December 27th, 2015

Awaiting the Next Hottness in Consumer Technology

Sometimes tech turns a corner and it is so weirdly tangible.

Perhaps it’s the company I keep, but lately I’ve noticed a malaise that attaches itself to some conversations. There is visceral uncertainty about the next great wave in consumer tech and it is making us all rather uncomfortable. We all like to have Our Thing, the one that some people see but others don’t (Twitter 2008 or Pinterest 2010 for example), and I am struggling to find one right now.

Social has matured, though I am certain there are many many more great messaging companies and apps to be made. The Tier 2 On-Demand Economy is feeling the heat of actual operational overhead, and there is nothing more unsexy than a balance sheet full of red and negative unit economics (“we’ll make it up on volume”). The app gold rush has stalled, mostly. Social gaming and viral news came and went once facebook plugged up all their newsfeed and advertising holes. The Internet of Things is growing, but slower than anyone might like because hardware is hard and especially brutal for startups. Mary Meeker’s slides show massive numbers, but on all the metrics and scales we already know. There is thirst for a new metric.

All the up-and-up companies are now just plain large, or acquired, or hit their “now it’s time to make money” threshold and the faucets aren’t pouring out gold coins like everyone said they would. Or they are and it’s not yet public knowledge.

As someone who is often accused of Pollyanna-like opinions I am feeling lost. One super-interesting company right now is Slack, but it’s an enterprise software company in consumer clothing. I struggle to think of the Series A and B consumer companies that I know in my heart will go to the moon. The ones that show glimmers of real creative change, massive, sticky reach, and something that is genuinely new, or at least enough of a repackaging (there’s the “nothing is new” argument to be made) that it feels new-ish.

Perhaps it is these dull moments that are in fact the most relevant, as it’s time to pursue ideas that aren’t necessarily bankable or worthwhile or sure-things. The weird stuff. A Satoshi 2008 Moment.

I have been mourning the dormant state of this blog, but as I sit here waiting patiently for something new to be pumped about, I want to return to more writing in 2016. Looking back (as one does in December), it’s the best record I’ve got of those moments of excitement that now seem too fleeting.

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