Virtual Conversation | 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 15, 2021 Register

New “Big Tech” Regulations Could Crush Startups

My entrepreneurial itch started in high school. I sold candy to classmates to earn extra cash. Today, I run an online rental marketplace that allows people to rent cameras and equipment to content creators for short-term projects. It wasn’t easy getting here, but affordable digital tools and services helped me launch and scale my company when it was challenging to find startup capital and investors. However, I’m concerned that the latest legislation in Congress’ ongoing war with tech could hurt startups. The proposed changes will almost certainly make digital tools more expensive and less effective, and startups can’t afford either.

I grew up in a rough suburb of Washington, DC. There weren’t many role models, but lucky for me, my older brother was. Despite our environment, he navigated out of the neighborhood to an engineering degree, and I inherited his strong work ethic. Many of my friends growing up were not so lucky. I took that work ethic, applied myself in school, and worked my way through college with a mechanical engineering degree.

After graduating, I surveyed my career prospects, but that entrepreneurial itch was still there. I started a restaurant ordering platform that was maybe ahead of its time and failed, but I learned from the experience, and I knew being a tech entrepreneur was my future. I moved to Seattle and worked at Amazon while I regrouped and plotted my next steps. I saw firsthand how successful online marketplaces could be, and it dawned on me that there was potential for a platform that allowed people to rent and return everyday items from headphones to power drills. You click on the item, select your rental dates, enjoy your equipment, and send it back when finished.

I started building the website while feeding my newborn in the middle of the night. Amazon Web Services saved me a bundle on servers that I otherwise couldn’t afford. Google Workspace became my go-to for email and other organizational tools. I built the website within 100 days, and it was time to find users. Targeted Google ads helped me reach the right people anywhere in the country and for a fraction of the cost of television ads. YouTube helped us show prospective users what we did, and we shared them across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and shared them organically.

Now, business is booming. In the last two months, we’ve grown by 75% and raised $150,000 in capital. We’re also planning to partner with a software development company that focuses on virtual reality products, which could open exciting new growth opportunities.

Without digital tools, we likely wouldn’t be growing and certainly would not compete against the Home Depot’s of the world. And yet, Congress is considering laws that would directly impact my business prospects. One bill could force Google to divide into separate companies. What happens if that causes Google ads to become more expensive or less effective because there is less data to power the ad targeting?

Another bill would block large tech companies from acquiring smaller ones. Does Congress not realize that it is small companies that will end up getting hurt? Fewer potential buyers will likely mean a lower sales price. If I ever decide to sell my company, my investors and I may want to consider selling to the highest bidder.

We live in a capitalist society. Entrepreneurship and success are celebrated and encouraged. I know that Congress wants to help small companies compete, but I’m not competing against Google, Facebook, or Amazon. Those companies help me compete against big box hardware stores and are a big part of my success. Now is not the time for Congress to change the rules and make it harder for startups to thrive.

Donald Boone is the Founder and CEO of BoxedUp in Seattle, WA, and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.


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