SC small business owner believes big tech can benefit entrepreneurs

·3 min read

I’m a Clemson graduate and a huge football fan. As a student, it used to make me crazy when people in the Death Valley student section were rooting for our opponents. I knew then that there must be a way to keep those people out of our section and protect home field advantage.

Years later when I was laid off from my job, I remembered my Tigers passion and decided to build a service to help fans who resell their tickets ensure that the buyer also supports their favorite team.

As a first-generation American raised by Jamaican parents in Columbia, South Carolina, I did not have access to investors, and I had no savings after working full-time during college to pay tuition and eat. Fortunately, I discovered online that Google, Twilio and Amazon had startup packages that save people like me – scrappy bootstrappers -- thousands of dollars monthly on software. Quickly I formed a company and I soon had email, scheduling, video meetings, and cloud software thanks to Google Workspace and Amazon Web Services.

We’ve come a long way, but even as we grow I have become perplexed because our elected leaders seem unhappy with how we got here. They are considering new laws that could make the startup programs offered by digital platforms disappear.

Many in Congress think big digital platforms should be broken up. But I’ve built my business using affordable digital tools that helped us grow quickly and turn a profit. Without tools from large tech firms, my dream of owning a business would likely have died. It is simply too expensive to build that kind of infrastructure from scratch.

Our fan-to-fan marketplace was a hit because rabid fans would rather do business with people like themselves. Our early success led us to a new and bigger opportunity, and now we offer a service that authenticates digital tickets. We also share anonymized ticket transaction data with teams and stadiums, so event organizers can learn more about their fans and create a better fan experience.

When COVID-19 halted in-person entertainment, we acquired a company to help event organizers sell tickets to virtual concerts and plays. Affordable Google and Facebook ads connected us to customers.

Remarkably, business grew by more than 200 percent during the pandemic.

So, why is Congress proposing to break up large tech companies that help minority startups and small businesses? How does it help small businesses if Washington bureaucrats force Google to scrap its digital advertising business or if Amazon has to choose between offering a retail store, a marketplace or cloud services?

I would love Walmart to get into the cloud services business and even the ticketing business. More competition is great for everyone if the competition is fair. Perhaps most important is that a company’s size should not be penalized. I could never afford to start a business that competes against Eventbrite without help from Amazon and Google.

Instead of fixing a digital economy that already works brilliantly, Congress should offer more financial help to minority entrepreneurs by investing in our communities to fund technology centers and improve connectivity for families that desperately need it.

As a Black founder who has witnessed the disparities in the investment world, I want our government to put more resources in our hands, not take away those that already work.

Congress must listen carefully to what small business owners need instead of passing laws that make it harder to create opportunities and jobs.

Harold Hughes is the CEO of BandwagonFanClub, Inc. in Greenville, SC and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.

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