Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Adopt Technology Early”
Any new technology tends to go through a 25-year adoption cycle.
—Marc Andreessen, co-founder, Netscape; venture capitalist
Growing up in Boston around some of the sharpest and creative minds, I was quite fortunate. Advanced computer technology was woven into the fabric of everyday life. In a way, being a nerd was cool, I guess because there were so many of us.
My adolescent best friend, who eventually attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I built an interactive website on an Intranet for a class presentation in tenth grade back in 1994. While we were in high school, his father was a research scientist for the Bates Linear Accelerator Center (nuclear physics) for MIT, so the computer science labs on MIT’s campus were sometimes our stomping grounds. I remember the halcyon days of hacking on purple-accented, Sun Microsystems Ultra workstations while leaning back in our swivel chairs that had ATHENA painted in big white letters on the back.
Likewise, I was exposed in my youth to projects that the average person can only dream about or read about in science fiction novels. For example, we would visit places like MITRE Corporation, an organization that did extensive research for the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration. The company also conducted research to explore new technologies. As an adolescent, I vividly remember speaking to a scientist who developed the real version of the toy Nintendo Power Glove. He mentioned that the project cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We also saw other innovations with lasers and biometrics that are just reaching the commercial market today.
I mention all of this because my background gives me tremendous perspective on how innovations eventually reach the commercial market. Most of us who are members of the digerati know that the Internet is not new, for instance. In fact, it was around in its primitive forms as early as 1958. My first encounter with the Internet was through Prodigy in 1990, when I religiously wrote my pen pal, Rachel, in San Francisco via electronic mail. Remember that Velcro was adopted by NASA in the late 1950s for space travel and eventually found widespread practical use here on earth. Technological innovation takes, in many cases, decades to reach the consumer market. Nowadays, that process is often condensed to just a few years.
Researching the backgrounds of many of the most successful tech entrepreneurs reveals a common thread. Like me, they were exposed to new and exclusive technologies at an early point, allowing them to master these technologies and adopt them for eventual commercial use. For .example cofounder of Apple Steve Jobs infiltrated Xerox’s PARC and “borrowed” the graphical user inter-face. Similarly, Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, was exposed to early DVD ‘Technology that would inspire his business idea, and so on. The media glorification of so many successful tech entrepreneurs would lead you to believe that their achievements are the result of pure genius. However, we know better. These entrepreneurs were often exposed early to technologies that gave context to and inspired their genius.
What does all of this mean for you? Not only are entrepreneurs early adopters, but they also explore technologies way before they are even introduced to the general public for consumption. Thus, find every opportunity to learn about what technology is the next big thing. This practice pays tremendous dividends.