Enabling Technology on Main Street

There is something special about technology.  Steve Jobs once said that he perceived the computer as the bicycle for the mind.  Just as a bicycle transformed the ability of a person to move great distances, very quickly, with very little effort, the personal computer transformed the distance, speed and effort required to accomplish many mental tasks.

This phenomenon has not slowed.

Humans have a unique gift (and curse) to always be pursuing faster and easier solutions. This ingrained disposition is something that we cannot scrub out of our souls. It defines us and entraps us like a tattoo of our species.

Jeff Bezos has said that Amazon is simply a retailer and capable of being emulated. The fact they are “online” is primary enabling technology.  Technology allows them to be faster and cheaper. Technology allows them to sell more actively and autonomously. Sears & Roebuck did the same with a catalog enabled by railroad and postal technology that changed patterns of consumption in their respective era.

If the internet is today’s railroad we are in for a long and speedy ride. Numerous Main Street businesses are still functioning as if the internet is a place for a web brochure.  Mobile internet is even younger in it’s impact but not much more advanced.

Venture Capital has been on a 20+ year journey of capitalizing on this transformation.  Most recently, Internet of Things (IoT) and the transformation of things otherwise disconnected, are now coming “online.” The sensors and data are enabling a wave of cloud computing, machine learning and deep predictive algorithms for home appliances, near earth orbit satellites and beyond.

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Most all of these advances are not unlike the railroad or early telephone. The technologies enable goods and information to move more quickly.  In the case of the internet goods, however, there is a vast and growing realm of services that are quickly moving into a web-enabled, software-as-a-service.

This trend is huge, and I for one believe we are still early in the depth of it’s impact.  Salesforce pioneered the SaaS model for B2B and is still influencing waves of startups. However, services like Uber are not to be overlooked for their impact on consumer to consumer services.  Our economy still does the vast majority of transactions for services and are ripe for transformation with enabling technology.

At Little Engine Ventures, we desire companies with a foundational understanding of their niche.  If speed and ease of use are primary to your business value proposition, you must entertain enabling technology… be it railroad, bicycle or internet based software.  These tectonic shifts can crumble castles, even with deep and wide moats.

To capitalize on these forces, we harness the energy of the shift.  We want to see leadership move companies, judiciously, through adaptation of proven, but disruptive, enabling technology that adds value to the customer.

 

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