I’ve spent the past five years growing my small business from a simple idea into a company selling tabletop games worldwide. Online marketplaces like Amazon and digital advertising platforms like Google drive our success, providing us access to millions of potential customers. Running a small business is tough, and we constantly face new challenges. One such challenge is California Attorney General Rob Bonta trying to change how Amazon works with small sellers and with the Department of Justice suing to dismantle Google Ads.
I’m not a legal expert or a politician – I just know what’s best for my business. The current system works, but I’m worried if government undermines these platforms, it will end up harming the small businesses they wish to help.
I had no intention of starting a business, as my job in corporate America kept me busy. On weekends, my wife and I hosted game nights with friends, but we realized there weren’t that many exciting party games, so we started coming up with our own. With help from the internet, we learned everything about how to create, print and ship our games. Once ready, we invested what we had in our first production run and tried to find somewhere to sell the product. With no connections to retailers or publishers, we turned to the place that allowed us to compete freely against the largest brands – Amazon.
We started slow, but one day our card game went viral on Twitter, and sales exploded. We sold more units in two hours than the previous year! Handling that order surge would have been impossible without Amazon’s fulfillment services, which handle everything – packing, labeling, shipping, delivery, and even the rare cases of returns. Fulfillment by Amazon also helped us qualify for Prime, which opened us up to millions of customers that want fast and free shipping. One to two-day guaranteed shipping is great for them and my business. The fulfillment help from Amazon let me focus on growing my company instead of worrying about the operational logistics of running an online retail business.
As we launched new products and expanded into global markets, digital advertising helped us reach customers. We use several digital advertising platforms, including Google Ads, whose extensive ad network gives us the tools to reach audiences likely to buy our games. Their free analytics help us determine which ads and audiences work well, so we spend our money wisely and make more sales.
While I understand that Attorney General Bonta and the DOJ believe they are protecting the little guy, I don’t think they fully understand how companies like Amazon and Google help businesses like mine. Their scale and reach allow me to find millions of potential customers effectively and helps me compete with large brands like Mattel and Hasbro. If their marketplace can’t function in its current state, the consequences for third-party sellers like me could be devastating. And suppose Google’s various advertising tools are spun into different companies. Won’t all the cost savings and efficiencies from them being under one roof go away, which means higher marketing costs and lower margins for me and everyone else?
If policymakers force Google and Amazon to change how they operate, that will definitely reverberate to my business and many others. You can’t put your thumb on one side of the scale, force companies to fundamentally change how they operate and work, and not expect something to happen on the other side.
I’m sure AG Bonta, the DOJ, and others have good intentions, but if they can’t guarantee that their actions against Google and Amazon won’t hurt small businesses, they shouldn’t pursue them without first listening to what we have to say. We can’t afford to be collateral damage.
Alfred Mai is the CEO of ASM Games based in San Francisco, CA.