They sure don’t make monopolies like they used to. Gone are the days when regulators needed to protect consumers from price gouging, market manipulation, market control, and abuse. Government intervention in the public’s interest seems almost quaint by today’s standards. The bar for antitrust and monopoly claims from either political party has fallen so low we don’t even trip over it while rushing toward accusations – accusations that do unnecessary and unintended harm to tens of millions of small businesses, hundreds of millions of consumers and the national economy.
There are substantive and well-documented concerns over the role of platforms and our increased reliance on technology as both a society and an economy. It is altogether reasonable to enter into a national debate on how best to regulate the use of personal data and protect personal privacy. The conflation of those issues and the general lament about the size and influence of Big Tech, however, has spurred a search for solutions where no problem exists.
Lately, it has become politically beneficial to accuse America’s largest and most ubiquitous technology companies of antitrust and anticompetitive behavior, but no one is asking why this is – not the consumers who enjoy the benefits of faster, cheaper, and better everything; not the platforms that are competing with one another to bring new products and services to market; and certainly not businesses, small or otherwise, that are leveraging innovative products to compete in their respective markets.
The threat of disrupting the current model is particularly troubling for the more than 28 million digitally empowered U.S. small businesses. Business owners know all too well that successfully running a business takes tools, training, and support. They also know that, in today’s interconnected business world, those tools and support frequently come from large, global companies.
Meeting the needs of growing companies is essential to America’s tech industry leaders, and not just in terms of economic growth or profit margins. Giving small businesses a running start is a national imperative. U.S. leadership in the world requires continuous innovation and economic strength. Big tech has invested billions in U.S. small businesses, and we have all reaped the rewards.
According to an analysis recently released by the global research firm Deloitte on the value of digital tool use by American small businesses, we are enjoying a period of historic American entrepreneurialism and small business growth. More than 85% of America’s small businesses that use digital tools report higher performance, more customers or growth in their bottom line. Those companies are twice as profitable and three times as likely to grow year to year. In short, as the report states, “businesses with higher levels of digital engagement are more likely to have a growing customer base in the United States, increased customers internationally, better financial performance, more employment growth, and more innovative practices.” For anyone that works for or with a small business, this must be incredibly obvious. The value of big tech serving small business and vice versa is evident in nearly every aspect of American life and the U.S. economy.
The analysis by Deloitte also reported that nearly 300,000 small businesses represent 97.6 percent of all American exporters. The value created by these small businesses amounts to 32.9 percent of the $1.3 trillion in goods and services exported by the U.S. every year. [CS2] Many of the daily achievements of small businesses, which are made possible by access to Google GSuite, the Facebook customer building tools, or Amazon’s seller’s market, were unthinkable a decade ago.
Without the scale, reach, security, and support of larger technology providers, a maple syrup producer in Wisconsin could never find customers in France. A decades-old plumbing company in Missouri could not breathe new life into its business through increased efficiency, digital advertising, and a growing online presence. Tools that remove geographic barriers and market limits enable America’s most productive and profitable small businesses to compete and win, both locally and in the global market.
Big Tech has played a vital role in the growth of American small businesses. The accusations of antitrust and monopolistic behavior by Big Tech are not simply unfounded; they are bad for business. Acting on these accusations would be disastrous for small businesses that have built their digital infrastructure on affordable, scalable, and secure services hosted by larger companies. We’ve come too far to go back now.