Congratulations, It’s Over, What’s Next?
Forbes has an interesting post by Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora and one of the leaders of the subscription revolution in which he discusses the coming of age of the subscription economy. Coming of age might sound like a contradiction to say the least—where has everyone been for the last couple of decades? Subscriptions are down and in a curious way, this is the point.
You ought to read the post almost as an echo of Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” because it discusses Tzuo’s first encounter with international governmental organizations through his recent participation in the G20 meeting. To be very brief, the G20 is the group of the largest countries by economic output and its finance and political leaders gather annually to discuss where this planet and its economy are going. You might have also heard of the G7 or G8 (depending on whether or not Russia is misbehaving), which is an even more exclusive group.
So Tzuo was invited to participate in some sub-group meetings for business and technology in Antalya, Turkey, site of the recent confab. Now you have context. Tzuo is happy to report that the word “Internet” broke into the collective consciousness in the form of a communiqué from the recent meeting with an assist from him. That’s how long it can take for an idea that we have regarded as foundational for over two decades to become so mainstream that it gets included in the thinking of the G20.
This should surprise no one. When you are dealing with the planet’s economy and the 20 largest players in it, then it’s reasonable that only the biggest ideas bubble up and the Internet (specifically subscriptions) is finally breaking the surface. But the fact of this emergence suggests that the Internet and even subscriptions are no longer the disruptive innovation we’ve nurtured for much of our working lives.
The technology revolution ushered in a world of data driven business processes, information sharing, social media, big data, analytics, tiny computers now called devices, and use of the word “online” as a prefix as in online shopping. It is now so integral to what we do that it is its own paradigm, rapidly replacing older structures and business models like face-to-face commerce, print media, and (gulp!) customer loyalty. Online everything is having enormous impacts on how we live and travel and it is now safe to say that the revolution is over.
To be clear, we will not retreat into some dark age and technology will continue to drive the global economy for quite some time. But when you think of the power that you can hold in your hand in the form of a device today, you can see that it’s getting rather hard to make a technology product at a profit and there is an important lesson. Technology and information are commoditizing the way that everything else from textiles, to cars, to TV did. They are all important parts of the global economy today but none drives it.
We shouldn’t mourn information technology’s passing and as I said, technology is with us now for better or worse. Interestingly another disruption that’s been on the horizon for decades got a major boost over the weekend when the global community ratified an agreement summarizing individual nations’ efforts to stem carbon pollution and save the planet from overheating.
From here on the technologies that will have venture capitalists’ greatest attention will be those that reduce emissions, generate clean electricity, and even take carbon out of the atmosphere. This new paradigm will be the work of a generation and people in the job market today will increasingly feel the gravitational pull of energy and environment in information, finance, product development, sales and marketing, and much, much more.
The new paradigm will be heavily dependent on the information management structures and tools that the current generation—all of us—have wrought. It is a worthy legacy.
There’s Sand(y) in the Machine
Well, the good news, as I survey the neighborhood on the day after is that we survived. Boston had its moments with more than a quarter million homes without power, but it is nothing compared to the reality of New York City and environs. We were relatively lucky on this one.
As I write this I am surveying articles about flooding in lower Manhattan and a curious story in the Wall Street Journal has me thinking. The NYSE was closed yesterday for the storm and today it will be closed again according to the story but curiously, the exchange is denying there has been any damage to the trading floor as in,
We stress that, as of now, there has been no damage to the NYSE Euronext NYC headquarters that would impair trading floor operations,” exchange officials said in a notice to traders.
Perhaps the data centers where all the clearing goes on were not as fortunate? The article goes on to discuss contingency plans. Whatever.
Maybe the exchange has done a bang-up job of contingency planning for just such an event or maybe it was looking forward to the complete melting of the ice caps. Whatever happened, and for whatever reason, the exchange is not operating today. Hurricane Sandy has provided a vivid demonstration to many powerful interests of the greater power of nature and it has reminded us that no one is immune to nature’s fury.
All this comes at a time when Americans are believing more in the assertion of global warming by scientists. A new report published in October by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication had the following findings, published in the LA Times,
— Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain than those who do not. Over half of Americans who believe global warming is happening (57%) say they are “very” (30%) or “extremely sure” (27%).
— For the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities. The proportion of Americans who say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment has declined to 30%.
— A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in 10 say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change, while 36% say global warming is currently harming people in the United States.
Interestingly, the 57% who said they believed in global warming is a rebound number. It was as high as 71% in 2008 just before the financial meltdown.
If there is a silver lining to any of this, and you might need to have a pretty tough exterior to say or believe this, it might be a changed attitude in the ranks of the Masters of the Universe especially the climate change deniers who would have much to say about taking effective action because it costs money.
There are two ways to take such effective action. One is to build a dyke around your property and insulate yourself from the worst effects of another once in a century storm. The other is to take systemic action to cure or at least mitigate the worst effects of climate change for the planet.
Now that Wall Street is closed for another day, just as a precaution you see, perhaps powerful people will take a moment to reflect on their positions.