Column: Don’t Wait To Iterate

Today, one surefire way to fail is by failing to pivot.

by Mike Montgomery, executive director, CALinnovates / April 10, 2013

The technology community learned some valuable lessons after the bubble burst. The pop heard ‘round the world happened for numerous reasons, but the bottom line is a fairly simple: Too many players were seduced by the hype and didn’t pay enough attention to long-range planning and the bottom line.

Thirteen years after the dot com bust, the industry is in healthy recovery and has adopted a more level-headed approach rooted in sound assessments of the marketplace. Today, one surefire way to fail is by failing to pivot. The founders of Burbn, a Foursquare-like app, saw a crowded market for location-based services and had the foresight to transform their software into the company we all know as Instagram, which recently sold to Facebook for nearly a billion dollars. realized its platform was on a road to nowhere and instead launched Fab, an online marketplace with a current-day $600 million valuation. These guys mastered the art of the pivot better than Michael Jordan at his peak.

The idea of the pivot, a concept made famous by startup guru Eric Ries, conditions entrepreneurs to move “from one vision to the next.” Or as your high school physics teacher taught you, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. The characters starring in today’s tech success stories never stop innovating and never stop iterating.

Our nation’s communications infrastructure is the unsung hero of the tech ecosystem; the same ecosystem Instagram and Fab call home. Iterations, or upgrades, whether made to software or to broadband networks, are essential. That’s why CALinnovates has been an outspoken advocate in its support of a concept known as the Internet Protocol transition. The complete transition to digital networks is a necessity that is required to continue this great run of tech prosperity, and one that needs to move forward with a sense of urgency. Simply put, existing regulations mandate many companies to continue to invest in outdated networks. It seems counterintuitive to require significant investment in old-school networks that can’t handle today’s innovations. Instead, we should be working to encourage investment in Internet Protocol networks that offer the innovation community the strength and speed they demand to continue to blow our minds with ideas of the future, today.

The public’s insatiable demand for data, devices and apps isn’t a fad. It isn’t going to end. In fact, it’s going to get worse (or better depending upon your perspective). On the wireless side, worldwide mobile data traffic has doubled over the past year and will continue to grow at an exponential rate, according to a report from Ericsson. This is mainly due to a violent spike in video traffic on mobile devices.

At the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Ericsson offered some bold predictions, forecasting that one day in the near future 90 percent of network traffic will be video, and by 2018 there will be 6.5 billion mobile broadband subscribers, up from 500 million in 2012. If these predictions are even half true, we need to beef up our current networks to make sure they can handle the surge, hence the need for a focused, all-in investment in next generation IP networks.

For businesses and innovators, these networks of the future will play a vital role in helping them make, market and deliver their software to the masses. “Supporting the rapid development of our nation’s communications infrastructure will allow us to encourage private investment and support innovation,” said Alphabird CEO Chase Norlin, a rising star of the innovation economy.

Strengthening our communications infrastructure isn’t something best left for a rainy day. It’s a priority for the here and now. We must iterate, we must pivot, and we must stay in constant motion. Failure simply isn’t an option as we continue the tech renaissance.

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