We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with technology. Internet opportunities aren’t like a gold rush, where the wealth creation is limited by supply that is drying up, a more accurate metaphor is how electricity enabled ongoing innovation for more than 100 years.
This idea was first promoted by Jeff Bezos. If you haven’t heard of Jeff, then you’ve likely heard of his brain child, the largest internet company in the world: Amazon, the everything store.
In 2002, the company almost died. The dot-com bubble burst and investors wondered if the internet was just a fad. Amazon needed capital to meet the needs of insatiable customers, but their stock was down 90% and capital had dried up. They started losing executives hand over fist and the future of the company looked incredibly uncertain.
One of Bezos’ executives commented at the time that he couldn’t understand why Jeff was so calm when everything seemed like it was on fire.
Jeff knew something they didn’t and what he knew turned out to be true. He shared his secret on the TED stage in 2003. The internet isn’t a gold rush that makes some wealthy until the supply of gold dries up. The internet is a horizontal enabling layer, like electricity, that will lead to innovation for the next 100 years.
The light bulb was just electricity’s first killer app, Bezos said, which helped wire America. Once electricity was in every home, it ushered in the golden age of appliances, a 50 year period of innovation. It startled with the iron, the fan, the vacuum, the washing machine, the toaster, the robot, and it continues to be the foundation for modern life.
As you know, electricity has become so much a part of life that when it goes out, we still switch on the switch and wonder momentarily why the light didn’t go on.
Was he right? Well, we’re now 17 years into the metaphor and it continues to hold. In fact, as mentioned, Amazon is now the largest internet company in the world.
At the end of his talk he shared an advertisement from Sears in 1917, “use your electricity for more than light.” That is still where we are with the internet. In the next 50 years we’ll see everything become dependent on the internet’s enabling layer.
What does that mean for you? That means if you don’t have a solid internet strategy about how your business is going to compete online, then you’re not thinking far enough ahead.
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