Colorado Sun: Big Tech asserts its influence in Colorado, but the U.S. Senate candidates aren’t willing to discuss it

September 1, 2020 Media

When Boulder-based phone accessory company PopSockets decided it was tired of being “bullied” by Amazon, the company terminated its relationship in 2018. It cost them $10 million in lost revenue.

David Barnett started the company that makes collapsible phone grips and stands in 2014 while still a college philosophy professor. Now, he thinks powerful tech companies, like Amazon, limit growth options for smaller businesses and that means trouble.

“We didn’t feel like it was a true partnership, and there was this asymmetry with much of the communication where it was as if an adult was talking to a child,” Barnett said.

The experience of PopSockets, which employs about 150 people in Colorado, illustrates the bipartisan push in Congress to regulate technology giants and informs the high-profile congressional hearing in July into workplace conditions and antitrust laws.

PopSockets survived the hit from spurning Amazon and is back to doing business with the retailer in a smaller capacity, Barnett told The Sun. But Colorado has many other start-ups, and large technology companies’ continued power could be “a death blow to small businesses over the longer term,” said Sarah Miller, president of the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly advocacy organization.