Nov 18 2007

Blowing Bubbles

There has been a lot of whispering in the industry lately about whether or not we’re entering into, or already in a new bubble.

I worked for a small dot-com during the last bubble, and I loved it. I loved the startup atmosphere, the dedication everyone had, and the sheer fun that I had on a daily basis. We clearly had a solid idea – we were creating video podcasts ten years before the term existed – but we were fully lacking a business model. Without revenue, nothing can survive.

The world then was filled with small companies run by young people with amazing ideas. If you were over 30, you were probably too old. The power was truly in the hands of the young.

That aspect of the bubble has returned, in a large part thanks to open platforms, and the ability of independent developers to easily get their work in front of millions of users.

A large part of my job is talking to these developers, and for a little while, anyway, it surprised me how young many of them are. Until I realized it was the same thing happening all over again…with a twist.

Yes, there are VC’s throwing money at application developers. There are multiple multi-million dollar funds with grants available just for them. But there’s one big difference between the funds now and those in the 90’s. I strongly suspect these funds are only going to give money to developers already making money. After all – you really don’t need funding to get an application up and running.

There are multiple sites that will help you build an application. There are even more sites that will host an application for you. There is an amazing amount of documentation and tutorials online for whatever language you’re writing in (I’m learning Ruby at the moment, and have found the online help better than any book I have). And it’s all free.

Anyone who has an idea and wants to create it can. If the idea’s good enough, and the developer has just the right amount of smarts to get it in front of the right people (which truly isn’t that difficult these days), the VC’s will come running. A teenager in school doesn’t need millions in funding, or to generate millions in revenue a year. But a couple hundred thousand? That’s certainly possible now.

This isn’t a bubble. This is just a shift in power. It’s not only the young jumping on this trend, of course, it’s also little baby companies. A “company” consisting of one person programming in their living room after work, or five friends with a good idea setting up shop just to see if they can make it work. It astonishes me how many of my friends have left larger companies to go start their own…and how many of them are successful. Of course, I love to think it’s because I just have awesome friends (had to be said :D), but it truly is much easier to turn a good idea into a solid business these days. You don’t need millions in funding to get started, which means you don’t need the big guys.

Got an idea? Do it. You can do it all for free these days. If it doesn’t work out, you probably lose a few weeks of your life to the computer. But you also could end up changing your life.

This is just awesome to watch, and I’m so excited to see how it all plays out.

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