We often forget that the thing we don’t like about something is also thing that makes it possible. The annoying part of something good, is usually what keeps it alive and provides us the gifts that surround it. One case in point is Youtube advertising. It’s so annoying isn’t it, to spare that 5 seconds before clicking out, or that entire 30 second advertisement you can’t even click out of – how dare they. What we ought do is imagine for a minute that Youtube never found its monetization model. Then what? Then it probably fails, doesn’t exist and instead of having pretty much all forms of education and entertainment on demand on any topic, any time, we’d be stuck with a few free to air TV channels, home shopping, and marginal pay TV subscriptions.
The cost of the benefits is rarely a heavy price to pay, especially with new technology and disruptive innovations which need to have lower barriers to inspire adoption. And speaking of disruptions – the advertising we have to endure is not nearly as bad as it was in the TV era. Sometimes it’s worth remembering that misdirected hate is both a waste of energy and a short sighted perspective.
Deep down it’s as if we humans know that the ultimate in intelligence is fallibility. It’s the imperfection that comes with emotion. Almost as though there is some kind of perfection in not knowing or acting dumb. This not knowing leads to curiosity and new paths, the fork in the road. The wrong path if taken, also has the potential to lead to serendipity and discovery.
To this point, these seem to be qualities which are not present in machines and computers – and therefore artificial intelligence. So far, a machine has not been built to fake it, pretend, be mean, not care, be irrational or even be wrong on purpose. The artificial intelligence we have so far doesn’t want to have fun or be selfish, other than in the movies and in music. It’s been a one sided coin, all head and no tail.
A recent article referred to a form of artificial intelligence actually passing the turing test. A Turning Test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. They claimed that by adding the element of not knowing things and making mistakes to the algorithm it helped the machine ‘win’. It seemed like an interesting take or fork in the road towards finding intelligence as we humans define it. I feel like this trajectory is where intelligence needs to go in order to get more ‘real’. But the thing it makes me wonder for business is what other things have we been doing for 60 odd years or so which need an entirely new tangent?
I’ve had a lot of stuff buzzing around my head for the last few years. My local readers get their share when we have coffee. Recently I’ve put together a manifesto from my mind in the form of my debut book: The Great Fragmentation – why the future of business is small.
It is being published with Wiley and comes out mid July. Here’s a picture of the cover below and below that I’ve got some offers for readers of startup blog.
The reasons I wrote the book was that it was my view that most of the business books these days are too thin. They have a single idea and just tell a number of stories and examples around that idea. I feel like the revolution we are living through is much bigger than that. I felt as though we needed a business survival manifesto. Something which assesses the entire change in the business landscape – not just a trend inside of it. My view is that all the barriers to entry are being removed. That there is a dramatic power shift happening. An industry and by industry fragmentation which can’t be avoided and must be embraced. That the playing field is being equalised because technology almost has it’s own agenda. And that agenda is to become cheaper, smaller, more distributed and more powerful – with humans as the beneficiaries, not necessarily corporations. But mostly this book is the intersection, of Anthropology, Technology and how these forces shape the Business world. You can read a little blurb about it here, or even pre-order a copy here. While I can’t be sure if this will be a best seller, I can guarantee you it will be a best reader!
If you haven’t already signed up to my blog via email, you can sign up to updates on the book (and other projects) by clicking here. Before the book is released I’ll have advance copies and other cool resources for your startup / business. These resources will be crazy good & available only to those who signed up. (including a couple of world firsts).
I really look forward to the scary part of hearing your feedback on my 200+ pages of having nowhere to hide and instead say: ‘This is what I believe, I hope you got something valuable from it’.
Every now and again there are movements which gather pace and very quickly form industries. Industries which have inevitability about them. Industries which are suited to the startup realm more than they are to corporate giants. Industries in which it is clear to see that a void will be filled and fortunes will be made. The kind of concepts that are who and when, rather than if and how.
The personal computer industry had this in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The the media industry was clearly going to be transformed in the 1990’s witht the dot come boom and right now the web of things is a big opportunity that most industries are failing to see, or at least act on. The thing that they are failing to see is that every product people buy is also going to become a tiny computer. So here’s a question entrepreneurs searching for an idea should ask themselves:
How can I turn product X into a computer?
The companies who already make product X probably know it to, but I seriously doubt they’ll do anything about it. Especially if the company was born before the internet. They’re likely to do what they’ve always done; try to make their product cost cheaper than last year, and maintain their market share. It’s what industrialists do as they return a profit to their shareholders while mitigating risk and changing incrementally – or only once the market demands change. Sure, their are more innovative established firms who’ll see this opportunity and act on it, but they’ll be in the minority. This means that the opportunity is a massive white space for entrepreneurs. A white space where you can turn your hobby into a company – by doing exactly what the question asks. Putting a computer onto a product you love. I intend to do it for surfing. And this isn’t some fanciful development years from now it’s already happening:
LIFX did an amazing job making web enable light globes to change the home.
The Moxie showerhead has a wifi enabled speaker inside it so you can rock out while bathing.
We’ve also seen connectivity on home locks, sports shoes, cars, and clothing, so why not milk cartons or cricket bats?
In fact, have a look around your home and office – look at something and that thing will be connected to the internet at some point in the next 10 years. Whether the connected technology will enhance utility, automation, the smart home, e-commerce or feed into the quantified self, it is going to happen. And the entrepreneurs may not even need to make the thing – it might be attached to the product others make. There’s any manner of ways it can be mashed up. And given that these things that will be connected to the internet already exist, with established markets, the exit potential is clear and simple. So the only question remaining is whether or not you’ll do it or watch while other entrepreneurs fill the void.
