As Congress turns its attention away from leadership elections and back to policy discussions, a coalition of app developers and app advocates hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to chat about what the app store means for small businesses. Among the presenters were Adri Ofman, COO of Visual Blasters; Chudi Iregbulem, founder and CEO of Beatmatch; and Maria Burns Ortiz, CEO of 7 Generations Games. The panelists were also joined by Representative Jay Obernolte (R-CA), who provided a keynote address sharing his experience as a game developer and small business owner.
From L to R: Chudi Iregbulem, Adri Ofman, Maria Burns Ortiz, Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-CA)
The conversation covered a lot of ground, but there were a few key points that stood out. First, each panelist pointed to how the app store made it easier for their businesses to reach customers in a very crowded marketplace. Absent platforms that reach hundreds of millions of potential customers, these innovators and job creators may not have a viable business.
Second, they also mentioned how important it was to keep malicious apps and copycats at bay. Because app stores have the resources to prevent bad apples from sullying the bushel for everyone, small businesses like theirs depend on the security features app stores provide.
Finally, and maybe most eye-opening, if the current app store model is thrown out, a lot of small firms will simply go belly-up. Why? Adri Ofman provided a very compelling anecdote. As his firm was looking to break into a market abroad, they found that in order to be competitive they would have to create their app for more than 100 platforms! That simply isn’t a viable strategy. A lot of these platforms aren’t safe and secure, to say nothing of the human capital it would take to create, deploy, and update an app on more than 100 platforms.
It’s against this backdrop that the panelists were unified in saying that the current app store model in the United States is working. Bills floating around Congress like the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2033) and the Open App Markets Act that would upend the current app store model. These are solutions in search of a problem. The current app store model protects consumers, prevents bad actors from stealing intellectual property, and enables small businesses to reach consumers around the world. Most importantly? These platforms are creating an untold number of jobs and generating never before seen economic growth. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act will stifle innovation and drive much of the growth we’ve seen domestically abroad. Before any knee-jerk decisions are made, Congress should hear from more Chudis, Adris, and Marias.