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Steve Harmon - Tech & Biz = New Platform

Two Things Needed To Change Any Industry: Innovative tech and better business model

Steve Harmon

November 5 · Issue #27 · View online
Beyond the hype, inside the world of venture capital, tech, stocks and trends, from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, from veteran investor and entrepreneur Steve Harmon - followed by many leaders in finance and tech, see more:

Two Things Needed To Change Any Industry: Innovative tech and better business model

New Technology
The combo of chips and network led to what we call the Internet today. It is ubiquitous in many ways, much to the chagrin perhaps of its inventors (hat off to Vint Cerf, for one).
Technology alone isn’t a changing the world moment though.
1977 era Commodore PET computer - with exciting green font
1977 era Commodore PET computer - with exciting green font
For example, many guys got excited about the Commodore PET. With its own keys just for numbers! Not to mention the cassette player.
Likewise, the web browser alone didn’t portend much with its few thousand lines of code.
Mosaic Communications (a bunch of pizza guzzling college dudes) had no idea what they had unleashed. They believed it to be a browser (sounds kind of passive, ‘browsing’ … hey, we’re just strolling through here, meandering and such.
What they had actually let out of the bag was trillions of dollars of value and the global economy for probably 100 years or so.
That small thing.
Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, every media and communications company on the planet jumped on board. Not at first because they’re mostly afraid of risk. But eventually they capitulated.
This browser thing was a door to the future. 25 years later it’s still growing.
The Business Innovation
Mosaic Communication renamed itself Netscape. And for about 2 years it owned the Web. Virtually 100% of all Web users started with Netscape’s browser.
For a time in 1996 everybody else on the Web who wanted to be seen (including search) paid Netscape to be a search choice in its browser.
What Netscape failed to realize was a revolutionary business model to go with its technology.
Netscape played it safe.
Defined itself as a ‘software’ company.
The guys in the suits who the venture capitalists hired convinced everyone it was so.
Until the software business model couldn’t dethrone Microsoft.
Netscape was never a software company. Instead, it was an enabler of all commerce and communication on the Web.
It could have been bigger than Amazon or Google. Both combined. Much the way Alibaba and Tencent in China are much bigger than mere search. These are entire ecosystems.
Granted, the Chinese entrepreneurs had the advantage of copying and then surpassing American ways of business. They also benefitted from widespread broadband which opened up pervasive access.
But they showed their pioneering counterparts a thing or two about business. The Chinese innovated many business models around mobile and Web services that even today the Americans and Europeans lack.
Tech + Biz = New Platform
The key to building a new business in the connected era is revolutionizing the tech side AND the business side.
For example, with my own startup Ditto we are trying to innovate the marketplace experience for real estate, rethinking the whole idea.
On the business side we are saying the old model isn’t the only way to do business. Many realtors believe just having Docusign is the latest market edge.
We want to allow buyers and sellers to be free of the old sloppy tech and the confining nature of commissions only.
What’s stopping buyers, sellers, brokers from dealing and even owning real estate together?
We think there are entrepreneurial pieces that can be opened up to many to be involved and make money from the real estate process. Similar to how Lyft and Doordash opened up the old taxi and food delivery industries to those who never would have driven a traditional taxi or drove delivery for Dominoes.
We have had traditional real estate corporations approach us and ask us what’s up. They have invited us to their conferences and try and get us to join their platform.
But the fact is the new replaces the old.
Uber replaced taxis.
Belief & More
I remember in 1995 trying to convince everyone the Internet would be huge, bigger than all other mediums.
Literally nobody believed me at the time.
It can be hard being ahead of the crowd.
Some 3 years later the Web was emerging big and everyone agreed with me. Literally most of the who’s who of technology and media.
If you are building a tech business consider the idea to change the tech AND the business models.
For example, had Netscape said it was a ‘cloud company’ to enable commerce or stuck with being an on ramp to the Web it very well could have been a $800 billion company today (or more) … maybe even the first $ trillion market value company ever.
It didn’t innovate on the business model.
It defined itself according to the past (and what Wall Street could comprehend … short term thinking).
Those who define the future need a bigger mindset than that. Missed opportunity. Who has learned from that?
Amazon, Facebook and Google to some extent. But not many others.
So far…

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