I’m Thankful For That Of Which I Never Thunk

November 24, 2011

1:00 pm

Who would have thunk it.

Two years ago, Twitter was a punchline to a joke.  Five years ago the same could be said for Facebook. Ten years ago, the punchline was MySpace…oh wait, forget that – MySpace will always be a punchline.

My point is that social media applications were thought of as mildly entertaining, inconsequential time wasters.  Yet today, no one can dismiss the consequences of wresting control of the message from the mighty and handing it to the many.  Would there have been an Arab Spring without social media? Without Twitter and Facebook would the 99% even have a voice, or would the 1% drown them out with their message of brighter teeth, better abs, and weight loss secrets?

While MTV continues to attempt to set and define the youth agenda by presenting vapid Joisey Shore brats and their quest for booze, babes, boobs, and bros, young people all over the world have eschewed the shallow and instead turned  social media toys into socially conscious and responsible tools.

Lately I’ve heard technologists lament about the latest crop of shallow applications.  I catch myself saying “Not another foodie cooking site, not another exercise app, not another shopping app!”  Oh, but we’re different, they say.  We are Foursquare for aliens.  We’re Craig’s List for people named Bob.

I’ve watched too many startup pitches that I thought were a foolish waste of energy.  My eyes would roll instantly, but lately I’ve been catching myself.

You see, I think about how I would have pooh-pooh’d Facebook if I had been pitched that silly little college site.  I’m glad I never had the opportunity to laugh Biz Stone out the room, as he pitched a 140 character blog site named Twitter.  I know I would have passed, and I would have ended up kicking myself daily for my folly.

Steve Jobs helped change the world starting with a silly erector-set-like Apple IIe computer for hobbyists.

A few visionary venture capitalists believed Howard Shultz when he pitched his vision of a coffee shop on every block of every major city with people lined up outside the door eager to pay $5 for a cup of coffee.  Who could have envisioned the importance of Starbucks to the business world?  Really, how many deals have been sealed on handshakes or meetings that began at a Starbucks?

How has shopping, computing, and piecework been changed by book seller Amazon?

Seemingly simplistic or silly ideas are changing the world and from now on, I resolve to remember that and to think before I roll my eyes.

I’d be interested in your input regarding ideas that seemed small at first, but resulted in a big impact.

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Glen Hellman (@glehel), is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and works for venture capitalists as a turn-around specialist. He is the Chief Entrepreneureator at Driven Forward LLC, frequently muses on his blog, Forward Thinking, and works with entrepreneurs to help them figure out what to do and get them to do it.

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