A lot of the best tech startups are ideas that have been around for years but the time is finally right. *
Some people get jaded. “We tried X years ago” and summarily dismiss. But then eventually the time is right and it works. *
Examples include touch computing, virtual reality, and many areas of artificial intelligence. *
Or as pmarca says:
In tech, “I tried that 20 years ago and it didn’t work” is a positive predictor, not a negative predictor
If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket—we’d have this free encyclopedia, and we’d have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we’d have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world—we’d make this very, very, very long list of things that we would say we would have and we get on this device in our pocket, and then we would tell them that most of this content was free. You would simply be declared insane. They would say there is no economic model to make this. What is the economics of this? It doesn’t make any sense, and it seems far-fetched and nearly impossible.
But the next twenty years are going to make this last twenty years just pale. We’re just at the beginning of the beginning of all these kind of changes. There’s a sense that all the big things have happened, but relatively speaking, nothing big has happened yet.
–The Technium: An Interview with Kevin Kelly
“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
– Douglas Adams (entire original article is well worth reading)
“If you asked people in 1989 what they needed to make their life better, it was unlikely that they would have said that a decentralized network of information nodes that are linked using hypertext.”
– Farmer & Farmer
The Internet dramatically reduced the costs of a number of creative activities. For example, publishing written work used to require a large upfront investment. As a result, publishing was controlled by corporations who acted as creative arbiters. The Internet enabled writers to bypass those corporations, leading to an explosion of creativity and innovation.
Creative activities that involve physical things have mostly resisted this trend. Let’s say you are an entrepreneur who has designed a new line of jewelry. You need to find a factory, commit to a large batch size, and make a significant upfront investment. It is a risky and expensive endeavor.
Shapeways is a startup headquartered in NYC that eliminates the fixed costs of manufacturing. Making use of breakthrough advances in 3D printing, Shapeways manufactures objects in a variety of materials – including metals, ceramics, and plastics – with no upfront costs or minimum batch size. The results are indistinguishable from – and sometimes superior to – objects manufactured using traditional techniques.
Here’s a short video that shows the revolutionary potential of 3D printing:
Today, I’m excited to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading a $30M investment in Shapeways along with our friends at Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital. We believe that technology is at its best when it enables human creativity. The Internet unlocked the world of bits. 3D printing is unlocking the world of atoms.