On April 21, 2016 I was afforded the opportunity to attend an event where Steve Case (co-founder of AOL) was the keynote speaker (I specifically recall the date because I remember leaving the event and learning of Prince's passing. *Moment of silence*). At the time I thought "What relevance could Steve Case have in today's technology world?" He was, after all, the man whose product immediately brings to mind the "bing, bong, hissssss" of connecting to dial-up internet in order to sign onto your America Online account. As he began to speak, my opinion quickly changed to "you had better listen and maybe even take some notes!". Mr Case describes the first technology wave which we all use every day of our lives - the internet. Enough said. There is no disputing the magnitude of how this first wave changed the world forever. The second wave, as Case went on to tell his captive audience, was the advent of the "app". That awesome hitchhiker that rode the first wave all the way to the bank. You didn't need anything but a device and a somewhat unique idea to take advantage of this wave. I remember someone that I knew calling me after I had downloaded a game onto my smartphone while trying to pass time in an airport. He told me my overall score ranking amongst all users of the app. "That's your app?!" Ah...everyone was an entrepreneur riding the second wave.
Now it is time for serious business. Time to prepare for the third wave. It is coming. The third wave leverages technology, but it also leverages connections and disruptive thinking. Steve Case explains:
"In the second wave it was often about the app, and you could go it alone; in the third wave, it is about connecting technology to systems, and entrepreneurs will often need partnerships to achieve scale and differentiation"
It will no longer just be about the bells and whistles of your widget that is riding the internet. All the bells have gotten so loud and whistles so shrill that they have become white noise. There is very little technology hitting the market that is truly unique. It is time to innovate in other ways. You have to connect your widget with your widget user utilizing relevant and disruptive business thinking.
Better yet, connect someone else's widget with the widget user! Let's think about it; when you needed to get to a destination while visiting another city, when was the last time that you called a cab? Don't know that phone number? How about Uber? We all know how to summon Uber in 2017. Exactly how many vehicles does Uber pay for to stock and maintain their fleet? That's correct....zero. How much money does Uber bring in? In 2015, Uber reported annual earnings exceeding $1.5 Billion! Not bad for virtually no overhead. The same goes for Airbnb. How many hotel rooms do they staff and maintain? You get my point.
The next wave of technology is one that I welcome because it puts people back into the equation. After all, aren't we the ones with the money to spend? The first wave connected all of us. The second wave, ironically, proved to disconnect many of us while we sat alone at our proverbial work benches cobbling out "the next big thing". I don't know about you, but I'm ready to connect some real people with some very cool widgets! Here's to success...