Technology start-ups need to tap into a “fresh paradigm”, according to a tech expert, who claims the current obsession with social and mobile offerings has almost run its course.
Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at US news site The Atlantic, is also the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.
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In an article titled “The Jig Is Up: Time To Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future”, Madrigal argues thousands of tech start-ups are doing “almost exactly the same thing”.
“There are plenty of ambitious start-ups in energy, healthcare and education; areas that sorely need innovation,” he wrote.
“But fascinating technology start-ups, companies who want to allow regular people to do new stuff in their daily lives? Few and far between.”
“What I see is people filling ever-smaller niches in this ‘ecosystem’ or that ‘ecosystem’.”
According to Madrigal, part of the reason for what he dubs “tech start-up me-tooism” is the tendency of start-ups to cluster around ideas that appear to be working.
“Social networks? Here’s 500! Mobile social plays? Here’s another 500! Social discovery apps? Behold 1000!” he wrote.
“But I do think that we’ve reached a point in this technology cycle where the old thing has run its course.”
Madrigal believes the blame should fall “squarely on the shoulders” of the dominant business model, and the notion of a “good” start-up idea.
“What I’m talking about here is the start-up culture that I’ve seen in literally dozens of cities… There are organising principles for what is considered a ‘good’ idea,” he wrote.
“These ideas are supposed to be the right size and shape. There is a default spreadsheet that we expect ideas to fit onto. But maybe it’s time that changed.”
Looking forward, Madrigal believes more money needs to change hands in order for start-ups to truly grow.
“Every user of a free service costs the service money. Whereas every user for a paid-for service generates money,” he wrote.
“What that means is that a growing free site is an acquisition waiting to happen because its developers are burning through ever more cash.”
Madrigal goes on to discuss hardware, expressing his hope that Apple’s iPhone 5 will have some “crazy surprises” when it’s released later this year.
“A decently radical shift in hardware capabilities… would be enough, I think, to provide a springboard for some new ideas,” he wrote.
“This isn’t about start-up incubators or policy positions… This is about how internet technology used to feel like it was really going to change so many things about our lives.”
“Now it has, and we’re all too stunned to figure out what’s next.”