Tech now tiptoes into town
The Wall Street Journal
Once, Airbnb or Uber could sweep through cities “like a wrecking ball,” knocking down competitors and setting up shop before regulators knew what hit them, said Christopher Mims. Now those regulators have wised up and are forcing firms to work with them. Ultimately, that is turning out just fine for technology companies. Take the humble electric scooter, the latest disruptive transport tech to hit the streets. First, the scooter rental company Bird tried to steamroll into Santa Monica without bothering to get a business license. The city quickly impounded scooters and handed out 1,000 tickets for riding on the sidewalk. Now Bird has worked out deals with Santa Monica, Memphis, and other cities. Bird’s competitor, Lime, has gone further, reaching out to city governments for permission before letting their scooters out into the wild. Apple, too, is taking it slow in getting Food and Drug Administration approval for health monitoring on the Apple Watch. Like the scooter industry, Big Tech is trying hard to get close to regulators early on. Once they’ve established a beachhead, tech firms can use regulations they helped shape to protect their business and keep competitors out. That’s a strategy companies in established industries have long known about, and it offers lucrative rewards.