Last month I pointed out that tech seems to be peaking, but social good feels like its in its infancy. The “peaking” story has cropped up a few more times:
Freakonomics recent podcast asks, “Are We Running Out of Ideas?” This podcast, like the book it is named after, always does a good job analyzing the root causes rather than just skimming over the surface. That root cause is productivity, which seems to have slowed down dramatically in the last few decades.
Back on the surface symptoms, TechCrunch points out, “There’s an implosion of early-stage VC funding, and no one’s talking about it“.
In both cases, what comes to my mind is the common desire to work on the shiny, new idea rather than working through the details of the last great idea. Similarly seen as the focus on building new roads and bridges, while the old infrastructure decays from lack of maintenance.
It’s the 80:20 rule played out, where 80% of the success takes just 20% of the effort, and the last 20% takes 80%.
Forty years of personal computers, from the Apple I in 1977 to the iPad of 2010 and seemingly ubiquitous notebooks in 2017 grew productivity tremendously. But for half the world the only computer they’ve ever touched is a cheap mobile phone.
Similarly, the “Green Revolution” of the 1960’s and 70’s fed the last three billion people born on the planet. But that productivity has yet to reach the half of the world’s population who are smallholder farmers.
If only the inventors and venture capital would focus on the last 80%, they’d discover there are billions of customers to serve and trillion dollar untapped markets to find their riches. Such success won’t be as easy as the first 20%, but it will be as big.
According to the New York Times, a few Silicon Valley elites are waking up to this opportunity. I predict that is the start of a trend.