I recently saw a prototype for the Google self drive car – It’s picture is below and looks kinda cute / cool / weird.
Anyone who follows the technology world will know that Google have successfully driven their self drive cars without incident for more than million miles. But up until now, the cars have been retro fitted Toyota and Lexus’s – other companies cars they fitted their self drive technology to. This is a bit of a shift in the projects trajectory. The Google car, is quite It’s further proof that information, when distributed freely and easily changes the physical world too. That dramatic changes in information, have dramatic impacts on all things physical. But what it should remind business people is that we simply can’t know who our competitors are any more. In a world where everyone has access to all the major factors of production we end up with a global demarcation dispute. Non linear competition where brands and big businesses get blindsided by category newbies. We’ve already seen it in retail, music and media, and we are about to see it in every form of hardware and manufacturing. The established industries who should, could and would provide the next level of innovation probably wont.
Tesla is already around half the size in market capitalisation of GM and Ford after a few short years in the market. And as we can see by this post the auto industry better get ready for new players from the technology world – Google, and possibly even Apple. The auto industry would do well to remember that cars are about to become mobile lounge rooms, and all the high tech companies are already competing for the ‘lounge room’ in the house. Next they’ll be competing for the lounge room in transit. A preemptive sense of future irony right there. Even small players like Tomcar Australia (which I have an interest in) have proven you don’t need to own a factory to make best in category vehicles and disrupt an established industry base.
I also read yesterday about two absolute powerhouse Australian companies (both in the top 10) Coles and Woolworths better get ready for a new set of competitors. And while they mentioned a siphoning of revenue category by category, I believe they have a much bigger problem coming their way:
What to do with 1000+ stores when no one goes to a grocery store to get their shopping.
And no, this is not like discretionary retail which can be made a social, fun and entertaining experience. Grocery shopping is a chore and technology has a habit of removing chores from the human experience. Not many people run fast or lift heavy things for a living. And mind you, the word computer, was originally a job title, not a machine.
In the food industry there is a term called ‘share of stomach’. What share did the food company get of the stomach. Which is the type of measure which is used to assess the truth about who the competition is, and where the revenue threats lie. I feel as though every industry needs to develop their own ‘Share of Stomach’ metric so they can see the real change in their industry. Maybe all industries related to transport need to measure share of human movement? Self driving cars, aren’t just a competitive play against legacy auto industries, but it’s hard to see city car parks being a valid business when we can ‘send our car home to our driveway’ and get it to pick us up later. It also raises questions about what relatively new businesses like Uber will do when cars don’t need drivers? Chances are they’ll need to become a system which organises and delivers our cars?
Just like life, the real life threatening diseases are from entities our body hasn’t encountered before and built a natural defence against. At times like these, a tectonic shift, business would do well remember lessons from the natural world.
I’ve recently watched a few presentations which really below my mind. Re-shaped my thinking on the next iterations of the technology revolution. Most interestingly, they all focus on independent systems, peer to peer and the end of the middle.
- Jeremy Rivkin – The zero marginal cost society.
- Mike Hearn – The trade net.
- Albert Wenger – World in Transition. (Why GDP decline is inevitable)
- Philip Evans – How data will transform business.
These talks aren’t short, but there aren’t any shortcuts in understanding what our future world might look like. I say, watch these instead of TV – you’ve got the time, it’s really all about how you allocate it.
If you’re reading this and you currently work for a company you don’t have an equity stake in – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you’re planning your cubicle escape route. Today I wrote a post for Pollenizer on my Top 10 things employees need to know before they jump ship. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it is a change in environment. And like all new environments we enter the biggest challenges we face are never intellectual, but cultural.
You can read it here.
Evolution itself does not have a strategy. It just lets what wins, win. If anything, it is the accumulation of a lot of in market testing. Traits, (or tactics) are tested for advantage, and those that work, keep on happening through natural selection. Nature tries everything. Nature lets things that don’t work die.
We too can help our business evolve. We just need to do what nature does. That is to not pretend to know what will work. Instead we should try everything and find out what does. The good news of course, is that it’s so cheap to try so much in a low cost technology world.
There’s an interesting link between startups, technology and fashion. Any industry which is defined by rapid change and innovation has a fashion element to it. The latest hot stuff which is getting attention, the stuff the market gets excited by, the stuff that gets media attention, the stuff that gets the fanboys and fangirls writing blog posts about it. The startup and technology media is very trend related. So much so that we all know what the hot spaces to be involved in are:
Wearables, 3D printing, Web of things, Drones, Crypto currency, Crowdfunding, and those other ones I’ve left out….
Get a Kickstarter project going with one of these topics in the header and it seems like the funding job is already half done. But if we want to go deeper on this issue as entrepreneurs, then we need to pay some close attention to what happens in the fashion industry itself. Those consuming the fashion and paying attention to it or rarely those who are actually creating it. There isn’t a correlation between being up with the latest trend and ever creating one. In fact, there’s a real danger in being obsessed with what others are doing. It means we’re following, not leading. Fans by definition are always a little bit behind the game – literally. Their focus is on appreciating what has already happened. It means that there might be an inordinate amount of time spent on keeping up.
It’s easy to understand why we might feel compelled to keep up. There’s a lot of social pressure in a sharing economy – the kudos that goes with knowing about the latest thing, using it, or owning the hardware. The ‘have you seen this’ side of the technology revolution.
Will knowing who raised x amount of capital help you raise capital?
Will having the latest apps on your smartphone help you build your app?
Probably not. Probably more of a distraction from the real work we need to do. Sure, be across the market place, but obsessions with the latest trends probably means we’ll never create one ourselves.