If vs When & Who

There are some things which we as humans intuitively know will occur. Almost every industry has a future state which we can see occurring at some point. While the timing might be hard to predict, the inevitability is predictable.

We can take a quick look at certain industries to provide exemplars of this contention:

  • In the future cars will not run on gas / petrolium.
  • In the future smart phones will be usurped by wearable computing.
  • Physical retailers who compete on price with omni available goods will cease to exist.
  • Leisure space travel will be within reach for the masses.
  • Many (half?) companies will close offices and move to remote / choice based location working structures.
  • Global virtual and crypto currencies will replace fiat currency.
  • 3D printers & scanners will be as common as computers in homes & work spaces.
  • Sharing economies in all industries will create resource leverage & new financial liquidity.
  • Self organised banking and lending systems will emerge.
  • Connected everything – chips and sensors in everything from milk cartons to t-shirts.

The list is endless. These are the ‘When & Who’ startups. Those with a high level of probability, even though it may not be us, and may not be now or next year.

Yet, many startups focus on things which may occur, based on a needed shift in human behaviour which – if it does happen will be insanely profitable. The ideas that no one has thought of (white space), where the entire prize can be theirs alone. I call it the ‘IF’ startup. Sure they are possible, yet they are improbable due to their occurrence being so rare.

So we have a choice on which kind of startup to go for. The possible or the probable. The ‘if’ or the ‘when and who’. I feel like it is a better choice to go for the inevitable, rather than the possible. It’s true that some things arrive which we didn’t see coming that change lives, the reality is that most technological curve jumps are foreseeable. As a bonus it’s usually easier to inspire our supply chain, customers and investors on highly probably events of the future. And while we all make our own market entry choices, it’s nice to go in with our eyes wide open.


5 Comments If vs When & Who

  1. James Ferguson

    You state confidently

    “In the future smart phones will be usurped by wearable computing.”

    “3D printers & scanners will be as common as computers in homes & work spaces”

    Regarding the former – I imagine a future when I neither carry nor wear a computer, because computing is available as infrastructure in places where it is valuable to me.

    The second is exaggerated – we will never consume hardware at a rate to warrant every house carrying a stock of printable media. Yes it will be more ubiquitous (in the *local* hardware store) but no this prediction is a nonsense.

    It appears to me that you have mis-classified 20% of your list.

    It appears all is not as certain as you believe in startup land.

    What I would contend (and it is hard to argue) is that conviction of (“the inevitable”) is extremely subjective (as you have shown) and I believe delusion of certainty is a bigger threat to an entrepreneur than the choices of industry we make

  2. Steve Sammartino

    Hey James – thanks for the comment – a healthy debate is what blogs are all about!

    I think we’ll still wear computers. In any case – smart clothing will be omnipresent as a minimum.

    Regarding 3D printing: I’m not sure how familiar you are with the technology? Firstly, I’ve been involved in 3D printing for over 5 years from an investor position, as owner of multiple 3D printers, and have even provided information regarding the technology to the Australian Government, and written articles for the ABC. This might be worth reading: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3816180.html In any case I’ll provide some details that most people are not aware of.

    Firstly 3D printers can already print in 99% of the materials found in the average home, including the building itself. All metals, glass, plastics, wood composites, carbon composites, cotton, fabrics… there is almost no material which cannot be printed. The 2 key factors before mass market infiltration are unit cost reduction and awareness of capability. Multi material printers are streaming onto the market as are infrared and ultra sound based scanners which can detect internal workings of things like electrical motors and even sensors and transistors (microchips) and turn into printable files. The relative utility of a 3D printer will be significantly greater than any paper version, arguably more useful than a home PC if it can print anything you need, or replicate anything in the the home that breaks. You might even remember the predictions of limited the use of computers would be by people like Tom Watson: chairman of IBM in 1943 “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Or even Bill Gates who said in 1981 that a move from 64kb to 640kb would provide enough computing power for at least 10 years. But rather than take my word for it, why don’t I point you to the worlds leading Technologist / Futurist and Anthropologist Dr Ray Kurzweil who is far more qualified than me on this debate: who clarifies this reality in this talk at Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zihTWh5i2C4

    So – I’d be surprised if anyone else who is familiar with the capability of 3D printing would claim my prediction as a nonsense.

    Mind you if I have mis-classified at least 20% of my list – then that would mean 80% is on the money – a ratio I’ll take to the bank any day. I guess Pareto is on my side.

    So as far as delusions go, I guess we all choose our own.

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