Apr 29, 2020 - Technology

App makers launch trade group, will push for aid eligibility

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A group of app companies has launched the App Coalition, a trade group that will begin its lobbying efforts with a push to make it easier for app developers to qualify for loans under coronavirus relief programs.

Why it matters: Many small and independent tech firms need access to fresh capital as the pandemic blows holes in the global economy. Existing tech trade groups like the Internet Association represent companies of all sizes, but tech giants' interests are increasingly at odds with those of their smaller counterparts on issues like competition.

Details: The charter members of the group are:

  • Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak, OpenTable and RentalCars.com, all subsidiaries of online travel conglomerate Booking Holdings;
  • Blix, maker of email app BlueMail;
  • Fritzy, an Amsterdam company that's about to launch an app to help travelers find restaurants, bars and clubs that are popular with locals; and
  • Perry Street Software, maker of LGBTQ dating apps Scruff and Jack’d.

The group is in talks with "at least two dozen" additional companies about joining and will hold a summit in June — either virtually or in person — to bring together current and prospective member companies, said Perry Street CEO and coalition board member Eric Silverberg.

  • "By now, most lawmakers understand that the internet is not a series of tubes, but I think the way they think of the world is still through the lens of browsers and desktops," Silverberg told Axios. "The app economy has unique considerations and concerns and needs. We felt it was necessary to create a space to discuss these issues."

What's next: The coalition's first priority will be lobbying lawmakers and the Trump administration on revising the Small Business Administration's "affiliation rules."

  • Under those rules, the employees of other companies in the portfolios of an outside investor — such as a private-equity or venture-capital firm — count toward a 500-employee cap on eligibility for small-business loans. That's blocking many venture-backed companies from accessing Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • Longer term, App Coalition leaders say they plan to engage Washington on other issues relevant to app makers, including online privacy, data security, content moderation and taxes.

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