Thirty years ago when someone talked about starting a software company, it meant a garage, and you hoped to create something like an operating system, a spreadsheet or a new piece of hardware, and you might now be known as Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. In many cases those technology companies were incubated at universities with their access to technology, the innovative spirit and people willing to burn the midnight oil for free at the hope of a bright future.
In the last ten years a technology startup has almost always come to mean a startup dealing with web technology. We now live in the post-Google world. Gone are the days of creating an operating system in a garage. Our operating systems come in many flavours, and they are named Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari and the much maligned and still popular Internet Explorer. The days of creating a computer game for shipping on disks are fast disappearing. Our distribution system, if one is even required, is the World Wide Web, and our target audience is not only dictated by shelf space alone but also reach of optical fibre.
In the latter part of the nineties as the tech bubble grew exponentially, many talked about the “New Economy.” We found out soon thereafter that the new economy was not actually that “new” but rather the same old economy, and the same principles needed to be heeded. What we learned then was that one should never forget the lessons of the past. The same principles of finance might have helped all of us over the past few years in avoiding our current messes.
When we examined our thoughts for changing online advertising, we didn’t look at rewriting the book. Instead, we went to old ideas and tried to see how they would work on new platforms. The same is true for many, if not all, the applications that are coming to the fore now.
A spreadsheet is nothing new. We’ve had consumer computerized spreadsheets for close to thirty years or more. And yet, we are all enamoured as Google develops its wordprocessor and spreadsheet software and allows us to collaborate via the web, even as it lacks all the features present in its closest non-Web relative. Very central to Empire Avenue is the games industry. Games have been around forever. In general the same “game” gets reiterated over and over; just the platform, graphics and distribution system changes. Generally, the aspects that make a game interesting, engaging and generally “sticky” have not fundamentally changed any more than the human psyche has.
I personally believe that technology leaps do not necessarily come in giant steps, but baby steps. If you look at what is happening now, it is not that we are creating new technology but moving old ideas, old thoughts onto a new platform. In doing so we are opening up new avenues for human creativity and innovation.
Sometimes, you need to go back centuries to lift ideas that were true back then, are true today, and with new platforms at our disposal these ideas are able to take flight. Sometimes a revolution, like evolution, is happening and no one even realizes.