â€œDid you know the web is 15 years old today? Huge change to the world in such a short time!â€
The question is from a chat this morning with a very good friend of mine, Tom Calthrop, who is the founder and maintainer of the organization Barnraiser. For those interested in the history of the web can take a look here – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5242252.stm. You could also use some modern encyclopedia or maybe your flavor of the month Wikipedia.
Tom and I started to chat about the future of the web, the history and where it is heading. Tom pointed out that the web has evolutionary cycles thus “web 2.0” is merely a stepping stone in a long non-stop creative process. This is not something new and this happened during the last bubble where e-commerce and e-learning were equally hyped only to under deliver.
– I am thinking of giving away a shovel to my lawyer friend to help him in his daily work.
– Erik, why would you do that? It will not help him in his work?
– Of course not, but you never know. We are trying to provide him with internet solutions that are equally as stupid as giving him a shovel so why not?
Okay I am maybe a bit too sarcastic and I am a believer of the web. However, many in the business, so to speak, still believe technology solutions alone will solve the mystery, yet do not realize that successful and sustainable technology solutions all fulfill true needs of real people.
I will use some words by Tom here to illustrate where the opportunity arises: â€œInstead of writing all this hype I would prefer it is people explore technology today, social interfaces, social consequences and social evolution as affected by technology. Then we may all be better placed to develop real world solutions rather than just talk about something that has no relevance, but then I am tired with the “post-dot-com” brush of pessimism when it comes to all the discussion – all talk and no action.â€
Action it is!
Why? People thinking outside their own little box have been changing the world throughout history and they are usually found in places where the resources are very much constraint and where there is a real need of change. Today emerging markets and the developing world provides us with this wonderful playground to exercise out creativity and still change the lives of people. For those who are hesitant I recommend that you read Hernando de Sotoâ€™s book â€œThe Mystery of The Capitalâ€. Whether he is telling the absolute truth or not is left for the reader to decide, however his points are valid.
Moving on to the core of anyone in the entrepreneurial game, that is the money flow and business models. We all need money for different reasons. Recently I have had quite a few discussions about business models and I do understand you need them, but you should realize what should be in them and why they are needed. Somehow this has been lost in this tumbling environment. The reason has been preached for quite some time by Guy Kawasaki so I am not the only one. The question according to me is: Isnâ€™t it more important to convince your customers rather than investors? If no one buys your product, does it really matter that you have a lot of venture capital backing you up? If you are a venture capitalist, why would you support ventures that are hard to sell to the bigger market? If we are doing that, are we not just doing the same mistakes as we should have learned from last bubble?
Is there a right way to find out the business model? I am a true believer of the users as they always know the answer. Hand it to the users and they will tell you. Oh, so you donâ€™t believe that is possible. Ask the Google boys. Create an extremely easy-to-use and flexible product, hand it over to the users and see what happens. React to the response and voila! They will then tell you what needs to be added and where the opportunity lies.
Now let us go over to a big challenge for the future.
We need to face the challenge of bringing the policy makers into the game and diminish the gap (not eliminate) between them and us to put it very directly. Now the industry is more or less experienced and has been taught a few lessons in the last boom. Tomâ€™s words are put well here speaking about the web: â€œI also feel as though there are Bubble 1.0 veterans around to stop the hype, but the government/lawyer involvement in web together with the corporate mingling have all the hallmarks of chaos. As you know I am no Microsoft fan, but I absolutely cannot see why the European Union is fining them – a typical example of government/corporate/policy setting/messing that will stifle any software evolution (again).â€
He is so right. Unfortunately one might add. The most dangerous development in any matter is the lack of understanding. Today many of the policy makers are lagging in their understanding. They havenâ€™t followed the development and are in many ways several years behind in their understanding of the edge stuff of the web. In itself it is not a problem but in some ways they are too far behind.
However we should have faith. This is nothing new and the same thing happened 15 years ago when the web was born, as so for most other technologies. Look at the birth of the PC, the cars and not to mention the steam machine. There will always be a resistance towards the change, and so it should.
We will come there as we did come here. The will always be a lag between the readiness of the policy makers and their understanding of the technology edge. It is so hard to keep both in sync and I am not sure we should either. It is healthy in a way, and not healthy in another.
What we as entrepreneurs should remember is that we need to open up our minds to something new more exciting than to try to fulfill our utter most dreams of flashy technology. We should start to develop (technology) solutions for people and not for the sake of technology. Look for needs outside our little bubble and fulfill needs of real people. If you want call it user centric design, iterative prototyping or rapid prototyping, do so. What label we choose to put on this is less important however. Why? Because it is cool regardless and it has been done in for a long time already…
â€¦ and after all, it is in the same feeling the web was started. A few guys playing with a need to share research information, and thus they created something to fulfill that need. Who would have imagined that it would end up like this?
Now that is is cool!