Biz Stone said something very clearly and concisely that defines the way tech is funded these days. He says if he can’t figure out an app in a minute, he moves on. That’s both true, and is a huge problem. (And I thank him for saying it so clearly because it gives me something to respond to.)
Yes there are products that can be understood in a minute, and I use some of them, so there’s nothing wrong with having simple products that don’t do much. But general-purpose tools that turn creativity into usable results aren’t like that. Even entertainment isn’t like that.
An example. I tried three or four times to get into Game of Thrones, the great HBO series, by watching the first episode. I found it confusing and hard to understand. I’d stick with it for ten or fifteen minutes, and give up. But I kept hearing how much people loved it. So I persevered. On the fourth or fifth try I made it through the first episode. And then the second, and then I was on my way to a binge that took me through all thirty episodes, not just once, but twice. And now I’m reading the books. 😉
And that’s just entertainment.
I remember when I first saw a spreadsheet and the magic of recalc. But it took months for me to become proficient spreadsheet user. And when I saw a serious user of VisiCalc, I knew I’d never get that far into it. But I was blown away that there was so much depth to it.
Even Twitter required more than one approach for me to understand how useful it was. And I’m sure that’s what Stone was thinking of. Twitter is not trivial and it can’t be understood in a minute, but it’s still very valuable.
Even so, what he says is true. I sent my ten steps to first post list to a VC friend. But clearly after the first step (which was go to fargo.io) he ditched the list, and made it up himself, and never got to first post. Now that would be fine if VCs weren’t the gatekeepers, but they are. And that limits the products they fund to things that are understandable by fumbling around for a minute or so.
Why does it matter? Well, software is, in every way, the leading edge of technology. If we limit the edge to simple ideas, ideas as simple as an advertisement, what chance do we have of solving the massive problems we face? Many of those problems are technological in nature, and require thought and organization. Tools that tackle those problems can be pretty simple, but not so simple that they pass The Biz Test.
I know Biz is a good guy, and he wants to work on the vexing problems of our day, but to do that we need to empower people with deep tools that leverage their intellect. Sure, let’s have easy feature-based products. But let’s also build tools that are capable of helping augment our intellect so we can tackle the really big problems we face.