#leweb - Fred Wilson's three trends and four sectors to watch

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Fred Wilson
Fred likes to think about big macro trends – and how they come together. What are the most interesting opportunities that emerge – and how can they inver in them. He’s less interested in technology then in people, and how they’re going to behave.

Trend 1: Tech-driven networks replace bureaucratic hierarchies.

Production and organisation costs were so high in the industrial age, that hierarchies were the most cost-effective way of organising. That’s no longer true.

Twitter replaces the newspaper. The newspaper had a team of reporters reporting to a team of editors, reporting to a publisher. They were printed and deliver. It was slow. It was hierarchical. Twitter makes us all the reporters – and the crowd becomes the editors, too. YouTube has done the same to video. SoundCloud has repeated the same process for audio.

This sort of disruption is moving to hotels, through AirB’n’B, through funding to education.

Trend 2: Unbundling

It used to be very expensive to distribute things, so it made sense to bundle and sell packages. Newspapers are another example of that. Online, that doesn’t apply, so you get to choose your coverage from whomever you like best.

Banking is being unbundled. You used to get all your financing needs from one bank in the past. But now entrepreneurs are picking off individual business lines one by one. Peer-to-peer lending is taking away very profitable lines of business from banks.

Education is next. It was expensive to put a professor and a bunch of students in a room. You don’t need to do that any more – you can lifestream it. You don’t need a library full of books when you have a tablet or ereader. Research is being unbundled through online marketplace models to facilitate collaborative research.

Entertainment? We used to buy cable packages. We now get YouTub and Hulu through our phones. We can select what we want a la carte on our phones, and put them on our big screens through Airplay or Chromecast.

Trend 3: We are all nodes on the network

80% of people in the room would choose their smartphone over their laptop, if they had to. Fred would choose his mobile – he can do almost everything he can on his laptop with his phone, but there are things he can’t do on the laptop, because it lacks the sensors or location awareness of his mobile.

Hailo and Uber are services about connecting two nodes on the network: a passenger and a taxi driver.

These are the frameworks they’re using to make investment decisions.

Four interesting sectors:

1. Money

At its core, bitcoin is a protocol, the financial protocol for the internet we’ve lacked until now. It has a ledger: the block chain. All transactions are cleared publicly. People can build services and transitions on this – allowing money to flow on the internet like images or content. The lock on money that the big companies have will disappear.

2. Health & Wellness

This is the opposite of healthcare – this is what keeps you out of healthcare, in fact. People are starting to wear devices that report their vital signs to themselves – and to others if they want. These devices will expand in number, and technology ramification is helping people lose weight already.

3. Data leakage

When the industrial revolution came along, we started polluting and didn’t clean it up for a century. It would have been easier if we’d concentrated on it from day one. Now, the pollution is data, and that’s what’s allowing people to spy on us that we don’t want to happen.

4. Trust & Identity

We sign in through a handful of identity services right now – and, while it’s convenient, it gives them access to too much data. Fred predicts that a distributed system of identity will emerge, like bit coin, that will take this power away from the companies.

Fred thinks that Google Glass is the Newton of wearables. It heralds the thing that will come next. it’s too obvious right now, and there are too many people who have a bad reaction to it. When it moves into the frame, it’ll be less obvious – but less honest.


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.