As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Joining the Antitrust, Pro-Competition Brigade

The Big Four

While helming The Grommet, I had a front row seat on the damage that large tech monopolies can inflict on a small businesses–especially Amazon–but also including Facebook and Google. My alarm bells had little to no impact:

  • On Business: I wrote and spoke about Amazon’s predatory behavior endlessly, including here, here, here and in my book. I tried to organize a response from the CEOs of a few other much more prominent large businesses who had been attacked directly by Amazon. Everyone was too scared to participate. In prepping a keynote for an Ace Hardware sales meeting, I was pulled aside and quietly cautioned to tone down my rhetoric, as though an Amazon spy might be lurking among the 5,000 attendees at this private event.
  • In my Personal life: in decrying the practices of Google, Facebook and especially Amazon I encountered incredulity, apathy and sometimes mild hostility from otherwise thoughtful people. The reasons for these reactions were easy to understand: as consumers, people tend to be wildly enthusiastic about Amazon. They don’t want to believe they are being duped or personally adding to small business destruction. But I stopped talking about it because I was becoming the “Uh oh, here she goes again” person. (On the positive side, my middle son has not bought ANYTHING on Amazon in years, including trooping to a Halloween pop-up store to get a costume: “Mom, do you know how inconvenient and retro going to that store felt?”)
  • On the political front, in 2017 a very connected Washington lobbyist told me my campaign was hopeless. He said, “Congress is totally enraptured with tech CEOs. If I ask a member of the US Congress to show up at a Ford or GM event I’d often have a struggle. But senators knock each other over to be seen aligned with the likes of Amazon or Google.”

Can you spell F-A-I-L?

Fast forward to 2021, if you read the business or political press, you know the tides are turning. One of the non-partisan organizations behind this tsunami of scrutiny of concentrated economic power is the nonprofit American Economic Liberties Project. This group was instrumental to last year’s widely praised House Antitrust Subcomittee Report and also just recently supported the New York Senate bill and the Ohio AG case against Google. And they’ve been very supportive of the recent appointment of Lina Khan as head of the FTC. I’ve been fan-girling Ms. Khan ever since she was a law student at Yale and released her ground breaking Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox paper. I have had a copy of it in my nightstand for five years.

Thus [drumroll] I am thrilled to have joined the American Economic Liberty Project’s new Access to Markets Advisory Board. Whereas NGOs and Congress tend to think in terms of high level policy, our group is meant to bring these issues to life for policymakers–with our actual operating experience.

You know what I say? Just let me at ’em.

6 Responses to “Joining the Antitrust, Pro-Competition Brigade”

  1. Jill McMahon

    Absolutely delighted to hear you have joined the Access to Markets Advisory Board. Clearly the goals of the Board align with your long standing beliefs on the rights and obligations of citizen commerce. Looking forward to being educated and supporting change!

    Reply
  2. ps8649

    Great read. Thanks so much for sending this to me.

    And, congratulations on your appointment to the Access to Markets Advisory Board where they’ll let you have your say.

    Nancy

    Nancy F. Beja

    Home at Last

    nbeja@columbus.rr.com

    “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Well maybe a little ahead of the curve, but the 3,000 small businesses at Grommet certainly clued me in with a lot of real life experience.

      Reply

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