The end of El Dorado

Dream shattering. Probably not visible for us mere mortals as it is for Ev Williams, the end of start ups is probably coming on the next five to seven years.

The biggest blocking factor will not be lawyers and lobbyists though. They are the perks you get with high caliber business, but the key differentiator is the complexity of the problems that need to be solved.

Many thousands of years ago you could be smart enough to postulate that only one line could pass through two points and you’d be the father of geometry. Nowadays you have to solve the Riemann hypothesis and you only get a million bucks.

All the industries went trough the same thing:

  • cable, before it was just small companies laying cables, then it was a consolidated industry with leverage on all broadcasters and now huge exclusive content producers
  • radio, there was one single increasing problem that only size could solve here: money!
  • telecommunications, the problem initially was voice, then messaging, than data. When operators had to handle FaceTime non stop for millions over millions of users, the problem became very esoteric in nature.

Given time, any industry’s startups regress to hobby.

Only hobby will justify the effort towards something which is basically indestructible, a legacy industrial capitalist settlement.

The internet is no different. I mean, think about all the original innovations, for example: HTTP, Google’s Page Rank, Forums, Chat, Javascript. Random things. They’re today SPDY, machine learning predicting what you’ll search, Facebook, Telegram, ES2015. This evolution happened because the problems became more and more complex: the Internet today is not a few computers of enthusiasts anymore but an Internet of Things, web search it is not for confused students on the Stanford web site, but for millions of confusing queries on billions of pages, the online communities have disappeared since the whole society is now online, computer networks are not about communicating anymore but about knowing, and finally, regarding JavaScript, we’re not doing form validation anymore but server side full stack real time applications.

I fear we are in an increasingly big-company-tilted world.Ev Williams

The problem is not that big companies are more and more entrenched, as much as it is that the capitalist economic system, which we are based on, will always favor the capital owner. In the beginning of any new economy or market the main capital is innovation. As soon as innovation is harder to achieve, because of complexity, other forms of capital start to gain more clout, more reach, more power, until the unavoidable monopoly, duopoly or, if we’re lucky, oligopoly gets its firm grip on the gold rush, snatching it from our innocent endeavors.