U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights in Washington, D.C in my capacity as a National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Board Member. This topic is obviously of critical importance not only to the health of the tech ecosystem but also to the health of our broader economy. It’s my hope that whatever actions regulators take will enable founders to retain the incentives they need to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. I was encouraged by both the level of thoughtful discourse as well as the bipartisan interest in maintaining our country’s legacy of innovation.
Here were the core themes in my statement:
- The VC-backed startup ecosystem has been an important driver of the US economy. We would hope that any new regulation would not hamper that critical economic growth and job creation.
- M&A is vital to the tech ecosystem’s ongoing success. While a few standout companies IPO and grow into the next generation of standalone, independent companies, most startups will never meet that threshold. For those companies, acquisition — often by big tech firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon — is an important exit option to preserve.
- Any action that legislators take against Big Tech should not kill the “golden goose” that is entrepreneurship. In other words, we would not want the unintended consequence of actions taken to enable more competition to actually reduce it.
Some of my observations from the hearing:
- Entrepreneurship enjoys bipartisan support. So does concern about Big Tech. The legislators came across as wanting to do what they could to support the innovation economy as well as consumers.
- There was a lot of discussion about the FTC’s past decisions around certain acquisitions. The problem is that it’s a hard task to predict whether a nascent competitor will grow into a strong one.
- Washington’s understanding of the VC/startups/tech world is nascent, but they are making an effort to learn.
- VCs/startups/tech’s understanding of Washington is also nascent. That needs to change, too. Government policies on everything from immigration to CFIUS, data privacy and antitrust impact our core businesses. We can’t afford to be uninformed or uninvolved.
Tremendous thanks to the NVCA for their efforts in support of this hearing and ongoing dialogue with lawmakers.