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Churchill Club – 9th Annual Tech Trends Debate

June 26th, 2007

churchillclub (I forgot to post this from many months ago! I had blogged this on an internal corporate blog.)

Similar to last year I attended the Churchill Club’s 9th Annual Tech Trends Debate. This year was more intriguing than last year (fewer “enterprise software is dead!” pronouncements). The speakers were John Doerr, Steve Jurvetson, Roger McNamee, Joe Schoendorf and the moderator was Tony Perkins (of AlwaysOn fame). Similar to last year I believe you can find a podcast (thru ZDNet or iTunes) if you want to hear the whole thing, it was entertaining and thought provoking.

I also took some notes on my phone (moblogging? kind of) which I’ll share below. I’ve got many opinons about what was said and discussed, but I’ll leave my opinions out for now. Maybe in the next post 🙂

The trends weren’t listed in any particular order.

Mobile Devices (by Roger McNamee): The market for mobile devices will see multiple new design centers, giving consumers more choices, but also requiring more belt space.

John Doerr wholehartedly believes every bit of iPhone propaganda out there and thinks it’s going to be a game changer. The fundamental argument from McNamee here was that people don’t want all-in-one devices, they’ll be comfortable with lots of smaller devices as long as they can swap out the “brains” and battery from device to device. The analogy made was similar to shoes or belts, you’ll have many.

Broadband Networks (by John Doerr): The cellphone is the next PC. the FCC will approve at least one new network for broadband in the next year.

Doerr said the he believes a new broadband network was the single most important thing we can do for economic developing for the next ten years. I think he also said that going green was the single most important thing later, so I guess everything is equally important 🙂

Web 2.0 Shakeout (by Tony Perkins): Within the next twelve months we will see the beginning of the Consumer Web 2.0 shakeout.

Perkins was talking about Web 2.0 sites that weren’t mobile focused. None of the four VC’s agreed as they all said that there is way too much money in venture right now, so no reason to see a reduction in investment. Schoendorf said “we always overestimate the short-term and waaaaaaay underestimate the longer term” with regards to the probable success of a startup. He also said (and I’m paraphrasing here), the last thousand years were about the written word (Gutenberg) and the next fifty are all about video.

Moore’s Law (by Steve Jurvetson): Moore’s Law will begin to bifurcate, where technical advances in memory precede logic by several years.

Jurvetson said that memory innovations are happening faster than those on the logic side. He said that the majority of transistors are used for memory; as an example, he said that 96% of the Itanium 2 is for memory not logic. He then started talking about how the emerging methods of assembly for chip fabrications are not good for homogeneity (like logic) but better for heterogeneity. (Side note: Talk to Sean Stauth about this if you’re interested as I believe his Master’s work was int his area). Doerr said that new HW startups need to develop a process advantage now just an architecture advantage.

Economic Power Shift (by Joe Schoendorf): The shift in economic power will profoundly impact current business.

This was kind of a no brainer. Schoendorf said that economic power is shifting and that there will only be one European country left in the G7 in next 5 to 10 years (his guess was the UK). In his view, this will significantly change the perspective on who the customer is and who the market is and who your competitors are. He gave an example of how the highest unemployment rate in the Silicon Valley (post dot com crash) is still lower than lowest unemployment rate in Germany in the last 20 years. He talked about taking risks but also being able to shut things down if you were wrong (he gave examples of discussions he had with German ministers and Merkel evidently where the idea of shutting something down rapidly would not fly). If Schoendorf had to make a 20 year bet on the BRIC countries he said he would pick India not China. He said this because India has 3 workers for each retiree which is far ahead of any other country (as far as economic stability). He felt that Brazil and Russia have too high of a beta.

Active Media (by Roger McNamee): Consumers are choosing active or passive media, which will further erode the power of today’s media companies and will require a reengineering of the advertising business.

Scarce supply of mass advertising but then tipping point where you can’t support all the brands out there. He used TV advertising as the example here, they are making more revenue for ads for a little bit because there are fewer “mass audience” shows and also not an understanding of where you can advertise in new channels to get the same impact. Schoendorf said “watch P&G, as they go, so will the rest of the advertisers”.

Web 2.0 to Enterprise (by Tony Perkins): Consumer Web 2.0 functionality moves into enterprise and media worlds in a big way.

Again this was a no brainer. Kids will want to have community across companies. Passive workforce communities will move to active workforce collaboration. Enterprise SW will go Web 2.0. Collaboration is so important and wiki model is brilliant for institutional memory. Schoendorf explained how one of his kids asked him “what was your e-mail address in high school?” which got a big laugh from everyone. Schoendorf is probably in his late-60s. He used this point to illustrate that our new joiners are going to expect Web 2.0 capabilities (social networking, etc.) inside their companies and across companies.

Synthetic Life Forms (by Steve Jurvetson): The next couple years will herald the first synthetic life form.

Jurvetson was talking about creating bacteria or viruses from scratch engineered to do exactly what we want. Not humans being created from scratch J Jurvetson said the first synthetic virus was created in 2002. That Polio was created from scratch. He said that scientists can generate DNA code. In the next 6 months he said that scientists will be reproducing bacteria in lab environment that grows and consumes. As an example of the type of innovation that could come out that people don’t immediately think of is harvesting energy from the Sun. Jurvetson said bacteria are the most efficient at converting energy from the Sun and they are inherently green and clean methods. He also said that you ou can swap out entire DNA codebase now to change species. This wasn’t substantiated, he claimed the papers would be published slow. The last interesting claim was that he thinks progress in this field will make Moore’s Law look slow. Jurvetson talked about Jay Keasling who was working on creating a much cheaper malaria drug (and did so, all your Berkeley grads can be proud) and is now working on biofuels.

The brain (by Joe Schoendorf): Rise of radical approaches to treating brain diseases.

Schoendorf said we are at an understanding of brain diseases and conditions similar to what we understood about cancer ten years ago. He felt that the next few years would bring about tremendous change in understanding and treatment. Jurvetson exhorted the audience to make sure they exercise their brains, have a hobby etc., to help stave off many of the natural problems. He gave www.positscience.com as an example, feel free to check it out.

Going Green (by John Doerr): Going green could be the largest economic opportunity – and imperative – of the 21st century.

Thinks Congress will send mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cap to this President. Need to reduce carbon footprint, but more importantly really need to go negative. One negative example: Doerr said that the USA has 700 ethanol pumps across the country, with only 2 in California. He said that Brazil has 23,000 ethanol pumps as the largest user of biofuel. Brazil has reduced their own emissions by 10% in the last few years, but they are only 1.3% of the world’s emissions. So, the US and Europe have to lead (positive example with the UK legislation recently). China will be 23 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which is more than the world total today, but how can you tell them now to have economic development, when per capita, the US is the biggest polluter in the world. One right answer is for the US to reduce emissions while India/China are increasing. Schoendorf brought up a really good point around not just reducing carbon emissions, but how do we go negative? What eats carbon (someone in the audience yelled out “trees!” J )? Is the problem bigger than just man made carbon? Schoendorf was playing the other side by saying we absolutely should reduce our emissions, but also understand the other dimensions of the problem and the world ecosystem to see where else we can make a different to go negative.

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