Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Social 2.0: The Next Wave of Social Applications

The year 2011 belonged to social applications. Several iPhone apps that enabled some kind of social activity were launched last year. There is still no abating of this trend but it is obvious that majority of such applications will die in the next 18 months. After all, how many social networks will you update after you had a good meal or watched a great movie? Many technology pundits are decreeing the death of social networking applications. I have an entirely different take on it. Just like Web 2.0 companies brought real business models and value to dotcoms, it is time for “Social 2.0”, a set of applications that will bring value out of gigantic social databases such as Facebook, Twitter and the likes to solve real problems.

Humans are social by nature and love to brag to their friends and society at large. The Social 1.0 services gave us ways to share our updates with our connections online. The clear winners are Facebook with a friends graph of 800M users and Twitter with loose ties of 150M+ people and between them they accumulate billions of updates everyday. In addition, some specialized networks such as Foursquare capture our other activities. However, the whitespace in this industry has shrunk considerably. There will certainly be a few innovative companies that will provide new ways to connect and share information but it is increasingly becoming difficult and expensive to capture mindshare away from Facebook and Twitter. However, it doesn’t mean that social is a done deal.

While the first wave of social companies was successful in gathering what’s on our mind, our pictures, likes, short updates and check-ins, the next wave of social companies will build value-added applications on these gigantic social databases. Under billions of Facebook and Twitter updates is buried a wealth of information that can help us make buying decisions, quickly find great deals, and help reduce inventory by aggregating demand in real time.  It is time to stop inundating people with multitudes of social networks to get their specific status and move on to mine information gathered by friends and followers graphs. The best of social is yet to come.

Welcome 2012: the year of Social 2.0!


Are You Ready to Think “BIG” Again in Technology

One man’s dream is another man’s reality. Yesterday, I saw it in real at the Salesforce conference held in NYC. It was amazing to see so many cool applications and technologies that I could only dream about a few years ago. Have you ever imagined creating a web application without programming in less than 10 minutes, publishing it on the web by click of a button, and scaling it up or down based on the number of users through your iPhone? I witnessed it done in less than 15 minutes! Five years ago, there was no iPhone, web applications were created by expert programmers, and specialist administrators used to spend hours hosting and managing such applications. Now one person can do it all in matter of minutes, maybe hours, but still 100x better than before. Maybe I was oblivious to innovation taking place in the software world but I can’t be so much out of touch. After all, my wife complains that I read, blog and surf technical stuff all the time. What did I miss?

 Sometimes I wonder if we are driving technology or technology is driving us? The Internet changed the scene in late 90s, but with dot-com burst we thought it had reached its pinnacle. However, not only was the Internet alive but also it came back with a vengeance with web 2.0 that unleashed the second wave of innovation in terms of collaboration and social networking. In a few years, almost 700 million people started facebooking, another 100 million started tweeting, and not to mention many millions who are talking through other social networks. While Facebook and Twitter are considered consumer networks, Salesforce and the likes are bringing social networking to the corporate world. I was stunned by how far human imagination can stretch, when Salesforce chatter service announced that now your employees, clients, partners, data, reports, and dashboard- all will start chattering.  It means when you “follow” a report like you “follow” a person on Twitter, the report will start tweeting information to you. Similarly you can follow data, documents, presentations and anything you can think of in your daily work for it to chatter back to you. Wait a second, weren’t we struggling to implement that large, monolithic ERP application a few weeks ago? 

I am convinced that human will and intellect can move mountains and make impossible possible. Add crowdsourcing to it and things start to move much faster. I believe the innovation I saw at the conference is not just one company’s achievement but a culmination of many discoveries by different companies across industries. The Internet is obviously the backbone of this ecosystem offering great improvements in speed, reliability and pervasiveness. Device manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, RIM and others pushed the ball forward to make the “always connected” dream possible. Finally, the software companies completed the picture by continuously innovating technologies such as visualization, search and social networks, and streamlining the development and management of web applications.  Suddenly the world is moving much faster due to interconnected innovations and economies of scale. I can’t think of the next big thing but I can sense that we are building an “Internet” kind of revolution again. I am excited about the future and ready to dream big. Are you?

