Re: [Fortune] The Era of The Next Big Thing is over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor??

From: Antoun Nabhan (
Date: Mon Mar 12 2001 - 20:18:06 PST

At 06:09 PM 3/10/01 -0800, Adam Rifkin wrote:
> > plays" and "media plays." For a few brief moments in the bubble economy,
> > however--the second before the MBA with the four-paragraph "business plan"
> > became the iconic figure of the bubble economy--the engineers
> > were supposed
> > to be the ones reaping the fruit of the great economic miracle of
> > technology. "[Jim Clark] believed in his bones that the people
> > who mattered
> > most were the brilliant engineers," the writer Michael Lewis
> > rhapsodized in
> > his homage to the Stanford professor turned tech tycoon. "He forced [that
> > opinion] down Silicon Valley's throat."
> >
> > It didn't really turn out that way. Though there are certainly

Huh? Sure it did. The companies that are still getting funded and selling
product are the ones started by prodigious engineering talent. There's
still a place for the "business guys" at the table to guide the funky
technology into a package that serves a user's need, but there still
usually needs to be an innovative technology that enables the whole
business. This is more true than it has been since about 1995 when "web
technology" got kind of commoditized - how many e-business sites are built
on anything more than off-the-shelf software tech? - and the "business
model" took a temporarily more prominent role.

> > I asked many engineers what was truly new and innovative in the
> > Valley, but
> > hardly anyone could point to a project (other than, of course,
> > his own) that
> > he would want to be involved with. Even the stars of the programming
> > world--the people who might be expected to reel off a list of innovations
> > just on the brink of commercialization--were stumped by the prospect of
> > naming a new idea. They hemmed and hawed, explained and expanded,
> > and mostly
> > gave up.

Yeah, because all the great stuff is stuff nobody's talking about. If
everybody knew about it, it wouldn't be *new*, now, would it?

One or another of the tech-business-groupie magazines had their "Trends in
2001" cover story and it said "Wireless. Biotech." and I can't remember
what else. The fact that those three things are on the cover are a really
strong signal that it ain't any of those three. (It *might* be
bioinformatics - judging by my vendors, most people can't pronounce that
yet. :-) But there was an article about it in US News & World Report, so
probably not!)

The traditional media is just looking for the story angle - it's the
business-section version of Monicagate. The "new" media is in a state of
high dudgeon because their businesses are shakiest of all. (Isn't Upside
just a fashion magazine with business models, a kind of money-fetish porn?)
Didn't the whole Web land-grab work pretty much the way people said it
would in '94? The people who garnered the largest user base did win, with
Yahoo! - which is being called "down for the count" despite breaking even
and pulling in $300M - and Amazon - which got big fast while maintaining an
operating profit - being fairly large and sustainable businesses at the end
of the day.

There's a business cycle, it exists, the pendulum swings, whatever. Get
back to work!


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