What are the big trends for technology in the next couple of years, and how are they relevant to SMEs? In our Technology Segment on today’s Down To Business with Bobby Kerr I’m genuinely delighted that we’ll be joined by Charles Arthur, Technology Editor of The Guardian. In Charles’ Book, Digital Wars he looks at the digital battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft and details what to expect from the internet in the next five years and the implications for us all as technology users. So we’ll be asking Charles about a few technology trends that have caught our eye:
- crowd-funding – will web based crowd-funding for non-tech SMBs mushroom?
- virtual currencies like BitCoin – will they make selling online easier?
- will wearable tech create opportunities for SMBs?
- remote working and initiatives like ODesk and Mechanical Turk
Crowd-funding is where an entrepreneur posts his idea on the web and asks for individuals or groups of investors to commit to investing. It was an evolution from the broader idea of crowd-sourcing – but now the terms are almost interchangeable and the movement encompasses everything from the principles of money for equity, money for goods and peer-to-peer lending.
Guy Kawasaki’s website Garage was the first experience I had of this sort of open-pitch idea, Garage became a full-blown investment firm, but the philosophy appealed to entrepreneurs; it isn’t just savvy investors who took to crowd-funding investments but ordinary people, globally, who had an interest in a product or a social or emotional interest could get involved in projects that appealed them. the catchy tech start-ups but let’s say I want to start a 10 acre organic farm, growing fabulous traditional varieties of vegetables. I pitch this idea at a crowd-sourcing website where consumers commit and pay for a year’s supply of vegetables, that I’ll deliver to them every week in a lovely recyclable cardboard box. If I get a couple of thousand consumers to do so, I have a significant tranche of the start-up capital I need. Sharing-economy, health awareness – community spirit. It’s a beautifully balanced and rewarding economic environment. At least if it succeeds it is. Already law-makers are looking at the legality of the practice and regulation regarding selling equity in this form. Patent disputes will no doubt arise as a published idea could be copied by capital rich opportunists and of course there’s potential for blatant fraud in any financial transaction. But with decent legislation and trusted arbitrators this industry could truly change how SMEs are brought to life.
Virtual currencies – If we used them more – could currency fluctuation issues be eliminated for buyers and sellers? Or are virtual currencies themselves even more prone to unprediceable fluctuations and are we, as consumers, comfortable with a non-regulated piece of digital coinage?
Over the next couple of years, we’ll see more and more wearable technology – from Google glasses to health monitors. But what kind of traditional, non-tech businesses, will this create an opportunity for, or is wearable technology really one for the mass-producer?
And the jobs market and remote working as technology evolves? ODesk.com is an outsourcing firm with around 3 million people on their books. Large, ‘glamourous’ companies have swallowed much of the talent in the jobs market. So how do SMEs get great staff? There are people who stay home for a variety of reasons – they want to be with their kids – they hate commuting – they want to move and live in the south of France. Can services like oDesk equalise the talent pool for SMEs by connecting great workers to great small businesses?