The Third Wave of the Internet: Policies, Partnerships and Perseverance.

Listened to an interesting interview between Jason Calacanis and Steve Case (ex AOL CEO) about a book he's just released. AOL, if you'll remember was one of the glory companies of the "first wave" of the Internet. It went from around $6b to $120b valuation in 2-3 years and then took part in one of the biggest mergers in history - with Time Warner.

His book speaks about the "third wave of the Internet" and what’s going to be important to business going forward. I'm a fan of looking back in order to look forward. The full interview is below - I've unpacked some of my thoughts (without having read the book) and summarised some of the more interesting points as well.

Everyone seems to like the 3 P's approach. Steve is no different.

My NOTES and THOUGHTS on the Interview:

THE SECOND WAVE (the Internet as we know it now)

People: The birth of communities, citizen journalism, user created content, viral-ness, sharing, humanity developing online personalities and profiles. This drove radical humanisation of what was once a very niche and geek platform.

Products: Our obsession with digital products that solve real problems - and finally being willing to pay for them - has driven a large amount of the Internet's growth over the last 10 years.

Many very real problems have now been solved. When last did you use a Travel Agent? When last did you go into a banking branch? When last did you use SMS in any kind of extended way? When did you last use the Yellow Pages, or the White Pages for that matter?

It’s got to the stage now where developed countries have almost run out of problems to solve. The Internet, of course, has a meme for this: #firstworldproblems. Run out of real problems due to the rampant growth of problem solving startups? Fear not. We're still partial to services that provide "an easier way to shave” (Dollar Shave Club recently sold for $1b) or even “an easier ways to get clothes” (huge increase in delivered clothing subscription services in the US at the moment)…

I mean - just check the home page of and you’ll see the biggest collection of #firstworldproblems. My favourite, on the home page at the time of writing... GO GO GRANDPARENT. How to call an Uber without a Smartphone.


YET. This is why Africa is so attractive now. And why other developing markets (South America, India etc.) are getting so much attention. We still have very real problems. Problems that can be solved by building tech products.

Platforms: Platforms probably defined the current genre. The idea of building products that weren’t specific solutions to specific problems - but rather platforms that allowed the Users to choose how to use them.

Sure, Facebook started off as profile pics and status updates. But the reason they won - is because they became a platform for you to build other solutions on top of - talk to your customers, create games, play games, backup photos, get customer service from brands…

Platforms vastly outstrip products because they have multiple use cases and are infinitely more sticky in the long term. Interestingly enough, this is exactly the long term product strategy for forgood. It's not a volunteer matching service. It's a platform upon which the social sector can build and improve itself. We’re not there yet. But getting close.

THE THIRD WAVE (the roadmap to business in the tech sector in the future)

Policies: Because tech "services" are becoming (almost have become) ubiquitous, they’re entering the mainstream space and drawing the attention of governments and policy makers. Think Uber and taxi regulation. Think self driving cars and road safety. Think AirBNB and hotel infrastructure/guest safety. Think POPI.

In the next wave - tech companies (all companies) are going to have to be a LOT closer to the policy makers. If positioned correctly, tech companies may in fact drive a lot of the policy decisions we see affecting the world. Expect the developing world to be a little behind the curve, but not too much. Tech disruption happens quickly. Ask the metered taxi drivers and everyone who shops at TakeALot instead of standard retail malls.

Partnerships: To understand the role of partnerships, we need to understand how SaaS (software as a service) has turned into XaaS (anything as a service). What was once the playground of enterprise software has now become almost "baked in" to our daily internet use.

Transport as a service = Uber. Corporate email and calendar as a service = Google Apps for your Domain. Email marketing as a service = MailChimp. Storage as a service = Dropbox. Servers as a service = Amazon.

It has become so easy to do basic services that the door to the partnership game has re-opened. To achieve growth and execute - you now need to go talk to people, not just build a tool. During the second wave, plenty of entrepreneurs could sit in a room and invent something simple. Soon - the important simple stuff will be invented, partnerships will put it together in meaningful ways and meaningful markets.

Partnerships can increase distribution and access trusted markets. Services can be re-packaged to differentiate. We might be living in an increasingly virtual world, but personal relationships and trust is back in charge as the primary lever for business.

Perseverance: In some ways, this links back to policy. Big tech plays are going to need to work a bit harder because they’re so integrated with the real world. As empowering and quick as tech has made us - it’s now so vital and affects so many real services that it may be harder to get things done. Tech companies won’t have the overnight success they’ve become used to.

"...opportunities to create something world-changing by just writing a few lines of code are becoming scarce."

It will be interesting to see how this affects Lean Startup methodology. Where the culture of almost instant experimentation, iteration and fast failure might not always hold in the future. Working harder for initial traction will drastically increase the grind of testing ideas…

You're still going to have to know someone who knows someone. That's the policy game!

There’s some good stuff in here… Will get around to reading the book ASAP.


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