I just finished “reading” Steve Case’s new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. I put “read” in quotations because I read half of it and browsed half of it. Some books are worth reading word for word. This one wasn’t. But it did have some very good points, which I’ll share with you today so you don’t have to read the book.
Steve Case was one of the founders of AOL. If you’re old enough to remember, AOL was the company famous for providing dial-up internet service and sending their installation CDs all across North America. In it’s hay day, it was valued at $160 billion. If you wondered what happened to AOL, I did too. They merged with Time Warner in 2000 (the biggest merger in history at the time), and then the dot-com bubble collapsed. It’s an interesting story, and one I didn’t know.
The main point of the book is about the third wave of the Internet. Here’s a summary of the first, second, and third waves of the Internet:
- First Wave (1985-1999) – Building the internet and laying the foundation for the online world. This was led by companies like Cisco, IBM, Apple, AOL, Sprint, and Sun Microsystems.
- Second Wave (2000-2015) – The app economy and the mobile revolution. Search, social, and e-commerce startups grow on top of the Internet. This era was led by companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
- Third Wave (2016-?) – The Internet of Things. Ubiquitous connectivity allows entrepreneurs to transform major, real-world sectors.
The third wave of the internet will be defined by “the Internet of Everything.” It means that the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives. Steve gives a few examples of what he envisions will happen:
- Health Care – Fitness trackers that measure heart rate and steps will transform into hardware/software that collects a full range of vital signs and give warnings when something is wrong. This technology will allow doctors to monitor high risk patients at home.
- Education – Tools will allow teachers to interact with parents about things such as homework assignments, test scores, or videos of your child giving a presentation. Software will be able to be the equivalent of a virtual tutor for a student, and also be able to track their progress and how they learn best.
- Food – Food safety will improve with technology. Companies will be able to use beams of light to kill pathogens without heating up meat. There will be real-time monitoring of meat, to make sure refrigeration remains constant. Imagine a refrigerator that can tell when your produce has been mishandled or an oven that refuses to cook spoiled meat!
One reason Steve Case wrote this book was because he recognized that third-wave Internet companies will need to work closely with governments, much like first-wave Internet companies (like AOL). He says second-wave companies were largely able to grow without much interaction with governments. But because third-wave companies will fundamentally change how industries will function, it will require cooperation with governments to change laws and regulations. Governments might be customers of third-wave companies.
Steve’s last two points include the rise of impact investing (i.e. “profit plus purpose”) and that future innovation will be geographically dispersed, as the rest of America and the world will rise up to complement the innovation that now mainly occurs in a few places like the Silicon Valley.
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