It is not often that my academic work crosses into popular discussion. But if the question gets framed in a serious way, I am happy to be part of the conversation.
Here is the big question: Have commercial opportunities dried up in computing and the Internet? My answer: Not a chance. Sure, the 2008-2009 downturn is the roughest in my lifetime and it makes many things tough for everyone, but it also is temporary. Moore’s law has not slowed noticeably (yet), and plenty of other frontiers in technology continue to move to remarkable places. There are still plenty of opportunities for creative and clever business entrepreneurs and innovative managers in established businesses to create value.
I had just finished a draft of an academic review article, about forty years of research about innovative behavior in computing markets, when I received an email. Randall Stross of the New York Times sent me that email. I do not receive calls from anyone with that byline too often. In addition, I have read many of Stross’ books, including his books about Microsoft and Google. He is a good writer and an insightful observer of the high tech scene. So I replied to the email quickly.
From there I got quoted in Stross’ Digital Domain column. Stross concluded that the glory days are not done yet. I agree. I think the evidence for that sweeping statement is weak, at best.
Why did Stross pose the big question? Because Tom Siebel had posed it a bit earlier. Yes, that is the same Tom Siebel of Siebel Systems, CEO of one of the earliest and most innovative CRM companies. He eventually sold out to Oracle for billions of dollars in 2006. He may be rich, but that does not make him correct.
Stross picked up one aspect of Seibel’s speech — the assertion about the decline of new opportunity — because it was its most provocative part. There are other interesting things in Siebel’s speech. In particular, I found it interesting that Siebel thought of his own experience as easy. That sounds like a retrospective bias to my ears.
I have interviewed many entreprenuers. What Siebel seems to be saying lines up with what many others say. He states that “the vision” behind CRM was easy for him and it lined up with customer demand. He does not perceive such visions as coming as easily today to today’s entrepreneurs. That is why they may be having difficulty (ergo, the glory days are gone).
I disagree. For the most successful, the vision is the easiest thing. For every entrepreneur business involves plenty of hard work and lots of learning about how to execute the business. And in today’s environment, there is additional work to find any demand. But like I said, that last challenge will not last forever.
It was great working with Stross on it. Here is the article. There is more to say, but I will save that for another time. Read Stross’ article. It is pretty good.
And if you are an entreprenuer, do not give up yet. There are plenty of opportunities still to be found.