The growing mobile app industry doesn't need much help from Congress to thrive, entrepreneurs told lawmakers Thursday.
"We don't need a ton of help," David Barrett, CEO of Expensify, a mobile expense report app, told lawmakers in a House Health and Technology subcommittee hearing. "Things are really great right now, and I'd say the most important thing we should work on is 'let's not screw it up.'"
Barrett and other witnesses at Thursday's hearing touted the mobile app industry's massive growth since Apple opened its app store for mobile devices in 2008 with about 500 apps. Seven years later, more than four million apps are available for mobile devices, said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT, the App Association.
That exponential growth has allowed innovation that has created small businesses and helped small businesses grow, witnesses and lawmakers said.
"App technology provides businesses and consumers with fast, viable solutions to everyday problems," said subcommittee chairman Amata Radewagen, the delegate from American Samoa. "The continued impact that the app industry will have on the United States economy is significant, and we must help foster that growth."
But the industry doesn't need assistance from Congress for its innovation to continue and to grow.
Cassie Gray, the owner of an online jewelry store that sells its products on the mobile app Etsy, told lawmakers that the most important thing it can do is not put any barriers on small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Yet the entrepreneurs did stake out a few policy positions that they said could help the mobile app industry flourish even more.
Gray, who runs her online jewelry shop out of her rural Massachusetts home and relies on a satellite for Internet connection, called on lawmakers to increase broadband access and to support net neutrality.
"This gap in [Internet] accessibility harms entrepreneurship and business. Policy makers have an opportunity to support businesses like mine, in addition to expanding broadband in rural areas like mine," she said.
Barrett encouraged lawmakers to consider immigration reform.
"Immigrants are historically much more likely to start businesses than non-immigrants. I think 40 percent of the Fortune 500 have been founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants," Barrett said. "Legal immigrants are the best and brightest."
And Reed expressed worries over the difficulty of mobile app companies in receiving loans through the Small Business Administration. Reed explained that a client was told by a bank that if he were building a gas station, he would receive a loan, but that the bank wasn't sure how to give a loan to the mobile app company through the SBA program.
"The government has the ability to write a check. When it says I will write a check for a gas station, but I won't write it for an app that will grow and employ 150 people, that's when I have a problem," Reed said.