Thursday, September 21, 2023

Predatory pricing is a strategy firms use to suppress competition. The predator prices below its own costs to force its rivals out of the market. After they exit, the predator raises its prices to supracompetitive levels and recoups the cost of predation. The Supreme Court has described predatory pricing as “rarely tried” and “rarely successful” and has established a liability standard that is nearly impossible for plaintiffs to satisfy. We argue that one kind of company thinks predatory pricing is worth trying and at least potentially successful—venturebacked startups. A venture predator is a startup that uses venture finance to price below its costs, chase its rivals out of the market, and grab market share. Venture capitalists (VCs) are motivated to fund predation—and startup founders are motivated to execute it—because it can fuel rapid, exponential growth. Critically, for VCs and founders, a predator does not need to recoup its losses for the strategy to succeed. The VCs and founders just need to create the impression that recoupment is possible, so they can sell their shares at an attractive price to later investors who anticipate years of monopoly pricing. In this Article, we argue that venture predation can harm consumers, distort market incentives, and misallocate capital away from genuine innovations. We consider reforms to antitrust law and securities regulation to deter it.


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