By Michael McGeary, Founding Board Member, Allied for Startups
As governments around the world emerge from facing down the economic and public health crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are turning towards forward-looking policy development, especially with regard to technology and its role in society. In the US, antitrust, competition and privacy are once again on the agenda, with implications for businesses small and large. And with Congress holding hearings on important issues and weighing legislation all while hurtling towards its own midterm elections, the eyes of the world are falling on…Europe?
According to a new report by our friends at the Internet and Technology Industry Foundation (ITIF), that is very much the case for all the saber-rattling in Washington, it’s Brussels that is putting its shoulder to the wheel of actual policy making.
This fact has been apparent for a number of years, between Congressional deadlocks and a dearth of leadership on these issues during the Trump administration, European policy makers have taken up the mantle of leadership and set the global course on issues that matter to bigger tech companies and startups alike. Gone is the American century and leadership on the world stage, and with it, according to the ITIF report, the ability for American companies to have a greater role in crafting workable regulatory regimes at the expense of European “protectionism.”
While I quibble with the characterization of my friends at ITIF in the motivations and underlying themes of how and why European policy makers are driven to take the reins of global policy regimes, the underlying message that comes through plain as day is that it’s time for American politicians to get serious about their role in global economic policy development. From GDPR and Privacy Shield, to the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, and now AI and Web3 policies, Europe has been the leader in regulating and crafting policy. Americans need to ensure their voices are heard as these policies are built, while simultaneously getting smarter about what kind of policies can be net positive for all parties. To borrow a phrase from Lee Iacocca, American policy makers need to lead, not follow — or certainly get out of the way.
It’s incumbent on Congress to get smart and stay engaged, but it is as important for startup founders and entrepreneurs to knock on doors and leverage their expertise in service of making better policy. We know that story well at AFS through our work around the world, and we look forward to working with our American friends to build better global policies in service to the entrepreneurial spirit