Being Young, Poor And Unkown

In large organisations and large businesses the state of technology is generally far behind the consumer world.  I think that in the next decade the enterprise world is going to be revolutionised with software in the same way that the consumer world has been.  Enterprise software is also a lot more lucrative than consumer software as companies are willing to pay a lot more than consumers for services.  Just to put this into context, people spend about $35 billion on consumer apps every year and about $135 billion on digital advertising.  This sounds like a lot until you realise that global enterprise software expenditure is $3.7 trillion.  It’s very likely that within the next decade we’re going to see lots of new billion dollar companies appearing in this space (and possibly  trillion-dollar companies!).

I have always been struck by how bad enterprise software in the NHS is.  So much of it is so obviously bad and painful to use that I am surprised a lot of it hasn’t been shelved for better products already.

There are the obvious reasons why this is the case – industries don’t like change and once software has been chosen and invested in, organisations want to build ecosystems around them rather than causing unnecessary disruption.

However, there’s another really overlooked reason why enterprise software is really really bad.  it’s because the majority of people involved in procuring enterprise software are so damn old!

I remember when I went to the NHS Innovation Expo earlier last year.  I must have been the only person at the whole expo with a full head of hair!  These were meant to be the movers and shakers of the NHS, the companies that were going to revolutionise healthcare in the UK and they were all 50+!  I’m not saying being old is bad or that older people lack insight, however if we look at history it’s generally younger people who can “live in the future and create what’s missing” (as Paul Buccheit once said).

A major reason for this is that young people have a naturally large advantage over older people just because of their age.  Being young allows people to intuitively envision the upcoming trends as they have grown up surrounded by the newest technologies.  What is painfully obvious to young people really is not obvious to older people.

I’ve noticed this with my own startup.  It’s so darn obvious to me that what I’m building should be how things are done.  But when I speak to older doctors and people involved in procurement they really don’t seem to get it until things are explained to them point by point, with plenty of data to back up my claims.  What seems blatantly obvious to me clearly is not blatantly obvious to them.

My experience kind of echos what Marc Andreessen said.  He said (to paraphrase) that most startups are not too late – they’re often too early for the times.  The reason entrepreneurs start a startup is because they have a clear vision of what the world should look like and so start a company to create that reality.  It seems so obvious to the founders that they are right that founders (including myself) feel like they started too late and that another company is going to come along and kill them.  However, in his experience this never happens.

Younger people who can see the trends and have a better idea of the what the future should look like can solve needs which no one is even thinking of yet, but which they intuitively know will occur in the not too distant future.  This is allows younger entrepreneurs to create startups which have no competition!

I’ve said it before, but it really does seem that being young, unknown and poor are some of the greatest things you can leverage in your start up.


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