The United States is the land of opportunity, where anyone with an idea can bring it to market. This philosophy has fueled America’s growth and prosperity and made the U.S. the global leader of innovation.
However, the very recipe that created America’s economic success is being threatened by proposals in Congress that will make creating a new business less attractive. Proposed changes to the existing framework of merger and acquisition law would handcuff successful businesses in every industry, have a chilling effect on investment in the next great American idea and close the door on the greatest engine of job creation our country has seen.
The startup ecosystem is unique. At the beginning, young businesses use capital from friends, family or even outside investors to help them get started. Not all are successful, and that’s OK. Those that do succeed graduate to other levels of financing, including angel or venture capital.
While some companies will eventually grow big enough to become public through the IPO process, most don’t. The regulatory impediments have made this more difficult, and, as a result, there is less than half the number of public companies than a generation ago. That’s why most entrepreneurs seek and welcome being acquired.
Acquisition is an attractive and common exit opportunity that contributes to the health of our economy. Last year, 886 venture-backed companies were acquired, while just 103 went public.
Acquisitions allow venture capital partners to make new investments in the next generation of entrepreneurs. This continued investment is a key driver of economic growth and has helped startups create jobs more than five times faster than more established companies. In fact, startups are responsible for almost all of the net new jobs created in the U.S. over the past 45 years. Nonetheless, international competition for capital is the fiercest it has ever been.
By fundamentally altering antitrust laws, Congress will punish American businesses by taking away incentives for entrepreneurs and investors. Congress would make it less attractive to start a new business or invest in any new company.
Those great ideas and investment dollars, along with the jobs they create, will go elsewhere, including to our foreign competitors, where the proposed antitrust laws will not apply. With the U.S. share of global venture capital investment falling more than 30 percentage points in the past 15 years, enacting these policies will only exacerbate the problem and push investment outside the United States.
It will also have devastating effects and unintended consequences on U.S. competitiveness and national security while benefiting countries looking to undermine American influence and values. A dozen former top U.S. national security officials made this very point in a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to more closely examine the global impact of antitrust legislation.
Instead of harmful legislation that will stifle economic growth and benefit our competitors, Congress should provide robust resources to government agencies to challenge any merger or acquisition that is likely to lessen competition and harm consumers. We must improve our current system not tear it down.
Over the past 20 years, the government has challenged approximately 780 mergers, with the merging parties winning in court only 11 times. With a success rate of 98.5%, government agencies have the ability to protect competition. But, some in Congress want to dramatically overhaul the system and shift the burden, making companies “guilty until proven innocent.” This approach is antithetical to current bipartisan antitrust policy.
A strong startup economy is key to America’s future, especially in communities outside of traditional hubs where entrepreneurism is currently thriving.
But young companies need the right tools to succeed. Without attractive investment opportunities, jobs will be lost or go overseas. By making it harder for companies to be acquired, our economy will be weakened and our foreign adversaries strengthened amid an increasingly competitive race for leadership in the next generation of global brands.