This being the festive season when people give each other presents, toys seem an appropriate subject.
The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory.
Disruptive technologies are dismissed as toys because when they are first launched they “undershoot” user needs. The first telephone could only carry voices a mile or two. The leading telco of the time, Western Union, passed on acquiring the phone because they didn’t see how it could possibly be useful to businesses and railroads – their primary customers. What they failed to anticipate was how rapidly telephone technology and infrastructure would improve (technology adoption is usually non-linear due to so-called complementary network effects). The same was true of how mainframe companies viewed the PC (microcomputer), and how modern telecom companies viewed Skype. (Christensen has many more examples in his books).
Having seen many tech startup pitches, I can certainly relate to the idea of dismissing some of them. The reasons for passing vary, but I always wonder if a product can turn out to be a game changer.
Recently, we started publishing the Last Week In Batteries digest, which looks at what is happening in the battery and fuel cell space. Some news seem to be incremental, others seem to have the potential to change the world. How can we figure out which ones to follow? I don't know. But we can offer tools to those who might have an idea. That's what Avogadro One is about. We might not change the world ourselves, but if someone does thanks to our product, we're happy.
Happy new year!