Raise the bar and deliver

Every once in a while we come across people at work, charity, sports or any sphere of life who infuse new energy to the group and take it to the next level. They challenge the status quo, and unleash imagination to let everyone see the unseen. They don’t just talk but put it into practice with their action to rally everyone behind the cause. Mostly they are not as flashy as a CEO of a fortune 500 company but very effective and inspiring in their conduct. Can you think of one such person?

I had an enlightening conversation with a close friend on train yesterday about how Steve Jobs transformed Apple in the last decade. A company he created, left and returned when it was at the brink of bankruptcy. Today it is the most valuable technology company in the world with more than $40B in cash! Most successful people are lucky to have one home run and very few get it twice in their lifetime. Steve Jobs did it four times – Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad! He created markets which smart people had considered dead or already taken. Smartphones were around when Apple launched iPhone. However, iPhone not only trumped the established players like Blackberry (RIM), Nokia and others but also redefined the concept of a smartphone through its breakthrough innovation in usability and design. Microsoft and HP tried to create tablet market from many years but failed. Technology pundits pronounced it a dead market with laptops and netbooks crowding the space. However, Steve (Apple) saw the unseen – a multi-billion dollar opportunity for a tablet like iPad! Once again Apple created a new space by raising the bar and delivering on it. Apple is expected to sell 36 million iPads in 2011 and 50 million in 2012. Huh, dead space! So what makes people like Steve?

I am no psychologist and haven’t done any extensive research on such people. However, following Steve’s life story and his way of thinking, and knowing a few such accomplished but less well known people, I think it’s their ability to think out of the box, challenge the status quo and follow it up with their actions that set them apart.  Of course the intellectual firepower is a prerequisite but most people reading this blog have it. There are many who use their intellectual curiosity to challenge the customary but never follow up with actions. Mostly they are perceived as naggers by their peers. Therefore it is must to corroborate your thoughts with actions but it requires commitment, perseverance and tremendous hard- work. Nothing succeeds like success so it is easy to ignore the hard work that goes behind making a super star. Ask PGA golfers about their practice regime or better yet read New York Times best seller “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell where he talks about 10,000 hours rule for success. Thanks to my friend for an insightful conversation and making me think a little deeply about this topic.

Yes, you can be the next “Steve Jobs” – just raise the bar and deliver on it!

Innovation – The Next Bubble in the Making?

The end of every recession is the beginning of a new bubble. The 1993 recession ended in a great internet bull run and the end of 2002 recession started a phenomenal run in the finance and mortgage markets. Now that we are coming out of the second worst recession of the century, what will it result in? I am no economist but a passionate follower of markets with a deep interest in economics. My layman economist instincts raise their “bubble” antennas when I hear one concept all around and multiple times.  During the internet bubble, we turned everything from luxury to dirt into dot com. Media, housewives, barbers, and even my grandma were talking about how internet will revolutionize our lives and when the Yahoo stock would double again. Fast forward a decade, everybody was talking about reverse mortgage, ARM and how much their house prices appreciated overnight. These are sure telltale signs of something bubbling.  Time is just ripe for the next bubble, but what is it? I think it is “Innovation.”

In past few months, I have been hearing about innovation in every context – work, home, gas station, trains, roads and even home cleaning stuff! Media is also getting on to this bandwagon big time. Innovation is consistently among the most chattered theme on Twitter. In the last three weeks, I have received invitations to at least four online dailies focused on innovation. Even president Obama talked about innovation in his recent state of the union address! Maybe it is only me who is not getting it but what happened recently that we are so worried about the lack of innovation all around. Weren’t we always innovating? The great American economy is built on entrepreneurship and innovation. Industrial revolution, semiconductors, software, internet, financial instruments – aren’t these great examples of innovation? Small businesses and smart entrepreneurs were always finding better ways of doing things. I understand that our primary education level has deteriorated but American universities have been continuously investing and thriving in R&D.

I love talking about what’s next for American economy at cocktail parties and during pseudo intellectual conversations. Everybody is looking for an ignition that will again jump start the economy engine. Maybe we have invented one in innovation.  The next thing we know many billion dollars will start flowing into nonsensical business models having “innovation” as the middle name. Smart people will find a way to ride this wave once again. I hope my instinct is wrong but either way it will be a learning. For now I will sit back, relax and see this story unfold. Or maybe I should also try to commercialize my “innovation” in finding the quickest route to the train station every morning.

Happy Innovation folks!

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