I recently installed a Nest thermostat. It was so easy and such an upgrade over my prior thermostat that it literally made me say “wow.”
And it got me thinking: we are in, or entering, a golden age of technology for consumers. And I love it. It’s one of the reasons I think so many of us in the VC community are thrilled to be investing right now. We can see the revolution taking place around us every day. It’s not hidden in some corporate data center or a manufacturing plant in Taiwan. It’s in our homes, on our wrists and impacting our lives every day.
A lot of the credit for this revolution is no doubt due to Apple, as the iPhone has unlocked entirely new economies and capabilities on both an individual and global scale. Remember carrier “music services” on your RAZR just 6 years ago? Now you have millions of songs at your disposal via Pandora or Spotify. Not to mention games, movies, TV, photos, video chat – the list is long.
What’s so cool about this new era is it’s focused on you, the individual. Yep, you win.
In the 90’s much of the innovation in technology was around enterprise technology – think SAP, Siebel, Oracle, HP. Great for big business, but not a huge direct impact on day-to-day quality of life for consumers. In the late 90’s and 2000’s, the Internet changed the way we shop (Amazon, eBay, etc.), get news (Yahoo, ESPN, etc.), trade stocks (ETRADE) and connect with each other (Hotmail, Skype, Facebook).
Very cool and industry-changing stuff, but did it impact your quality of life as an individual? Perhaps to a certain degree. But not like this new era will.
My Jawbone UP gives me daily readouts on my sleep and exercise habits. My plug-in Prius gets over 80 MPG in city driving (65 highway). I see the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf everywhere in Silicon Valley. My Nest has already learned our family’s temperature habits and is eliminating wasted energy usage (for more on how it does this, see the Nest website). Not to mention the bazillion apps on my phone that make life better every day. And all of these devices and apps will soon be connected – enabling the “smart” world we’ve all been talking about for decades. They’re helping me be healthier, save money, and spend more quality time with family and friends.
The innovation happening around “you” is incredible. As venture capitalists, we see things that are years away from hitting the mainstream, and so many of them are truly amazing. The best and brightest entrepreneurs coming out of Stanford and MIT want to build killer applications and devices that are focused on actually improving people’s lives, not just selling standard IAB ad units (and lots of them).
I know the prevailing sentiment right now in the tech community is that “enterprise is hot, consumer is not.” But trust me, there is a ton of innovation and funding happening around the business of “you,” and it is going to change your life in meaningful ways. The Jawbone, Prius and Nest are just the start of what I anticipate to be a massive wave of devices and apps that impact consumers in game-changing ways.
And yes, I realize these are currently “early adopter” technologies. But they are a big flashing sign of “things to come,” and I expect all three represent technologies that will become mainstream very quickly. Don’t agree? A company I sit on the Board of recently received a $20,000 credit from its insurance company to give employees wearable devices like the UP – simply because they believe it will make them healthier (and thus the company a more attractive one to insure). With incentives like that, it won’t be long before these devices are mainstream.
This new golden age of consumer technology, the business of “you,” is still in its infancy, but it’s accelerating and happening before our very eyes. Pretty cool.
Note: GGV is not an investor in Nest, Jawbone or Toyota (but I wish we were!).