When I look around, I see tiny, incremental changes in our lives everyday. These are, what we call, innovations. These are not great inventions. These are upgrades, adjustments, improvements, even tweaks if you will, of everything that touches our lives.
Cars have become more fuel efficient, TV screens have higher resolution, broadband is faster, medicines are better, roads are smoother, smartphones are smarter. There’s a whole bunch of cool gadgets available, so many little things, better than what it used to be. This is nothing spectacular, but progress it is. While a large part of this innovation happens via giant corporations and R&D grants, a lot more happen via thousands of young (and old) entrepreneurs who join the dots, every day, to create some new feature, product or service.
For the most part, apart from the genuine “invention” of the Internet, mostly everything these past 75 years has been innovations, not inventions. Even mobile telephony is the logical extension of wireless telegraph. But the Internet is new. And on the World Wide Web, we have now built mail, search, gaming, social media, video, telephony, commerce and what not. The list is endless and growing each day!
Plugging Gaps– The Startup Way
The first phase of Internet innovation has been, in the most part, aggregation. Joining existing dots to create new products, services and solutions, in the process unleashing otherwise dormant energy. Take Uber and its ilk – the cars existed, the drivers existed, the need existed – they joined the dots, created an ecosystem, connected users to ‘taxis’ and built a giant business out of thin air. Ditto for AirBnB – the homes exist, the travellers exist – just join the dots! There are so many such services mushrooming daily, always some clever new idea to join existing dots and improve our life. Restaurants, doctors, budget hotels, electricians, dates, cooks, physiotherapists, maids, teachers and drivers – you name it and there’s an app that joins the dots. Services like Oyo, Zomato, Practo, to name a few, proliferate. I recently heard of a parking app. That one’s going to be a killer! Each time a brilliant mind spots an obvious solution to a long existed gap.
Even giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook started out by sensing a need gap. They used technology to join the dots to connect buyers & sellers, connect friends, connect strangers, connect everyone and everything to everyone and everything. Exactly like the local yellow pages of the last century, but global, online, interactive, immediate and instinctive to use.
Boon for the consumer
Meanwhile for us, the consumer, life is becoming incredibly better. All these services reduce the burden on us. We don’t have to clutter our minds with having to remember anything, we don’t have to expend any energy to get things done. It’s all at the touch of an app, it’s easy as hell. It creates employment, it encourages impulse purchase, and overall it boosts the economy. The collateral damage has been the Butterfly Effect that all this online activity has had on global oil prices but that’s another story.