Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Technology is an Opportunity, Not a Threat”
Technology has always been important, but we are standing on the precipice of an inflection point in human history. Technology is reaching what I call the knee of the curve, a point in time which its exponential growth is taking off at a nearly vertical slope…. The pace of progress is itself accelerating. —Ray Kurzweil, author, The Singularity is Near
The most challenging thing to do in business is to stay in business. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more.” Evidently, as time increases, the odds of your company surviving decrease.
Time seems to be the common dooming factor for thousands of businesses, but a much more devastating agent is at work here, especially nowadays. That agent is technology. At a recent technology conference in Atlanta, Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president at Cisco, discussed how things that used to take a long time now happen quickly and effortlessly. One of his examples showcased the power of social media and its ability to spread information at unprecedented speeds. He related a story of how he used Twitter to avoid an immediate travel disaster in Mexico. He ended the series, declaring, “Times arc exponential.” I couldn’t agree more. Technological innovation, whether rapid progress in computer science or nanotechnology, is seemingly causing the condensation of time. It is also driving many people out of business.
As an entrepreneur, you must be well aware of technology’s power to alter your business. On the one hand, ignoring technology can mean your quick demis6. On the other hand, if you adopt it early, it can catapult your business to tremendous growth. One way to stay on top of technological innovation is to implement strategies that promote and reward forward thinking in your company.
In his excellent book Jump the Curve, futurist Jack Uldrich discusses strategies to survive what he calls an “exponential economy,” an economy driven by technological innovation. With compelling cases and commonsense analogies, he urges readers to stay ahead of the curve, referring to the curve on an exponential graph, One of his most convincing strategies is to think rationally about the implications of future-generation technology. To illustrate his point, he uses the case of Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix. Flastings, a former Peace Corps volunteer, realized after seeing DVD technology in 1996 that data storage would make huge advances. (It certainly did.) As a result, Hastings founded Netflix in 1999 and has grown his company to become a billion-dollar behemoth. Net-flux continues to be an industry leader in the video/home rental market. Uldrich would say that Hastings was able to “jump the curve.”
In 1977 Ken Olson, president and,founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), proclaimed, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” His comment denounced the latest technological developments and favored his company’s main product, business mainframe computers. Meanwhile—that same year, in fact—a burgeoning company called Apple was founded on the idea that everyone would have a personal computer someday. We all know how .this story ends. In December 1980 Apple went public, propelled by the incredible sales of the Apple I.
There are countless stories of people resisting technological innovations and getting it wrong. These people claim that Facebook is spooky; Twitter is a waste of time; and Pinterest… what is that? These skeptics arc the progeny of Ken Olson. Sooner or later, they, too, will be out of business. Don’t let that happen to you.