Nerdery CEO Tom O’Neill discusses the accelerating software revolution with The Nerdery’s board chair and co-founder Mike Derheim.
O’Neill: We’re not coining a phrase when we say ‘every company is a software company’ – people have been saying it for awhile.
Derheim: But it’s not B.S. anymore.
O’Neill: It’s true, but on the verge of stating the obvious: every company is a tech company, or has to become one to keep from getting Ubered.
Derheim: Software developers drive world change. The Internet is the most significant milestone in human evolution. Bigger than the discovery of fire, the printing press, electricity, aviation, antibiotics, space travel, duct tape – you name it. The Internet is more impactful than the advent of the wheel – beyond more easily moving from place to place, now every living soul on Earth is connected in real time.
O’Neill: Look at how Google’s Project Loon brings broadband to the world, flying solar-powered balloons at 60,000 feet covering Earth’s every inhabited corner to connect more people, but behind it all is software. The trick is to see this stuff coming.
Derheim: The pace of technological change was relatively slow until it wasn’t – that pace is now shaped like a hockey stick. The future fast-forwarded. Meet George Jetson. People who don’t adopt new tech get left behind and so do companies that fail to see what’s possible in their industry with software. Markets and consumers have disconnection gaps because not everyone adopts new technology all at once.
O’Neill: Jimmy Fallon disrupted late night and regular programming by releasing his best clips whenever he felt like it – his fans get constant streams of content on social media without ever turning on their TV.
Derheim: When does anyone really watch “TV” commercials, outside of the Super Bowl?
O’Neill: Our blinders keep marketers from marketing to us, but tech companies find ways to get around these blinders by bringing value. Take Amazon Prime. Let’s say I forgot a birthday and I’m booked in meetings, but within two hours a present is delivered – that’s brand engagement, by utility.
Derheim: Technology is way ahead of most people’s comprehension of what’s already possible. In business, the winners ride first waves. Record companies lost the music industry to software companies. Bookstores lost to Amazon and Amazon didn’t stop there.
O’Neill: Two things are happening. One, the barrier of entry to the kind of software we’re able to create is lower than ever because of better tools, frameworks and delivery platforms. Secondly, society adapted. We’ve come to expect a high level of interaction with technology. During the dot-com boom days, people tried to launch companies the rest of the world wasn’t ready for.
Derheim: The dot-com crash was just a pothole and yes, some of the tech companies that failed were ahead of their time.
O’Neill: Consumers weren’t ready, but now we’ve come to expect connected convenience with everything all the time.
Derheim: It’s beyond convenience. With the Internet of Things (IoT), if you get in a car accident, your body could call 911 if you’re unable. There’s life or death, meanwhile there’s quality of life in abundance.
O’Neill: The technology barriers are broken. People can be Internet-enabled devices – IoT is all of us. Medtronic gives people a customer experience choice by making a pacemaker that sounds like science fiction – a connected device with software sending data to doctors and family members from inside a patient’s body.
Derheim: It’s amazing that’s happening, but it’s not even 1 percent of what will happen. Software is literally changing the world and impacting every human interaction.
O’Neill: A construction company becomes a tech company by using drones to survey land and calculate how much dirt must be dug to build a stadium – software makes that math possible. Software aced a survey of the Matterhorn; previously, it took painstaking effort – big mountain, big job – but 3-D mapping drones surveyed the Alps’ iconic summit in under six hours of flight.
Derheim: ‘Sounds cool,’ is a natural reaction, but these are not just toys. Business decision makers have to realize that hardware plus software changes the game. Train companies use IoT sensors to find safety hazards and dispatch drones to shoot laser-focused paintballs at tracks for fast follow-up – saving human time and keeping humans safer. Replacing humans is not some boogeyman to fear, either. Consider our demographics and aging, shrinking workforce. It’s imperative we innovate software and inspiring that we can. There’s no end in sight for the tech revolution and software companies hold the keys to the future.