When I started my first internet business almost a decade ago, things were exciting. You could take a generic domain name, build a web site on it, and suddenly you had not only a real business but also a brand. Free traffic from Google was endless, the brand new Adsense program made almost any non-obscene content a money maker.
Things have changed, a lot.
Instead of writing a handful of poetic paragraphs, I will give you a bullet point list of the biggest areas of opportunity I am seeing both with my business and associate’s businesses right now:
-Desktop to mobile transition. I now fully expect the desktop to be “extinct” by the end of the decade, completely replaced with mobile phones, tablets, and next generation devices. To date yourself, today ask a high school student to describe an iPad to you, then ask them if they like Windows 8 better than Windows 7.
The opportunity — take any existing business and build the same business with an extraordinary mobile experience — app, website, or both.
-Video advertising. Big brands are comfortable buying video advertising, because it looks and acts like TV. Ad agencies can justify the non-existence of accountability beyond how many times the video was played.
The opportunity — Buying, selling, delivering, optimizing video advertising. If I was 18 right now, I would start an agency to produce video for local businesses, undercutting everyone else. DSLR’s + Adobe Cloud = $2,000 start up cost paid for in weeks, with the result being cinema quality video. 10 years ago this would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and not looked as good.
-Virtual Reality. Back in 1995 I had a computer magazine that listed all of the consumer grade virtual reality headsets. There were about 8 of them. It looked like the future. Flash forward to 2012, and the consumer grade virtual reality was almost exactly the same! The Occulus Rift bridges that gap by taking advantage of the ultra high density LCD panels and lightning fast processing power we have today. Legendary creator of Doom, Quake, rocket scientist, and multimillionaire many times over, John Carmack recently took position of CTO at the company. Just do a search on YouTube and you’ll realize they are doing something very right.
The opportunity — piggybacking on the hype of the commercial release, creating new games, communication platforms, accessories, and online communities. Hint: think about all of the third party products the iPhone created.
-IPOs. The US IPO market is strong right now.
Years of cheap interest rates have made it hard for investors to seek good yields. What does that mean for you? Business assets are worth higher earnings multiples. Though you may not be able to have an IPO of your own, keep an eye on competitor IPOs. One of the “tricks” aging tech companies use is acquiring existing companies to boost their own reported revenues, to make them look like they are still growing.
-Global internet growth.
Billions of people still have not made it online yet. While it will be impossible to give all of them their own cars (at least by what we currently call an automobile), they all will make it online one day. The numbers for servicing the impoverished at one time did not make sense. Today they do, because of the following —
-Dirt cheap infrastructure.
Take a look at Digital Ocean‘s prices. Honorable mention also goes to the price of a 4TB HD. You can run a behemoth of a web site or digital business for about $1,000 a month. Beyond that, you are making so much money the hosting costs barely matter.
-US Spying fracturing electronic markets.
The recent US scandal involving NSA spying confirmed what security experts believed for years: that the NSA has been routing global internet traffic through its own computers. What was less obvious was that the NSA is not the only country doing this, or trying to do it. In the future internet users will expect any country that a packet travels through will inspect and possibly record that packet. A digital trade war is almost certainly inevitable. This is terrible news for companies who want to operate on a global scale.
As I somewhat prophetically predicted, Google is too big to fail — at least in the US.
Internet companies will be and are today viewed as critical industries to be protected by the government. Foreign operators should expect harsh and out right unfair regulatory actions. In some cases executives may even face prison sentences (already has happened in the US and abroad.)
The opportunity — Copy the most successful cloud platforms locally. Do a good job and cozy up to your countries’ intelligence agency. Your set. The list includes but is not limited to: Google, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Email (in general), Dropbox. For proof, look specifically at Russia and China and the alternatives to the US’s big players which dominate there. Be very cautious of trying to operate a company that will “protect privacy” or be “spy proof” or you could end up in prison.
2015 and beyond
It is a bizarre coincidence that the world today seems like it was built for me. I was enchanted by the monochromatic green-on-black screen of my father’s now ancient IBM PC as a very young child. When I discovered that I could connect it with a phone jack to the telephone system, and communicate by text with people distances away I was hooked. However, rather than becoming a programmer, my strengths were in art and writing. The ability to paint life like portraits transitioned in to designing websites by hand. Reading and writing allowed my conceptual memory to not only connect widely disconnected facts but tie them together and communicate them to others.
Your world most certainly looks different than mine, but that is ok. If you focus on your personal strengths, while accepting the radical change that is occurring you will do fine. Reject change at grave risk.