There has been a lot of talk over the last year or so over one simple question, are we in another tech bubble? There are pundits on both sides making their cases, both tend to have valid arguments.
Coming from a tech enterprise startup, I tend to lean on the side of “No. We aren’t in a tech bubble.” For a handful of reasons; I could write a dissertation on this, but for now I’ll solely focus on technology, as opposed to including my views around valuations, exits, and funding levels (i.e. the investment environment around startups).
1.) When I was 10 years old (late 1998), I bought an MP3 player, one of the first of its kind. This was back in the day when I had to Google (back then it was Yahoo! or Lycos) for Mp3’s. Guess what the storage size on this thing was (pictured below), and how many songs it held? 32 megabytes, that would hold roughly 12 songs (depending on the compression/bit rates). I paid $200 to be the first of many to have the songs I wanted to listen to on a portable device, and most importantly, a device that doesn’t skip. That was right around the first tech bubble, which was made up of Geocities websites, 32MB MP3 players, and Lycos was the top search engine. I think we all can argue that the landscape has changed for all tech products/services since then. Which leads me to my next points.
3.) We didn’t have PCs in our pockets back in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. Sure cell phones might have been on a meteoric rise, but smart phones were not existent. Just think of all of the industries, companies, and jobs focused solely on fighting for ad space on your phone’s screen; or way that you interact with your friends that a PC never could (Snapchat, FaceTime, Uber). I remember I used to dread trying to stream a video online and would usually go eat dinner, then by the time I was done, it would be loaded so I didn’t have to wait for it to buffer.
4.) I also firmly believe that the general public and investment community’s understanding of technology’s power greatly lags where it currently stands. Back in the tech bubble, there was a great focus on technology hardware, as opposed to software. At the time, people were able to get their hands on technology, and now the advancements in power is being burdened by software companies in the cloud, and are intangible to the end user. For example, you don’t need a new device for each app on your iPhone. These companies are taking on the computing power and distilling the information down to something consumable, in one ecosystem (Apple/Android). My point is further validated by the illustration below which shows the amount of business investment in hardware vs. software since the tech bubble.
5.) I bet we can call come up with our “back in my day” moments with technology. But in efforts to keep these posts a fairly short read, I’ll keep it at five reasons, and will leave you with this (from PandoDaily). Each generation is shaped by defining moments, like the tech bubble. But we can’t let those past events cloud our judgement in the future.
Here are some facts about our incoming 9th graders… the class of 2018!
- Incoming high school freshman were born in the year 2000 or 2001.
- They were newborns when Wikipedia was formally launched.
- They have lived [entirely] in a world in which monthly texting limits do not exist.
- They were toddlers when MySpace was launched. They were about to enter Kindergarten when it was acquired by News Corporation for $580 million, and were rising 5th graders when it was sold again for mere $35 million.
- They were in preschool when Facebook moved to Palo Alto, CA.
- Some of them were born the same year the first Apple store opened.
- They have been alive for 3 (maybe 4) Harry Potter books.
- They do not know that “Blockbuster” was a video-rental place.
- If they pay attention to the news, all they know about Clay Aiken is that he is running for Congress.
- Paris Hilton was never popular.
- The Spice Girls are middle-aged British singers.