2012 brings a pause in the disruption

OK, I’ve been talking with hundreds of geeks from around the world this year at three conferences, CES, DLD, and World Economic Forum. I’m seeing a trend that is worth talking about.

What is it? We’re seeing the end of one of the most disruptive ages in human history. I believe that we’re seeing a pause in the disruption. More on that a little later.

Just think about all the changes humans have been asked to adopt in the past eight years. Most of us, back then, didn’t carry mobile computers in our pockets. If we did use tablets, like I did, they were expensive, slow, low resolution devices that could only last about two hours. We had no idea what a mobile app was, and if we did, because we were on Nokia phones, like I was, they were hard to discover, download, and use. Now both Android and iOS each have more than 400,000 apps (iOS has 500,000).

Back in 2003 the mainstream was just understanding blogging. Heck, +TechCrunch didn’t start until 2005.

I remember back then that Tim O’Reilly popularized the term “Web 2.0.” He and I spoke at the first Google Zeitgeist conference and I remember sitting next to him and he was pushing the Web 2.0 term with folks online.

Barcamp started in this age.

Twitter was born in this age. So was Zynga. LinkedIn. And Facebook.

Eight years ago Google was the only one who I knew that had these monster huge datacenters around the world with hundreds of thousands of servers. Now these seem commonplace.

We’ve seen extraordinary shifts in how we communicate, protest, and work together.

Yammer, Jive, Salesforce Chatter, didn’t exist back then.

Amazon was only a retail store back then. The really disruptive stuff came out in the past eight years from them.

Xbox was just starting to get noticed back then but even while I worked there in 2003 to 2006 they had no clue just how disruptive Xbox Kinect would be.

Heck, back then most of us didn’t have an HDTV.

If you look back at the last eight years we saw disruption in how we live, play, and work together it was really extraordinary.

But this is the first January when I haven’t been blown away by something new in quite a few years. There wasn’t a new iPhone. There wasn’t a Kinect. There wasn’t dozens of new iPhone apps that are mind blowing (I’ve only seen one, Highlight, and it’s not mindblowing, just executed well). Here’s a video where I get a look:

Does this seem mindblowing? Nope, not really, but it will be hot at SXSW so it might lead to something else, it just doesn’t seem like other pre-SXSW times where we saw Twitter and Foursquare gain traction in February and March.

It’s pretty clear that while we’re still seeing plenty of new things, and new companies, the tech industry threw an extraordinary amount of disruption at the world. So, it’s time to take a breather. This year we won’t see a wild new innovation spread like wildfire, but, rather, we’ll just see more people adopt the disruptions of the past eight years.

Think we’re there yet? Sorry, out of all the attendees at the World Economic Forum, only about 30% are on Twitter. San Francisco might have been at that point in 2009, but many many people around the world, including leaders, still aren’t using the disruptive technologies that the rest of us are already getting bored with.

It’s time to shave the edges off of all those apps (tomorrow Foodspotting will demonstrate the trend I’m seeing to do just that) and execute and build businesses that have real customers and real business models.

We have a lot of work to do!

That’s a way to say that tomorrow’s IPO of Facebook is the closing of an extraordinary chapter in our history. Congratulations to Mark Zuckerberg and the thousands of people working at Facebook but congratulations to ALL of us who have adopted social media/networks/technologies in the past eight years. We’ve made this disruptive chapter happen and I don’t mind it at all if we take a year off shipping huge new disruptive technologies and just get down to the business of using all of these new things.

Here’s a test: out of the 500,000+ apps that are in the iPhone app store how many have you used? I’m supposedly a “heavy” early adopter and I’ve only tried around 600. Our ability to keep up with the pace of change in this industry is being stretched to the limit. We need a year just to breathe and get used to swimming in this new disruptive world.

Now we need to make all this stuff work.

That’s one reason why I’m changing focus at +Rackspace Hosting to focusing on small teams who are using all these new disruptive technologies to have a huge impact in the world. Don’t know what New Relic are? Loggly? Node.js? Echo? Janrain? These are the things that have me excited now because they help small teams do things for millions of people. Here’s one of our early shows, with Janrain, which is helping lots of companies outsource its user management.

If there’s disruption in 2012: that’s it. These new small companies are helping lots of other companies scale their engineering efforts.

At SXSW we’ll be explaining more about what we’re doing in this regard, but you can see a hint on Rackspace’s Small Teams, Big Impact site.

