Should a UK regulator be able to reach across the Atlantic and decide the fate of a US company that’s never done any business in the UK?
Here’s the plotline: a small US startup gets bought by a big tech company (yay!), only to be told by bureaucrats in a foreign country they don’t target that they can’t be bought (boo!), can’t quit (whaaa?), and need to be spun back out for a do-over after 2 years (are you kidding?).
Plot Twist: A spunky little tech policy group decides to join the fight and take on the Empire! Huzzah!
So, should a UK regulator be able to reach across the Atlantic and decide the fate of a US company that’s never done any business in the UK? Does connecting your free app to the internet empower any country, anywhere, to decide the fate of you and your business? Are startups outside the UK okay with losing the prospect of one day being acquired (and the VC funding that will disappear because of that)?
When we asked devs in our 2021 global survey what they thought about being acquired by a big tech company, 52% thought that would be good for them, and only 17% thought it could be a bad thing. For most startups and small firms acquisition is one of the three strategies that can fund growth or provide their investors a profit (the others are IPO or simply becoming wildly profitable and throwing off cash). Most founders would like to have all those options open to them. They certainly don’t want foreigners they’ve never met setting down the rules.
Over the weeks ahead, the Alliance will be arguing alongside Giphy and Meta that the CMA (the UK regulator that oversees their competition laws) was out of line in trying to force Meta to spin Giphy back out against their will. While Meta will do its own work and protect its own interests, we’re inserting ourselves to speak for the thousands of future Giphys outside the UK. We’ll argue that the CMA went over Parliament’s head, and reached beyond its authority and jurisdiction. If we fail, we’re all going to be locked out of the market for startup funding as the paths to growth get pruned to just two.
Foreign overreach in tech is a growing problem – the US congress is dabbling in it as well. Asserting jurisdiction outside your own borders just because the internet touches local desktops is the first domino in a chain that ends with a fragmented and balkanized internet. At the end of that chain there is no such thing as a global digital market for apps and games.
At the end of that chain, there are far fewer devs making far less money.