My colleague Mike Bird wrote an extremely irritating analysis of Europe’s antipathy toward American tech companies today in which he argues that “by nature, Europe has a less positive attitude toward innovation and entrepreneurship than America.”
This is nonsense.
Europe’s hatred of American tech companies is caused almost entirely by American lobbyists who are trying to persuade the EU to use its powers to hobble other American tech companies.
One American lobbyist helpfully tweeted this fact today.
It sure looks as if Europe is always trying to put the brakes on innovation from outside Europe. Bird cites the EU’s regulatory moves to investigate Apple, Google and Uber for potential antitrust violations as examples of the way Europe always seems to want to stop American companies from doing anything cool if any European company might get bruised in the process.
Bird has good company. President Obama believes the same thing. In February, in a discussion of Europe’s regulatory environment for tech, Obama said:
In defence of Google and Facebook, sometimes the European response here is more commercially-driven than anything else. As I’ve said, … sometimes their vendors — their service providers who, you know, can’t compete with ours — are essentially trying to set up some roadblocks for our companies to operate effectively there.
This idea — that European tech “can’t compete” and so the government puts up “roadblocks” — is nonsense. Here is one obvious example: Fintech. There are more fintech jobs in London than there are in either New York or Silicon Valley. That’s why the $US1 billion fintech startups like Transferwise are located in Europe, not New York. They will eventually destroy banking. It will be quite innovative, believe me. And in a few years, you’ll probably see a bunch of US bank lobbyists trying to restrain the onslaught of European fintech companies that want to Uber-ize American banks, but I digress…
More importantly, it is a matter of public record that the reason the EU is investigating Google’s alleged monopoly of search in Europe is because San Francisco-based Yelp went to lengths to persuade EU regulators to do so. Business Insider reported back in July 2014 that the EU had almost closed the book on that investigation when Yelp’s lobbyists persuaded regulators to re-open their case. My understanding is that Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman has actually had dinner with some of the EC’s highest officials in his attempts to make the case — which may have merit — that Google screws companies like Yelp by providing biased search results.
Yelp spokesperson Luther Lowe — an American — has spent a lot of time in London making the case that Google is an evil empire that needs to be curbed.
And today, he tweeted this, “Complainants moving the needle on $USGOOG antitrust case are US tech“:
And European Parliament member Ramon Tremosa tweeted:
Even the people doing the lobbying, and those being lobbied, admit that the lobbyists are Americans!
To summarise, Bird and Obama are wrong. Europe is not against US tech. (Google Ventures just brought a $US100 million VC fund over here for a reason, after all).
Rather, it might just be the case that EU regulators are a soft touch for US lobbyists.