Will disruptors or collaborators dominate the next internet wave?
Stripe is one of Silicon Valley’s hottest fintech startups, handling billions of dollars each year relating to payments online and in mobile apps. I just read a fascinating blog about Stripe’s heroic effort to make sense of the global payments marketplace on behalf of its SME customers – which involves collaboration with some of the world’s largest, most risk-averse, financial institutions. The piece got me thinking – is Stripe’s growth a case study in the disruption of incumbents (marking the beginning of the end for big banks), collaboration with “frenemies” – or somehow both?
I’m not the first person to think about the new paradigm for startups operating in large, mature marketplaces. Steve Case, one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs and executives, best-known as co-founder of AOL, predicts in his book The Third Wave that we’re “at the dawn of the next technological revolution unlike anything we’ve seen before—the Third Wave of the internet— that will transform the economy and the way we live our lives”.
As Case explains, “the first wave saw AOL and other companies lay the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. The second wave saw companies like Google and Facebook build on top of the Internet to create search and social networking capabilities, while apps like Snapchat and Instagram leverage the smartphone revolution”. Now, Case argues, we’re entering the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will vastly transform major ‘real world’ service sectors. Success in the Third Wave will require a different skill set, as newly emerging technology companies are forced to rethink their relationships with customers, with competitors, and with governments.
At Yapster we see ourselves as a naturally collaborative company. Our mission is to harness the power of smartphones to extend enterprise technology to groups of people who haven’t traditionally received much attention (or budget) from their organisations’ IT departments. In store sales assistants, waiters, bar staff and volunteers regularly fall into this category. Unlike most other companies in our space who focus on the needs of central operations and managers – i.e. desktop solutions – we are designed to be mobile-first. As a result, there’s often no incumbent for us compete with directly. This gives us the freedom to think collaboratively, for example:
- how can we integrate Yapster to help customers squeeze more value out of their existing technology suite?
- how can we empower IT partners to create new and exciting value for their customers by leveraging our expertise in mobile communications?
- what truly motivates users to download Yapster on their personal device – can we give them more of what they value?
I think this mindset will serve us well as Yapster expands into increasingly complex and regulated markets such as healthcare, education and public services. However, I recognise that our collaborative approach alone will be insufficient to break the inertia of those sectors – which were largely untouched by the first two of Case’s internet waves. We will need to find pioneers within relevant organisations who have similar predispositions to innovate collaboratively.
If you are a “Third Wave” thinker looking for opportunities and partners, I’d certainly love to hear from you.