blockchains let us build distributed, trustless computers, applications and services, based on consensus, ownership and integrated incentives, but making that real involves a lot of plumbing
AR and VR might be the next smartphone, but they might also be the next smart watch, drone, or games console – very cool but a narrow market.
while there are obviously waves of tech regulation coming, it’s less obvious how much any of this would change our day-to-day experience of consumer technology (and most of it isn’t intended to anyway). Meanwhile, of course, the vast majority of the 3-5,000 actual tech companies founded each year in Silicon Valley alone don’t make platforms, social networks or adtech – and aren’t affected in any meaningful way by any of this.
advertising & marketing is a $1tr industry, a third of it is now online, and it’s the single most important lever for ecommerce on one hand and the growth of new brands and new competitors on the other.
If I ask my Apple Glasses “I met someone from Disney last week, wearing a red shirt – what was his name?” what privacy issues arise? And when does the competition regulator force Apple to give competitors API access to that? If I use a new social network that uses a public blockchain as its source of record, what data is private and what does that mean?
there’s an order of magnitude fewer moving parts, a very different supplier base, and much of the sophistication moves to software. We go from complex cars with simple software to simple cars with complex software.
An electric car is a better car but an iPhone is not a better Blackberry – it’s an entirely different thing that happens to be roughly the same size.
But more importantly, we don’t know when, how or where any of this will work. There was a period of euphoria a few years ago when AVs looked imminent, but it may now be that autonomy is like the old joke that AI is anything that doesn’t work yet. ‘Full’ autonomy may be as many decades away as ‘general AI’ (indeed it might require general AI!) but we’ll get all sorts of much more limited automation in the meantime.
three sets of questions seem important from outside. First, Chinese consumer tech has become a well of ideas for other people, especially other ecommerce and social media companies in other parts of the world, to go and copy. That probably isn’t going to change. Second, can the companies themselves go global? By default no (WeChat), but sometimes yes, with the right approach (TikTok), and does the current crackdown make Chinese companies look more aggressively for less regulated foreign opportunities, or focus on their home market? (Either way the ideas and models certainly go global.) What’s the next Shein, which may now be the biggest fast fashion retailer in the USA? And third, if China really does becomes uninvestable, where else does that capital go?
So, Tesla’s valuation is driven to $1tr by unprecedented options trading. A16Z now has over $20bn under management, and 300 people (10x a typical venture firm), but Tiger Global probably did 300 deals in 2021. Welcome to the $100m seed round. It’s different this time, of course, but then it’s always different, until the music stops and you find out who was good and who was lucky, and people have been wondering about that for a while now. Ironically, for a brief moment people thought that Covid might be the external shock that would stop the music and instead it accelerated things. But if history teaches us anything, it’s that something will happen. Check your email retention policies.
A decade ago, Uber and Airbnb represented ‘software eating the world’ – companies that used software to change the nature of a product. Airbnb doesn’t sell software to hotel companies, but changes what a hotel is. This is happening over and over again in every other industry. But Netflix or Shein might be a much more general trend – that tech changes the playing field but then the game is played by that industry.