Last week I listened to Matt Mullenweg of Automattic/WordPress on The Past, Present, and Future of the Internet. In the interview he talks about how early in his career he felt like he missed the wave of the Internet revolution. Hearing his story brought back my own feelings of missing the Internet wave. For me, I was in college during the dot com boom and subsequent bust. Because there was so much startup activity — tens of thousands of ideas and billions of funding — it seemed like every concept worth trying was already played out.
I had missed the boat, or so I thought.
What I failed to understand was that while many of the first-order startup ideas like buying books online (Amazon.com) and bidding on online auctions (eBay) were immediately doable, the second-order startup ideas would take longer to be viable. Much longer.
Even when it’s obvious there’s a better way, inertia is an incredibly powerful force. People and infrastructure are static by default. Most people don’t wake up thinking how they’re going to make major changes to how they do things. Change is constant but generally avoided.
The biggest second-order wave I’ve been lucky enough to be part of is the Internet as enabler for significant productivity enhancements within sales and marketing. There’s no way I could have seen the wave in college as I had didn’t have any experience in sales and marketing. With time, it became apparent that the “normal” way of acquiring customers was cumbersome and inefficient compared to what the Internet enables. From Pardot (marketing automation) to SalesLoft (sales engagement) to Terminus (account-based marketing) to Calendly (scheduling), these only touch select areas of customer acquisition, but the market is so massive, that these are all meaningful fast-growing businesses.
I missed the first wave, but rode a second wave created from it.
Don’t assume all the opportunities are done and make sure you are in the arena.