The Third Inning of Innovation

Although the general economic outlook in the United States is not great - John Mauldin uses the term "muddle-through" economy, I'm extremely optimistic about the prospects for innovation during the next several years.

The internet has changed the game for startups & venture investing dramatically. The worldwide number of internet users is approaching 2 billion in 2010; up from only 2 million in 1990 and 430 million in 2000.  Although US penetration rates are over 80% today, the rest of the world is rapidly coming online from a connectivity percentage of roughly 25% today.  Obviously with the declining cost of computing, connectivity, and mobile broadband, internet media will only continue to grow outside the developed nations of the US and Western Europe. Marshall McLuhan's "Global Village" really is finally coming in to its own.  By 2015 there will be nearly 3 billion internet users, over 5 billion cell phones in use, and over 2 billion wireless internet users.

The last wave of innovation pre-internet (so, personal computing & software, and even early internet) had a fraction of the addressable market that internet companies can reach today. Put in to context, a mere 30 million PCs were sold globally in 1992. Today that number is estimated at over 360 million units globally. And that doesn't even count the 1+ billion mobile devices sold annually, many of which are rapidly transitioning to 3G data enabled.

There is certainly an increasing pace of innovation, and a lot still to be "invented" leveraging this broad thing called the "internet" and its reach globally.  As a friend put it to me over breakfast last week, "we are only in the third inning" of this game of change.

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