Silicon Valley’s Blind Spot
I think we are at a tipping point. The Silicon Valley has seen the waves of technology innovation from the exuberance of the 1990’s to the boom and bust of the dot com era and to a more sustainable boom of the past few years. We’ve come a long way in understanding how the world can be changed by technology and how to make the progress constant and exponential.
Hollywood and Silicon Valley are starting to build deep ties. This will have a huge impact when new products are launched. You saw a snippet of the possibilities when Sean Parker launched Airtime. From my point of view that was a test to measure the impact and the beginning of a collaboration with endless possibilities. I am sure we will see more of this in the near future after all Kanye just visited Shervin, so something is brewing. Super influential folks like Marcelo Claure and Arturo Duran are setting up operations here. You know big things are about to happen when they show up somewhere. They are innovators and a force of nature all in one. They play well and disrupt mentalities and processes. These are true and tried entrepreneurs who are not afraid to think different.
However, in the rush of speed and “move fast and break things” mentality, the Silicon Valley is leaving a few things behind. The diversity of people and markets that can drive innovation and growth for years to come has not been an important topic at the entrepreneurs table. Frankly, there seems to be no need to think beyond the beautiful box that is the US mainstream market. That fosters a rather homogeneous way of doing things where you have the innovators coming up with the ideas, the imitators trying to cash in the innovation closely followed by the fools. All of them targeting the same market.
“If you are looking where everyone else is for the next big thing, you are looking in the wrong place.” –– Mark Cuban in his blog post titled, Don’t live in the world you were born into.
So who is going after the unexotic underclass, as C.Z. Nnaemeka likes to call it? Basically no one in the Valley is doing this.
The entrepreneur’s profile in the Silicon Valley, though incredibly good, falls within a stereotype that VCs call pattern matching, which is successful as long as the pattern followed keeps up with socio-economic progress and assumes an innate curiosity to understand people and markets beyond your close circle.
Because, at some point patterns change, shattering old ones and disrupting markets and no market is immune.
But why should you care? “You should care because the unexotic underclass can help address one of the biggest inefficiencies plaguing the startup scene right now: the flood of (ostensibly) smart, ambitious young people desperate to be entrepreneurs; and the embarrassingly idea-starved landscape where too many smart people are chasing too many dumb ideas, because they have none of their own (or, because they suspect no one will invest in what they really want to do). The unexotic underclass has big problems, maybe not the Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that get ‘discussed’ at Davos. But they have problems nonetheless, and where there are problems, there are markets.” That is C.Z. Nnaemeka again.
Before you start looking to emerging markets, lets look at the US.
The numbers below tell a story of a market in the US that a handful of Silicon Valley startups are serving properly. Thanks to Isaac Cuevas, VP of Interactive Marketing at Grupo Arenas for the data below.
- 88% of the population growth among adults 18-34 coming from this group in the next 10 years. They will be consuming more technology than any other age group before them. The power and influence of this group in the U.S. will be driven by technology. Census data shows that 50% of population growth came from this group. They are early adopters of technology and reaching them with culturally relevant information will be a must-have strategy for any political message or marketing campaign.
- Hollywood knows that they can be the deciding factor in opening weekend especially since this demographic is now outpacing teens as the biggest consumer of movies. The dollars that are spent in marketing blockbuster properties goes much further if the messaging is culturally relevant. Online and mobile is where they find information.
- Innovation and the growth of technology means products are better and more accessible at a lower price point. Products like mobile phones and tablets will be more accessible over the next few years. Data consumption will increase and their habits will be forming now and influenced by people in the same social circles.
The Valley continues to hit home runs and it will for a long time to come. However, competition is mounting and other countries are finally putting their money where their mouths are and they have no other option than to target the juicy US mainstream market in addition to the underserved markets that the Silicon Valley is not paying attention to and they have the advantage.