Looking Forward

So much of the news in the tech world this morning is about old news, Yahoo!, CNET, Plaxo. I suggest you ignore all of that and focus on what went on last night in San Jose at the annual Churchill Club Dinner. Some of the smartest minds in the venture capital business got up on stage and talked about the future. I have admired Vinod Khosla, Roger McNamee, Steve Jurvetson, Joe Schoendorf, and Josh Kopelman for years. These are people who spend their day looking forward, never backward.

Although I am on the west coast right now, I was not there. But fortunately, Tech Trader Daily has a long blog post with the key takeaways from the evening. Here are some of my favorites.

Vinod Knosla:  The mobile phone will be a mainstream personal computer.
With built in projector. Authentication. Credit cards on SIM cards. ID
cards, passports, drivers licenses. Any information you need.

Jurvetson says the trends are already playing out, other than the
projector piece, particularly in Europe, where cell phones are 8% of
credit card payments

Josh Kopelman: The rise of the “implicit” Internet.
Today your permanent record exists; you create a trail of data exhaust,
digital bread crumbs. Implicit data that exists in silence. Movie
rentals, restaurant reservations, books purchased, Web sites visited,
etc. All of this data existed in silence. No easy way until now to
benefit from the data; but the silos are coming down.

“Privacy is a red herring,” Khosla says.

Roger McNamee – You can not make a great consumer product with unbundled operating system. [this one is interesting to me. i believe open source software like Android is going to prove him wrong]

From Joe Schoendorf: Water tech will replace global warming as a global priority.

Jurvetson: Evolution trumps design… Evolutionary algorithms are a
powerful alternative to traditional design, blossoming first in neural
networks and now in microbial engineering. Near-term trend: year or
two, components of microbial engineering products will involve some
form of evolution. Design for evolution.  Most
of the panel seem to have no idea what Jurvetson was talking about,
really. [i can’t say I do either, but I think Steve’s on to something big here]

Most of the talk was about mobile and technology as an answer to the looming problems of the world. The former is obvious, that’s the next big thing. The latter is gratifying since I believe markets and the flow of capital to fund important innovation is the best way to solve the world’s problems.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. ErikSchwartz

    It’s funny how fast you can become “old media” these days. CNET and Y! are now old media.The water issue is fascinating.The mobile phone will become a terminal, not a stand alone computer. The power is in the network (this ties into Josh’s data comments too).

  2. Dave Ambrose

    Couldn’t agree more with their views on mobile. I was even more impressed to see water economics come up as discussion point.Great to see this highlighted in this morning’s “old” news. 🙂

  3. rossgreenspan

    Water issues we face will be a consequence of climate change. Water tech will replace global warming as a priority because it is a tangible problem with technical solutions. Improved water technologies to solve droughts brought on by shifting climate patterns as a result of warming…Maybe more appropriate is to say water tech will replace alternative energy tech as a global priority?

    1. Graham Siener

      A fundamental issue with all of this thinking about technology is it hides the true savior — conservation. I’m surprised there wasn’t more talk about doing more with less: less water, less power, less food, less fuel.Think about the water that goes into manufacturing and running all of those data centers powering the mobile network!

      1. scott

        The first steps to conversation is efficiency, automation and scale. I think each of the points touches upon, or the need thereof, those three things. Especially when it comes to the comment about “microbial engineering products will involve some form of evolution”.

  4. bernard lunn

    Water is a real near term crisis. See this movie:http://flowthefilm.com/abou…The way they put in the movie:Environment crisis – maybe 30 years awayFood crisis – maybe 3 years awayWater crisis – right nowKhosla is right, environment is the underlying cause/issue. Water is proximate and probably more fixable with the right will.But thats all a long way from Web 2.0 stuffPersonally I am betting on # 1: Demographics is Destiny

  5. cortland

    “From Joe Schoendorf: Water tech will replace global warming as a global priority.”Very interesting comments.Reliable access to safe, clean drinking water is a growing issue around the world. Unfortunately, the problem is exacerbated by global climate change which is and will continue to have negative effects on freshwater resources and water infrastructure – already a significant challenge in many parts of the world. Global warming and its impact of changing weather patterns are part of what’s fueling the “water divide” between those who have reliable access to safe drinking water and those who don’t. This growing gap could lead to large populations being more vulnerable to water shortages, flood, drought or other environmental disaster brought on or made worse by the impacts of global climate change. It’s happening in Burma right now.Water tech will make a huge difference in a lot of lives if the solutions are affordable, portable and relatively easy to implement. Those solutions do not excuse us from addressing the underlying problem of global climate change. “Markets and the flow of capital” can aid in solving the fundamental environmental issue(s) of our day, but only when we, as a society, decide that solving these massive, overarching environmental issues is a priority for business AND government. One cannot solve these problems without the other.

  6. Brian

    “… since I believe markets and the flow of capital to fund important innovation is the best way to solve the world’s problems.”Except for failing schools, health care, energy, and climate “change”.Sorry Fred, but I couldn’t resist. Great post and interesting predictions.

