Hey, I'm Dan! I invest in startups at Madrona and write the DL, a weekly newsletter about tech in the Pacific Northwest

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The disruption of disruption

Last week Ben Thompson published an interesting article called “The End of the Beginning” where he lays out his vision for the future of the tech industry.

According to Thompson, the three main epochs in the tech industry were the era of the mainframe, the era of the personal computer, and the modern era of cloud and mobile. During each of these technology “paradigm shifts,” new companies rose to prominence by building new platforms.

The auto industry, on the other hand, looked very different. The first American auto maker was founded in 1895, but after an initial surge of new companies founded between 1900 and 1920, the number of car companies started each year dropped to zero, and the Big Three (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) dominated the industry for the next hundred years.

Thompson thinks that in the tech world today, there may not be another “significant paradigm shift,” and without a paradigm shift, today’s large tech companies have such insurmountable advantages that the future of tech might look more like the auto industry than the steady disruption we have seen in the tech industry.

But it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Despite the early dominance of the Big Three car companies, the impact of the car was really felt in the second half of the century with the construction of highways, suburbs, and new businesses created for a world where everyone had access to automobiles. The ubiquity of cloud and mobile technologies will likely create many new business opportunities as well - they just won’t be as revolutionary.

Readers, what do you think about the disruption of disruption? Is the age of steady technology disruption over? (just click the link to answer)

  • No way - New startups will continue to get started every year to challenge the big tech companies
  • Maybe… - But I wouldn’t bet money either way
  • Yes - It’s impossible to compete with Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook today

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