The next big thing…

Working with startups has made me reflect a lot on the similarities between now and the former dot com boom period of the late 90’s.  In doing so I’m driven to speculate what the next big thing is and when the next significant shift will happen.  Lets look at the timeline.  Check out my crappographic below:

1995 – 2000 – So the internet made it out of the university/geekdom and into the wider world of work around the mid 90’s.  (I make no apologies for date generalisations so smarty pants date pedants look away now!).  Even though companies like ebay were already up and running they, and the other companies that became household names, didn’t really get on the radar until the late 90’s/early 00’s when the dot com bubble really grew, some 5 years later.

2000 – 2005 – In this period, (the mini economic dip aside) we moved into a period of consolidation where all the ‘me too’ products and those with unsustainable business models melted away.  In fact, the hyperventilating around the technology subsided and we all got on with business as usual, but supercharged by the internet.  As we reached the end of this period, another wave of new plays were emerging – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter to name a few.

2005 – 2010 ish – Here again, the aforementioned ‘social’ plays took 5+ years to reach market maturity to the point of being embedded in our general awareness/usage. Despite the economic downturn, many of these offerings are growing rapidly and drawing huge valuations.  We have seen a general ‘social’ boom, with the start up scene as hot as ever and many many me too products or micro variants on a theme.

2010 ish – 2015 – Despite this social boom, consolidation and hype tail off is inevitable.  We shall see key players grow to take market share, many me too’s fizzle out and a general reduction in the dialogue around the tech.  We will, again, get back to business as usual, only this time  supercharged by the social layer.

So what is to come in the next 5 to 10 years as the tech settles down and social becomes woven into the fabric of everyday lives?   Despite it feeling like a very social web right now, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet in my view.  The outcomes of the social web in terms of product innovation, enterprise adoption, creative development, hardware innovation, bandwidth increasing, and sheer increase in data etc are all still to come.  Just like the period following the ‘bedding down’ of the internet.  See ‘Internet Maturity’ and ‘Social Maturity’ on the crappographic.

When I look back at my graphic, it occurs to me that in terms of identifying the next best thing, it would seem logical to keep a keen eye out around 2014 ish, for a crop of new businesses, a new form of start up which again, won’t reach maturity until 5 or so years after that c 2018 – 2020.

And what will they be? Maybe i’ll know it when I see it. Maybe it will pass me by. Who knows. Answers on a postcard please. For what its worth though, here’s a couple of thought:

Big Data – Currently a hot topic, big data is big! Its also expensive to access and largely in the domain of the corporate classes. But I think that will change.  There’s an old saying about luxury goods that “everything filters down to the working classes”, and the same principle can be applied to a number of things including advancements in technology. Look at CRM. Once a purely enterprise domain, with a fitting number of zero’s attached if you wanted to be granted access.  Now, CRM is available to Bob and his corner shop, for $9.99 a month or even free in some cases. And better still, it comes with ‘integration’ with Bob’s other tools right out of the box! All nice and seamless without a consultant in sight! Big data, and the sentiment that it carries, has huge potential to change the way we currently do things.

If some hedge funds are already abandoning their traditional forms of ‘research’ on which they base their investment decisions, in favour of twitter sentiment, its not hard to imagine that this trend could spread. As I mentioned in a previous post, twitter sentiment is like having the worlds biggest focus group at your finger tips, only better. Think what implications hat has for the market research industry. I suspect that sentiment driven ‘big’ data will filter down to the consumer sometime soon.  Its not hard to imagine a consumer moving away from ‘comparison’ type websites in favour of using ‘sentiment based apps’ instead, to inform themselves on what to buy, where to go, what to do etc. Big data access for the consumer gives us the opporunitity to not just find the cheapest car insurance for example, but the BEST car insurance deal, taking into account every aspect including cost, terms, payout history, customer service and the rich ‘conversation’ that goes on our there on platforms like chatter and user/customer communities. Pretty powerful stuff when you think about it.

Closer to home in HR and resourcing, I think the power of big data and sentiment analysis has huge implications for organisations. The ‘conversation’ about an organisation is already being tapped into from a customer perspective, but internally it is being ignored. Capturing and pulling together this sentiment can create a powerful  picture about a business – inside and out – that can have a significant impact on both the brand and the employer value proposition.  Given that employees are having these conversations on platforms and technology that the organisation doesn’t own or control, its only a matter of time before this is harnessed.

Mobile – Being an early adopter of most things, I thought I was abreast of all things mobile.  That was until I was lucky enough to be invited to the Freshthinking event run by Jobsite UK  in october last year.  The two speakers were Tomi Ahonen and Tony Fish. I was particularly blown away by Tomi’s grasp of the global mobile scene and some of the data he was sharing was staggering – see Tomi’s presentation here and Tony’s here.  It made me realise that a lot of smart things are happening in other continents in terms of mobile which have yet to hit these shores in any meaningful way.  Tomi is careful to classify mobile separately from smartphones but to me, it’s all converging. We are moving more and more into a ‘mobile economy’ – away from the fixed place of work or place to purchase.  Devices are now beginning to deliver, on a mass consumer scale, what has only been dreamed of before. Big thanks to @felixwetzel and @mervyndinnen at @jobsite for the invite.  If you are lucky enough to get a similar invite for a future freshthinkers event, then consider yourself extremely lucky!

Media – For the first time in 10 years my digital music collection is sorted. According to tuneup, its 97% clean including all album art, dates, song title and artist names etc.  Even better, all my old crappy low bit rate files have been replaced by high quality, rights free files. All this was made possible by iTunes match which cost me the princely sum of £20.  It was easy, painless and a once and done deal.  Now I have seamless access to all my music, on any of my devices. With high quality video and images becoming more accessible, editable and manageable I think there is more to come in this area.  Exactly what I don’t know, but some form of seamless, cross media collaboration, creation, access and management seems likely to me.  Also, the self publishing dynamic that continues to grow is another area.  Despite recent moves from Apple with iBooks Author, self publishing is still a pretty clumsy and inaccessible activity but something that has huge potential. As a final note on this, I was out with friends yesterday and their 13 year old daughter informed me that facebook was ‘yesterday’! When I asked her how she connects and shares media with friends as a lot of people do on facebook, she said “we just share it through BBM” (Blackberry Messenger).

Food for thought.  Whatsay you readers?! What should we be looking out for in 2014/15?


  1. Gareth
    As ever a thought provoking blog. I’m with you on the next innovation thing. I remember the mid 1990s in recruitment with no email….how far have we come.
    I think that technology will make the world smaller and smaller and that in the future individuals will expect precise information about their areas of specific interest in real time delivered to their mobile (or to use your phrase maybe even “inside their heads”) how amazing would that be. They will not want to waste their time filtering the good from the bad and will expect that to be done for them.
    Already the web, Linkedin, twitter, facebook, etc allow us to filter the information we receive and create intimate and bespoke groups. My thought is that this will accelerate dramatically and the winners will be those that create, classify and then distribute this social content most effectively to target groups or communities.
    But as you say……we’ll see.
    PS: My 13 year old also loves BBM.


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