  7. Michael Lewkowitz

    On solving the problems of the world, I think social media/web2.0/3.0 investing is really going to demonstrate some approaches to investing and supporting social innovation. The social innovation field looks a lot a systems science and emergence and deals like twitter.com are showing how to make investments in things that are changing systems (inherently more complex). It’s also connected closely to Umair Haque’s work on DNA and edge competencies and I think we’re on the verge of breaking through the artificially separate domains of social and tech, investing and philanthropy, etc.Great post… interesting times.

    1. fredwilson

      Check out the posts we did on the usvblog about our sessions event we called ‘hacking philanthropy’It was all about the stuff you mentioned in your comment

      1. Michael Lewkowitz

        Fred, thanks for the reminder – hadn’t gotten to reading the full transcript until now. A very interesting conversation particularly the part about the underlying mindset and the structural changes increasingly possible.One of the things that I’ve found particularly interesting in this is actually seeing these multiple fronts as part of the greater evolution of our civilization. It’s not about open source, social networks, energy markets, financial systems, biology, philosophy individually. It’s about the evolution of our civilization which those things are all expressions of. To me, we’re entering a phase where things are increasingly reconfiguring themselves and things can be more easily reconfigured. Some of the interesting things under that is what is the helpful/productive mindset that will more likely lead our civilization into a just and sustainable state, and what are the most effective ways to accelerate practical, leveraging initiatives that move us in that direction. Finally, I think the information data question gets most interesting when we step past metrics and look the information design of the systems that are changing or we want to change – or simply think about information in terms of being the essence of systems – recognizing it can also easily become a black-hole of navel gazingThanks again for the pointer. Great conversation.

        1. fredwilson

          i posted a part of this comment that i really liked on fredwilson.vc

  8. hypermark

    Kopelman’s comments on the rise of the “implicit” internet are dead on, and juxtapose nicely with Khosla’s comments on privacy being a red herring.Why? Because via what I think of as a “social map-lication,” all of this implicit data can be formally connected together into a social map, which in the hands of the creator, makes the implicit data EXPLICIT and thus, manageable.Arguably, the best tonic to loss of privacy is managed transparency since we have all seen the perils of blindly relying on trusted third parties to prudently manage our personal data. Give tools to consumers, and they can better manage their online data.I have blogged about this in a post called, ‘Envisioning the Social Map-lication.”URL: http://thenetworkgarden.com…Check it out if interested.Mark

  9. BillKosMD

    “‘Privacy is a red herring,’ Khosla says.”I guess that’s good news for Microsoft’s HealthVault and Google Health who prefer exemption from HIPAA regulation for their online personal healthcare record services.

  10. gregory

    one trend not mentioned, migration of labor …. another, social unrest between haves and have nots …. another completely restructuring of the global finance system and the quantification of profit, to include social costs …. and what are all those handheld devices going to be commnunicating? the elements of what i call the experience economy ….

  11. Eben Thurston

    Great stuff. Thanks for the heads up.

  12. Steven Kane

    i would have thought you would have included Josh Kopelman’s thoughts on “Venture Capital 2.0” – as capital is the fuel for the innovation engine that powers us into the future, the continuing material diminishing of returns for the venture capital asset class could undercut the development of all the other exciting stuff?

    1. fredwilson

      Well we talk about that so often here at avc that I didn’t think it was particularly insightful for this groupFred

  13. joshs

    Evolution vs. design: if you believe leaders in the Accelerating Change movement, we’re going to be able to copy a human brain a lot faster than we’ll discover or recreate it’s design. While that inflection point is probably still a decade or so away, it shouldn’t be surprising that there will be an increasing number of useful technologies that rely on generated algorithms that we don’t truly understand.

  14. ginsu

    re: “evolution trumps design” – I wasn’t at the panel either, but I think that one concept there that’s consistent with the general tenor of your blog Fred is that development of leading web applications today depends on rapid iteration and incorporation of user feedback. In the past online businesses might have placed a huge emphasis on getting the offering designed as perfectly as possible before any user sees it. Now businesses of any size will launch a product that is somewhere between half-baked and beautiful, and depend on the “evolutionary” mechanism of usage data/feedback and short development cycles to improve the product while it is being used by millions. . . . Say, when is Gmail coming out of Beta, anyway?

  15. captainflummox

    Maybe calling privacy a red herring is a red herring.

  16. pierreloic

    Thanks for this post and the link to tech trader. Very interesting.Just reacting to Josh K’s idea of the implicit web and the fact that the information already exists in silos right now. I totally buy into this idea and I don’t think we can even start grasping the impact on business that the aggregation of this information will have as I’m sure that it will burst pockets of value and create new ones.The first steps in this direction very much relates to your post on Google Friends Connect. Such initiatives will help breakdown these silos by decoupling the applications from the data.

    1. fredwilson

      that is super cool, but imagine if that was built in to an iphone