Future of Entrepreneurship Panel discusses “platinum age”

29 04 2010

The Future of Entrepreneurship panel started by taking a look at the NASDAQ from the 1970s to today, noting that the stock market continued to steadily climb through the late 1990s after Microsoft was founded in 1975. The “golden age” then fell apart.

But the future of the stock market that one panelist is calling the “platinum age,” could be bright. Moderated by Tom Miller, technology entrepreneurs David Gardner, Scot Wingo, Chris Evans, Aaron Houghton and Bill Weiss discussed strategies for budding Web entrepreneurs and the changes the could be coming in the next few years.

“The reason software is so attractive [to entrepreneurs is that] if you have an idea in your mind, with programming skills and a few people, you can make it,” North Carolina State University Entrepreneur Chris Evans said.

The panel agreed that no one can completely predict the future, but there is a “visible future,” based upon the idea of basing predictions off of persistent sociological trends, which can, to a degree, be foreseen.

“What might the future look like with what you know about how people act?” is the question Promar Group CEO and Co-founder Bill Weiss advised budding entrepreneurs to ask. “There are certain logical connections. If you pay attention to the future, users want to be part of it.”

Gardner brought up Bill Gates’ point that people tend to overestimate technology’s impact in its first five years and underestimate its impact in the long term, an idea for entrepreneurs to keep in mind. The app store could become an example of this because, as Channel Advisor President, CEO and Founder Scot Wingo said, “You don’t need a chief marketing officer (CMO), you only need an icon and an app store.”

The app store, the panel explained, provides and infrastructure with unlimited possibilities of which budding firms should take advantage.

“The iPhone has trained users to pay a buck or two every now and then,” Evans said. “It’s easy and it builds a pattern people are used to.”

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Amazon and cloud computing all provide the same sort of built-in system that makes entrepreneurship enormously faster and cost-effective. Cloud computing, for instance, has made it unnecessary for a company to purchase servers. Twitter, for example, utilizes servers that are owned by Amazon, eliminating the risk of underutilized inventory and making it so that firms only have to allocate for the amount of infrastructure they need.

iContact Corporation Co-founder Aaron Houghton even mentioned a friend who started a business, created a logo, launched a website and sent out a press release all within a week, and she made $120,000 of revenue in the first year without ever speaking to a lawyer or web designer on an initial investment of less than $900.

“The efficiency that’s been created out there is extremely high,” he said.

This efficiency on the Web allows business to crowdsource for talent, a trend that is becoming increasingly popular. Larger firms like Microsoft see a cap on staff creativity, due to the limited number of employees working at a firm at one time, but companies like Linux, Facebook and even the Travel Channel utilize their audiences, albeit with incentives, to work out the kinks in their coding, or create new applications to add value to their products.

And the panel predicts the standard of quality will be increasingly determined by the users.

“Look for something that’s stupid and fix it, and you’ll have six business plans a week,” Gardner said.

In terms of technology, Houghton said that the future of businesses on the Web will be in packaging the content in ways that are inherently convenient to the user. Small changes like these are what have led to many of the revolutionary businesses that currently dominate the web.

“It’s not so much the future of the Web as the future from the Web,” Weiss said. “The web doesn’t create a new outcome. It allows you to catalyze these latent behaviors.”

-by Rachel Cieri

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/




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