The New New Thing

Flying Toasters: The Original After Dark Screensaver

I’ve been in technology long enough to witness groundbreaking innovations quickly devolve to ancient history. In undergrad, I remember when our computer labs installed CRT terminals. Earning my way through college as a computer card keypunch operator, I though the CRTs’ instability and ephemeral nature of non-tangible code would be short-lived. What a futurist I was.

During this entrepreneurial nascence, I took my burgeoning keypunch operating career on the road. I followed a professor in the statistics department for which I worked over to his fledging company—SAS Institute. Here, the new new thing was The Database. Being somewhat of a packrat, I understood the concept of hoarding, and so I didn’t question the relevancy of virtual instantiation of accessible data aggregation (these were my entrepreneurial puberty years). From SAS, I went to business school and then onto SGI, which was touting an interesting notion that within a matter of years, computer animation would no longer be limited to scientific data modeling but be used in more mainstream applications like cinematic effects, architectural renderings, and maybe even screensavers filled with flying toasters. Crazy, huh?

Ever since the popularization of the Internet, the concept of the new new thing taken on exponential proportions. It seems like most entrepreneurs and the VCs that fund them are more excited about following the latest trend than they are about finding innovative solutions to real problems. Certainly, the last fifteen years have exacerbated this distraction. Back in 1999, when I belatedly jumped on the dotcom bandwagon, I was shocked to see how the latest overvalued IPO was a barometer by which constantly changing business objectives were based on. And when I started my own company during the height of the Web 2.0 craze, I was even more surprised at how myopically VCs were swayed by refactored hyperbole. It was then that I totally understood the chameleon temptation that so many start-ups fall prey to:

Interior conversation at a Series A VC pitch:

Inside voice 1: If we add a peer-to-peer component, we call ourselves a social media platform.

Inside voice 2: Didn’t that fail for virtual community; weren’t they the first dotcoms to go splat?

Inside voice 1: That was then; this is now.

Hey, I get the sex appeal of the new new thing—every entrepreneur does. What is innovation but the creation something new? But when our idolatry of the latest trend overshadows our desire to solve problems with solid business models, then … here we go again.

—–

Below is a full list of Entrepreneurial Reluctances/e-Publishing lessons from my Top 10s blog post.

Entrepreneurial Reluctance

1. The Catalyst(s)
2. Good $ vs. Bad $
3. Risk Reduction
4. The Network Effect
5. Been There, Done That: The Serial Entrepreneur
6. The New New Thing
7. Emergence & Maslow
8. The Analogy of the Watch (moving parts)
9. A Clean Cap Table
10. Perseverance or Blinders

e-Publishing Reticence

1. False Deadlines
2. Readers & Editrs
3. Genre Opportunities
4. Target Marketing
5. Self-Promotion
6. Creating you Literary Brand
7. The First Review
8. The Network Effect
9. Amazon Ranking
10. The Book Tour

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