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The Washington Post: Smaller companies taking a risk as they challenge Big Tech in hearing

Read on The Washington Post

Smaller technology companies have largely upheld a code of silence about the power of the larger technology companies on which they often depend for market share and sales.

But now, some of them are sharing their stories in the hope that Washington is finally getting serious about cracking down on the power of tech giants. 

As part of its antitrust investigation, House Judiciary Committee lawmakers are headed to Colorado, where tomorrow they’ll hear from upstarts including Tile and Basecamp. It will mark the first time lawmakers will hear from executives in a public setting about going toe-to-toe with companies including Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google, my colleague Tony Romm reports. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post).

These smaller companies are taking a major risk by speaking out because they often rely on the tech titans to reach consumers’ eyeballs, while simultaneously competing in with them in offering some services. Another factor raising the stakes is the industry’s relationship-driven business culture. One wrong move can limit opportunities for investment or acquisitions.

“They face potential for very significant economic retribution as a result of what they share,” David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat at the helm of the antitrust investigation, told Tony. “We have certainly heard from a number of companies about the practices of large technology companies that are very troubling, that have had negative consequences for other businesses, that they are unwilling to share in a public forum.”

The congressional field hearing has the potential to open the floodgates for companies to be more forthcoming with their concerns about allegedly anti-competitive conduct. The companies in the hot seat come from across the country and make very different products — highlighting how a broad range of corporations have grievances against Big Tech and might look to Congress for help. 

Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement at the Open Markets Institute, an organization backed by groups that advocate for breaking up Big Tech, told Tony the public nature of the hearing will lead to more transparency.

Smaller technology companies have largely upheld a code of silence about the power of the larger technology companies on which they often depend for market share and sales.

But now, some of them are sharing their stories in the hope that Washington is finally getting serious about cracking down on the power of tech giants. 

As part of its antitrust investigation, House Judiciary Committee lawmakers are headed to Colorado, where tomorrow they’ll hear from upstarts including Tile and Basecamp. It will mark the first time lawmakers will hear from executives in a public setting about going toe-to-toe with companies including Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google, my colleague Tony Romm reports. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post).

These smaller companies are taking a major risk by speaking out because they often rely on the tech titans to reach consumers’ eyeballs, while simultaneously competing in with them in offering some services. Another factor raising the stakes is the industry’s relationship-driven business culture. One wrong move can limit opportunities for investment or acquisitions.

“They face potential for very significant economic retribution as a result of what they share,” David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat at the helm of the antitrust investigation, told Tony. “We have certainly heard from a number of companies about the practices of large technology companies that are very troubling, that have had negative consequences for other businesses, that they are unwilling to share in a public forum.”

The congressional field hearing has the potential to open the floodgates for companies to be more forthcoming with their concerns about allegedly anti-competitive conduct. The companies in the hot seat come from across the country and make very different products — highlighting how a broad range of corporations have grievances against Big Tech and might look to Congress for help. 

Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement at the Open Markets Institute, an organization backed by groups that advocate for breaking up Big Tech, told Tony the public nature of the hearing will lead to more transparency.

“We don’t often hear from those entrepreneurs because they can’t afford to speak out,” Hubbard said. “We haven’t had a look under the hood of these companies.”

The chief executive of Sonos, Patrick Spence, said he kept quiet for years before going public with his concerns. The audio company executive told Tony the company’s brand and business “puts me in a unique position to speak up about our experience and still be able to thrive and grow.”

“I feel a duty to do that given there are many smaller companies that aren’t going to have the same ability to do that. It might be life or death for them,” Spence said.

Here’s a guide to the anti-competitive concerns each company is expected to raise, based on Tony’s interviews with each of the witnesses.

Read the full article on The Washington Post.

See the rest of Sally Hubbard's work

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In America today, wealth and political power are more concentrated than at any point in our country’s history.

The Open Markets Institute, formerly the Open Markets program at New America, was founded to protect liberty and democracy from these extreme -- and growing -- concentrations of private power.

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