We live in an incredibly exciting time for entrepreneurs and the opportunities afforded to them. While I have no doubt that the grit and resilience required for success is on par with prior eras, the tools and general accessibility of technology to today’s entrepreneurs would have been incomprehensible even 30 years ago. After the implosion of the original ‘dot com’ bubble back in 2001 but before the dust had time to settle, the potential for monumental successes had been entrenched in the newly formed tech community. Millionaires could be made overnight in front of their computers in their basements – and all it might have taken was a compelling idea and few thousand lines of code.
We now live in the proceeding phase of the Information Age, a sort of ‘disruption economy’. Established models of business normally considered saturated and off limits are being deconstructed and rebuilt with the end customer’s benefit in mind. The time when mature industries could sidestep research and development from lack of necessity are over, because we live in a time where one person with a laptop and a keen mind can bring the $22 billion taxi industry to its knees.
This access to tools and viable sales channels has created a robust tech sector in North America, but that umbrella term – “Tech” – covers a lot fascinating sub-categories with their own rich and full divisions. While the branches on the Tech tree are numerous, there are a few sectors that carry a particular affinity to me due to their accessibility for creation. While the space-age robotic creations coming out of Boston Dynamics and Falcon rockets designed by Space X are some of the finest examples of ‘true’ tech products today, I’m here to talk about the side stage developments more synonymous with the startup tech communities.
There’s no denying the influence mobile technology has had on our lives in the last decade. Today, the average 12-year old carries in their pocket a device with more computing power than Apollo 11, with a robust portfolio of applications for remotely regulating the fixtures of your home, curating your music library on a whim, and pretty much everything in between. Mobile apps can be looked at as the Wild West equivalent of tech world, where apart from Apple or Google deciding the requirements for listing in their respective marketplaces, pretty much anything goes. The bottom line is that the barriers for an entrepreneur to deploy a mobile app are effectively the same as those for a student submitting homework in university, and as long as the Snapchats of the world are earning $25 billion valuations, there will never be a shortage of new and interesting apps.
While this next branch could technically still fall under the mobile app umbrella, it also heavily exists outside the mobile realm. I’m referring to ‘platforms’ – an application (but really, more of a business model) that creates value by connecting two parties. Well known examples would include AirBNB, Skype or Twitch, which have all seen tremendous success through acting as intermediaries in new and alluring industries. In my opinion, platforms as a business model hold the most potential for explosive growth and profitability. While early-stage barriers for platforms exist around building product awareness, once the inertia in challenged and the product begins to carry momentum through its user base, the limits are endless. A good platform looks for users to create the content (i.e. an AirBNB renter taking pictures, posting descriptions, vetting customers, etc), resulting in the biggest challenge to the company shifting from content creation to creating the high-quality user experience to achieve a critical mass user base. Because of their accessibility and potential for rapid scaling, I’m betting on a platform-based application to become the next big Vancouver tech success story.
Finally, I present the most technically-complex and certainly most buzzword-friendly sector – Fintech, or Financial Technology. A truly exciting and rapidly developing industry, fintech covers a fairly wide umbrella of subcategories such as blockchain, bitcoin, and various banking applications. Fintech perhaps lends itself least to the inherent notion of accessibility, and likely even conjures up images of large organizations and costly development phases. The reality is that many of the most successful fintech companies still come from very humble roots with a couple founders and big idea. Further, just like many other established industries, the financial industry is ripe for disruption. While I could (and probably will) do an entire article devoted solely to fintech, suffice to say that the potential applications for truly secured online transactions and virtual currencies not tethered to any one nation are rousing.
And there you have it – three sectors in the startup community that continue to feed entrepreneurs with both the dreams of success along with the viable pathway to achieve it.