There Is A Major Software Innovation Wave Coming

I was at lunch last week with a friend and his business partner – my friend is an ex-technology VC who is now running an interesting blend of a public / private technology-focused hedge fund.  Both my friend and his partner are technology savvy, reasonably current on what is going on, but focused more on the gap in public / private valuations (especially among small-cap tech companies) than on new software innovation.

After covering all the obvious stuff around SaaS, webapps, user-generated content, the consolidation of the enterprise software business, and the dramatic impact of broadband on consumer-based computing, we started talking about “what’s next.”  As I described a number of the companies I’ve done seed / angel investments in the past year and what they are working on, my “new friend” (the business partner) started to rhymically nod his head (I’m going to assume it was out of comprehension, not boredom.)  We started bouncing use cases around – especially around modifications of the stuff that currently exists today.

Not surprisingly, some of it was around the problem I’ve labeled (at least for myself) “dynamics of information.”  These two guys are massive information junkies and have the same well described problem that I have – information is so broadly available that it regularly “swamps the boat.”  It’s not just an issue of tuning the sources, or the filters, or what you pay attention to. Rather – it’s something much larger that takes into account the intersection of many of the technological themes – such as social networks, feeds, attention, user-generated content, identity, relevance, and a few other things tossed in for good measure.  And – because of our friend Mr. Broadband – it now includes audio and video in addition to text.

As I was driving to my next meeting, I kept rolling around some of the ideas in my head.  I thought about the new companies I was working with – along with the large number of things coming out of the release cycles of my existing companies – and felt there was a major software innovation wave coming.  While it’s always a good time to be alive (I never really understood why someone would prefer the alternative), it especially seems exciting as we head into the tail end of 2006.

  • Dave Jilk

    It seems what’s needed is a conceptual innovation, not a software innovation. What does all this information mean and how can it connect, and how does it connect with what I want? Once the conceptual innovation is there the software can follow.

  • You are right on the money – that’s what I’m trying to think through around the “dynamics of innovation.” It’s not about the software – it’s about the meta-concept of what’s going on.

  • Mike Sankowski

    Its not just in software. For some reason, its like the lights went on in the last few years, and now there are just hundreds of people and companies who are doing earth changing work. There is a huge, huge amount of innovation occuring right now in so many fields. And it is not just ‘new ideas’ Its people using old ideas, things that we know work, in new ways. The building blocks have been around, but now they have been explored enough so they can be changed and used in ways they were not intended.

    Its as though technology has come out of the lab and gone into the garage again.

  • I totally agree with what Mike said. As a developer, I can tell you that I haven’t had so much fun since the mid-90’s. I think that one of the reasons for the explosion in innovation and development is our tools have matured to the point that they are truely building blocks and we’re able to spend more time creating the solution and not creating the blocks themselves.

  • I would frame the issue around context, which I argue is more important (certainly at least as important) as the content itself. The content (because of the sheer volume) becomes meaningless if it is not presented in the right context, i.e. at the moment in time and space we are most inclined to consume the information. Joe Hildebrand, the CTO of Jabber, Inc. (my client) does a good job of assessing the situation in the cover story of the latest SIP Magazine.