LAHacks was both a terrible and amazing experience.
Let’s start with the terrible. 36 straight hours of sitting in front of a computer or trying to sleep in the overly lit Pauley Pavilion, consuming food produced for quantity over quality, and trying to evade the crowd of people constantly storming the bathroom. I don’t think I will ever be able to sleep so little again (or at least until my next hackathon).
For those of you unfamiliar with LAHacks or hackathons in general, hackathons are a place where developers come together to code products and applications in a very short amount of time. LAHacks was a 36 hour hackathon sponsored by a large number of companies, with Quixey being the head sponsor.
Beyond the hogepodge smorgasbord of people and computers everywhere, LAHacks was an opportunity for me to dive into a little bit more code, but more importantly survey the landscape of where the tech industry is headed by meeting up-and-coming companies and rockstar developers.
Perhaps what was most interesting to me was the whole culture and environment of the hackathon. Events like LAHacks would not have been possible even ten years ago, or even five years ago. Events like LAHacks are possible because of internet platforms that have freely accessible APIs for any developer to use. The ease of adapting such APIs and libraries makes building the next photo sharing app almost trivial. In other words, the barrier of entry to creating another mobile or web application has become extremely low.
The number of simple applications extending an existing platform built at LAHacks was incredible. There were countless android, iphone, music, and photo apps, all of which were built upon various platforms that already exist.
The challenge to budding entrepreneurs is no longer about making an app that works or looks cool, but the real challenge now is making an app that matters. Anyone can extend libraries and APIs to put something together, but the real question is learning to put something together in a way that really changes the world because it matters to people.
LAHacks didn’t teach me just about writing code, but writing history. There’s a difference.
Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible!
When things are the same year after year, being successful means sticking to a very rigid way of working in order to systematically achieve your goals.
But in many industries today, the only constant is constant change.
Moore’s law states that computational power doubles for the same price point every 18 months. This means that every year and a half, the power of our computers double. Computing power is growing at an exponential rate, enabling technologies and solutions to our world’s problems at an extremely fast pace. Pretty soon driverless cars, smart watches, and other smart technologies will be implemented into everyday life.
When nothing is constant and everything is changing, being too rigid can get in the way of keeping up with surroundings. One of the greatest assets of a person in today’s economy is the ability to think on their feet and learn quickly.
I had the privilege of visiting IDEO in San Francisco today, to learn a little bit about the culture of innovating, prototyping, and product designing. IDEO deeply embodies the culture of innovating by creating, researching, and testing.
“It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”
Be quick to recognize and solve problems, and quick to learn and adapt.
If there’s any company that defied all odds in the last five years, it would be Tesla Motors.
Tesla broke all the stereotypes of electric cars. To this day, Tesla has been the only car company to create a practical, attractive, and fast electric car.
Tesla disproved the economic difficulties forecasted by experts, ignored everything that people have been saying about American car companies, all while shattering all safety records.
Tesla has pretty much single handedly ignored every single notion of what is possible within our modern day economy.
Like any successful entrepreneurial venture, the way that Tesla positioned themselves in the market and to their audience is nothing short of brilliant, and is probably why they have been as successful as they have.
They understood their customer. I’m sure that Musk knew that people thought electric cars were impractical and low range. Tesla proved that they could build a quality car that would compete with high end luxury cars in the same price range. They understood that their customers were in the luxury / tech / geek world, so they created a flagship car that appealed to Silicon Valley professionals.
They understood the market. They took time to design a car that doesn’t only sell because it is electric, but they took the time to understand what potential car buyers are looking for. By incorporating a frunk, they understood that sometimes people have a lot of things to transport.
They understood timing. The fact that they came out with the roadster in limited quantity before they came out with the Model S shows that they understood that they had to earn credibility before people would simply buy their cars.
They understood automation. Just a quick tour through their factory (watch the video) show that they are using modern day technology to streamline their process of production.
They understood their customer’s concerns. The fact that you can go to any Tesla supercharger and charge your Tesla absolutely free of charge is a brilliant move on Tesla’s part. Not only do they create an infrastructure to support their new technology, but they make it easy for people to make long trips.
I’m sure there’s a ton more that I’m overlooking, but definitely keep a look out for the future of this company.
The obstacle to bringing new innovations into the hands of the consumer is not the technology.
In fact, much of the tech products being released today haven’t had any real technological breakthroughs for the last twenty years. Even the latest iPhone is just a new permutation and optimization of technologies developed decades ago.
The bottleneck of innovation lies in the social and economic factors that surround bringing new innovations to the public, and within a capitalist society, it becomes even more challenging.
The power of our businesses, nonprofits, and individuals lies in the exchange of money. Even if businesses are in it for the betterment of the world as a whole, money is still the ultimate underlying foundation of a capitalist driven, “invisible hand” society. In fact, the power of individuals, companies, and nations rests in the money that they have.
So what’s the conflict?
The conflict occurs when a new technology is brought about that will revolutionize everything, to the point where it weakens the ability to generate revenue. By providing access to knowledge to anyone with an internet connection, Wikipedia has essentially created an open, powerful collection of knowledge that has effectively weakened the revenue of traditional encyclopedias, while failing to create a stream of revenue itself. Facebook and Twitter have completely changed the way that people interact socially, while failing to truly create a significant revenue stream.
Capitalism has created a world where businesses strive to optimize revenue, not necessarily innovation. That’s why many of the most powerful and significant changes to our world have been through grassroots movements.
There’s so much more to unpack about the extent of capitalism on our society that I’ll save for later posts.