In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins points out, “When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it” Technology, he goes on to point out, is not the reason for the success of great companies, but rather a critical component of their strategy. Technology is a means to an end, but for those outside the tech world, it is simply one tool to be exploited.
There is no doubt that the landscape is changing for technology, especially technology startups. In 2015, and indeed for several years prior, we have seen insane valuations of companies that had yet to produce an actual product. To make matters worse, those that do produce a product, produce something which is very impressive, but mostly just a little better than the competition. Usually it is a new way of compressing data, a new de-duplication algorithm, or a way to do analytics on the data at rest. All very cool, and every one thinking they are going to be the next big thing. There is an old saying which goes something like build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, or something like that. The problem is that everyone is building a slightly better mousetrap with slightly different features when what we need is just a basic mousetrap. This is true of storage, hyper-converged, and every other technology startup in the past few years.
Generally speaking we can say that history repeats itself, especially in the high tech world. I was preparing to leave the military during the dot com bubble, just as it burst, I made the last minute decision to stay in and give myself more time to prepare. While this may not exactly be a bubble, we are trending toward a massive consolidation of these high tech startups. The reason is simple, we are overcomplicating everything. Businesses, much like consumers, don’t want complicated flashy technology, they want technology to accelerate what they are doing, they want to augment and improve their lives with technology. In the Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time, Douglas Adams makes the point,”We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” The future of technology is not one off complex cool solutions, it is abstraction, simplicity, and integration. If your product doesn’t simplify business or consumers lives, it is likely to be short lived.