Do you know of a company that is helping small teams have a huge impact on the world? Let me know!

Oh, and it’s also time to get back to blogging. I’ve been reading Dave Winer’s blog lately and am seeing a reason to blog again instead of just using my Google+ account, which is where I’m spending 90% of my time lately.


Why I love PandoDaily, new media company focused on startups

Sarah Lacy looks at TechCrunch TV equipment

Today Sarah Lacy, formerly of Techcrunch, announced she was starting a new media company and has gotten funded, to the tune of $2.5-million by a variety of big names in investing.

This is just what the tech industry needs. Why? Because big companies are too focused on profits to properly cover the startup world.

Here’s why.

1. Most stories about startups don’t get many hits. At least not when compared to stuff about Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook. There’s a reason for that that’s built into the system. If you write about Microsoft, for instance, its 90,000 employees hear about it on internal email newsletters and blogs. You’ll get thousands of hits almost instantly just because of that. Then they’ll push blogs that are pro that company out to other places like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I see this happening all the time. Those hits are easy money for blogs that rely on page-view advertising, like Techcrunch does. Startups don’t have that “multi-thousand-hit” ability, so get lesser attention from the big companies than they should.

2. Startups tend to be understood better by people who’ve been in startups. I’m getting a bit rusty at this myself. Working at a big company you start to forget what it’s like to have to do everything yourself. I remember walking into one startup and seeing the CEO on the floor building an airconditioner to keep his team cool. It’s why, even though Rackspace built me a studio at its new office in San Francisco, I still go and visit quite a few startups. It’s something very few journalists do, but I know Sarah Lacy does.

3. The industry needs a global perspective. I was talking with the CEO of Geekli.st, Reuben Katz, the other day. That interview is here so you can listen. As you listen you’ll hear something: innovation is happening outside of Silicon Valley. Sarah knows this deeply. She wrote a book on it and has done the hard work of visiting far off places. Many other journalists think that they have seen this trend by going to big conferences at LeWeb, but that’s just not true. It’s hard to know this without having done the hard work, er, flying the miles.

4. The way startups get better conversion is via video. This is something I understand deeply, but so does Sarah. She’s been on the inside of video divisions of Yahoo and AOL and I’m sure she’ll be doing a bunch of videos. More videos of startups is a good thing for the entire industry. Too many blogs don’t understand the power of video, or don’t have the funding to do the travel that this requires (I’m heading to Europe on Friday, for instance, and it isn’t cheap).

5. There is no way one person, or one media company, can cover all the startups anymore. Y Combinator alone is going to graduate another 60 startups. Think about it. I can only do about two videos a day. That means I’d have to focus on Y Combinator for more than an entire month to cover all of its startups. That means that many of its startups don’t get covered, or covered well.

Now, you might think this is bad for me. No, it’s not. As startup liasion officer at Rackspace I love that I’ll see even more coverage of startups in the future. This is good for everyone in the industry that serves startups. Some changes that we’ve already started making, though, because we knew there would be more competition in startup news space: we’ve decided to move away from building43.com and toward a new “Small Teams, Big Impact” set of videos. Yes, we have a website, that will grow to be more interactive in the future, but we’ll be putting more of our videos up on social networks. If you’ve noticed, I haven’t been as active here lately as I once was. Why? Because Google+ became a lot more interesting to me due to the engagement I was getting there, the audience growth (more than 210,000 followers there already). Even Facebook, in the past few months, has seen huge audience growth for me, from about 13,000 followers in August to more than 100,000 today. The action is clearly on social networks, and that’s where I’m putting my time and efforts.

That said, there’s something I’ve noticed that the startup blogs haven’t really caught onto yet. That is there’s technologies here now that are helping small teams having a HUGE impact on the world. For instance, at Universal Studios there are two engineers who are building all their web properties and are getting a HUGE amount of scale from technologies like JanRain and Echo. More on that soon, as we get more of our videos up on our Small Teams, Big Impact, site.

Also, at SXSW we’ll have a celebration of companies like this that help small teams have a big impact on the world. If you know of one, can you let me know by filling in this form? Thanks!

Anyway, that’s getting me off the point of this post, my first of 2012, which is to say “congrats Sarah.” Can’t wait to see what you do.

I’ve also added PandoDaily’s Twitter account to my tech news brand Twitter list, which includes all the tech news brands I know of (493 to date).

PHOTOCREDIT: I shot this image of Sarah while she worked on Techcrunch TV.