Wadhwa’s views articulate part of a slow hunch that has been forming – by no means do I think it’s brilliant insight on my part but have had a gut feel for a while that the rules of the game in making things have changed. At the beginning of my career, it seemed the primary way to build something remarkable was to get a lot of people and VC funding to do it, although of course bootstrapped successes have always existed.
Technologically and economically, it seems now there are so many ways to bring an idea inexpensively to market. Granted, solving big problems still requires big resources. If Steven Johnson’s analysis is right, we still need the big private research ventures to explore big innovations and big companies/infrastructure to scale it in the market, but the opportunities for interesting “lifestyle” scale businesses seems to be expanding as the technology and economics trickle down.
Being able to secure capital from your prospective customers to fund production (Kickstarter), on demand resources, even crowdsourcing design and content creation. Multi-sided marketplaces matching up niche market buyers and sellers. How inexpensive it is already to bring things to the web/mobile and how 3D printing is reducing the cost of admission for physical products as well. How much more global reach you can get when you develop for mobile / the web vs. costly onsite enterprise infrastructure or even desktop computers. Shifting things to the cloud means less infrastructure / assets needed to gain the benefits of services for both the enterprise and consumers.
Mary Meeker addressed these trends in her earlier report and of course there are all kinds of thinkers who have approached the macro trend from different directions – Corey Doctorow, Chris Anderson, Clayton Christensen, etc. Obviously I think we will see further downward trends in the costs of technology that in turn enables more reach, and the blue ocean strategy of going after niches will always be how the small guy can compete.
Christensen has an interesting point though that so far we’ve been rewarding / monitoring metrics around improving efficiency or reducing costs / increasing profitability, and that tends to destroy jobs rather than create them.
May we live in interesting times.