As I get ready to attend LeWeb Paris in just a few short days, I can’t help but mull over the theme of the conference: what will the next 10 years look like?
If you can believe it, 2003 was 10 years ago. It sounds so recent but the technology we used feels generations old. I was 14 and didn’t even have a cell phone yet. Now I feel genuine, physical stress if my cell phone isn’t within a few feet of me. We were at that funny time in history right between using physical maps and Google Maps, where printing Mapquest directions was the best way to get around in an unfamiliar location. Myspace had just come out, though my generation was just getting started with Livejournal. This gave us our first dip into the pool of sharing personal details online. I’m still haunted by some of the searchable posts that exist from that era which include my name next to things only a dumb 14-year-old would say.
Now we are close to the end of 2013, a time where over 1/7th of the world uses Facebook to socialize, information is available immediately, and people are constantly available through email and mobile phones, though less so in person. Buyers are more empowered than ever to affect the products they consume, whether it’s through using social media to establish a two-way conversation with brands, or by using 3D printing and circuit applications to skip the middleman all together and make products themselves. Despite the burst bubbles of a former decade, anyone with a computer and an idea can start a business and have a decent shot at getting funded by venture capital.
It’s impossible to live and work in Silicon Valley without being exposed to this maelstrom of innovation. Yes, there are unfortunately a great number of people who see an idea being well-received, and so they replicate it to get on the train to YoungAndRichVille. The types who want to make tons of money, get a Founder title, and a Battery Club membership, but are not concerned with using their money and position to make a quality product. If I see another mobile payment platform or enterprise social marketing solution claiming to “disrupt” the industry I might just die of laughter.
But among the noise, there is progress. Innovation that proves we are moving forward. In 2013 we are seeing science fiction realities come to life, with 3D printing being used to help amputees in 3rd world countries receive high-quality prostheses without access to MRIs and money, energy transference without wires, and Elon Musk’s proposed system of transportation that could forever alter our impact on the Earth as we travel. Richard Branson is trying to take everyday people to space with Virgin Galactic. HIV was eradicated in tests with lab mice. Even on a smaller scale, companies are developing products that are meaningful to consumers, even if they aren’t life-changing.
As we look ahead to the next 10 years, it’s hard to say what will come next. Trends are very hard to predict, especially with the unstable viral sharing nature that has come to characterize us over the past few years. Feedback has become such an inherent part of the buyer conversation, and the model of brands shaping how the marketplace functions is becoming a thing of the past. What we can be sure of is that over the next 10 years, innovators will continue to create products and ideas that challenge what we thought was possible, ideally bringing us solutions that drastically improve the problems we face as an exponentially growing species. Here’s to the future!