Earlier this month I was asked to present my thoughts and observations on “Technology Trends” in front of a group of Dutch business leaders. A lot of my thinking these days circles around the notion of “exponential growth” and the disruptive forces which come with this (full credit goes to Singularity University for putting these ideas into my head) and the notion of “ambient/ubiquitous computing” (full credit to my former colleague and friend Allen Wirfs-Brock).
A lot has been written about Mozilla in these last few weeks. Some of it is thoughtful, thought-provoking, heartfelt, helpful and necessary. Some of it is politically charged and sometimes factually plain wrong.
I have a hard time reconsolidating all that has been done, happened, said or not said over the last two weeks. I spent more time at Mozilla than at any other organization; I met some of the most brilliant people there; some of my best friends are or were there. I had the great fortune to spend my last year at Mozilla working directly with Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s co-founder and chairperson.
A few weeks ago I attended the World Business Dialogue 2014 in Cologne, Germany where the organizers asked me to write an essay about how I see the world in 20 years from now for a book they published. Here it is.
The last 20 years in technology have been dominated by Moore’s Law: Intel’s cofounder Gordon E. Moore predicted in 1965 that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. In essence: Computers get twice as fast every two years.
According to Seed-DB, the excellent source of data for technology incubators and accelerators, the 191 programs they track worldwide have accelerated 3,284 companies (that’s 17 companies per incubator/accelerator). These companies received an impressive total of $3,883,835,645 in funding (about $1.1m of funding per company on average) and created 13,076 jobs in the process (which comes down to four (!) jobs per company).
This is precisely why incubators are broken (from a societal perspective) - We simply need more jobs. The World Development Report 2013 published by the World Bank, states that we need to create 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years to sustain current employment rates. 13,076 jobs, created at a cost of nearly $300,000 per job just doesn’t cut it.
I strongly believe that we need an entrepreneurship revolution to solve the large societal problems we face. And I see a lot of people talking about incubators and accelerators as a fundamental piece to this puzzle. And yet - current thinking clearly doesn’t get us there. 13,076 jobs are not even a drop into the ocean.
I quit my job at Google.
Over the last couple of months it became increasingly clear to me that I need to be deep in the trenches of entrepreneurship. That I care too much about founders, startups and ecosystems that I can do anything else. That I need to be where the action is.
In my blood.
A few weeks ago I had the incredible fortune to be on stage with Mike Watt, punk rock legend, founding member of bands such as Minutemen, Dos and fIREHOSE, bassist for the Stooges (Iggy Pop’s band). You get the idea – the man is a true legend.
My dear friends at CASH Music, a non-profit which builds tools which allow musicians to represent themselves on the web, organized one of their amazing Summits; this one was in LA and it had me on stage with Mike talking about punk rock, open source and everything in-between. It was epic. Here’s the video:
FEPIC is to epic what fugly is to ugly – fucking epic!
And that’s how I feel today.
Two short weeks ago I publicly announced my departure from Mozilla. I’ve been with Mozilla for five years, I had an amazing time there, I am incredibly blessed to have had the chance to work with some of the smartest people in the industry and on projects which were just wicked fun. And over those five years I did a lot of introspection – which led me to realize that I am happiest when I can operate in the triangle between entrepreneurship, technology and global impact. Heck, I even drew a Venn diagram for one of the presentations I give regularly.
Through my work with the Unreasonable Institute, Unreasonable at Sea, Mentor for Good and many, many interactions I had with people in the global impact space it became clear that this is what I need to do next.
And so I do.
Tomorrow, November 11th (coincidentally also the start of the carnival season in my hometown Cologne!) I will join Google Giving.
When I first saw the job spec for this role my mind started racing: It literally read as if I would have written that spec for myself. It’s a small and incredible talented team with amazing resources, a massive platform and a huge mandate.
I can’t wait to get my feet wet and see what we can do. This is going to be of truly FEPIC PROPORTIONS. :)
Just want to share this with you – Yesterday I sent the following email to my dear colleagues at Mozilla:
Subject: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish // A Personal Update
After five wonderful years at Mozilla the time has come for me to leave the mothership, follow my calling and dance in the moment by combining my passions for entrepreneurship, technology and global impact.
It has been an incredible time, a great adventure and an unforgettable journey. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all of you for making, keeping and continuously evolving Mozilla – a truly unique place.
I am eternally grateful to have had the chance to work with and more importantly learn from some of the most inspiring, most passionate and smartest people in the industry, including the original Labs team (Anant, Atul, Aza, Ben A, Ben G and Dion A (they only come in a pair), Brian, Dan M, Dan W, Ed, Jinghua, Joe, Jono, Kevin, Lloyd, Mike, Myk, Ragavan, Sean, Suneel, Toby, Zandr), the incredible WebFWD crew (Diane & Didem), the Identity gang (sorry guys - you’re too many to list) and the awesome #MozSummit crew (you know who you are! #amazing #hashtag #<3).
Thank you. You make this place special.
Thank you. You believed in me and taught me so, so much.
I love you guys! You made me grow.
And it’s not only the people I worked with directly – it’s all of you.
You are just incredible!
And yet – as so often in life: Good things have come to an end eventually. So let me leave you with a quote from Alan Watts – may it serve you well on your journey:
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!
With deep admiration, Pascal
P.S. I will stay around for a tiny bit longer - my last day in the office will be Thursday, Oct 31st when I will leave for a short trip during which I will be available on email and phone. Officially my last day will be Friday, November 8th.
P.P.S. If the suspension is about to kill you and you just need to know what I will be doing next… This.
Truly a must-watch:
In the current edition of the ISPIM Magazine (a magazine for innovation practitioners) you will find an article from yours truly on “Design for Participation”.
(This is a repost from my daily newsletter The Heretic. The message is important to me – thus it warrants repeating.)
We need you. We – that is the world. Yes, you read that right. The world needs you.
Let me explain: Spain’s youth unemployment rate is now close to 60%. Sixty percent. That is more than every second person under the age of 30 being unemployed. Italy’s youth unemployment rate recently smashed through the 40% mark. The same is true for many other countries all around the globe. We have more than 7 billion people inhabiting this planet with an annual growth rate of 1.3%. That means we double the population every 50 years. A friend recently told me that we need 600 million sustainable jobs by 2020.
I fundamentally believe that the only way to get there is through entrepreneurship. We need people like you who are building companies, solving some of the most pressing problems in the world and create jobs doing so.
These are pretty scary and incredibly exciting times. While there is revolutions and uprisings looming, we will also witness the world’s online population double in the next 5-10 or so years. Imagine what it will mean for the planet to have 2 billion more people with access to the web, Wikipedia and the global marketplace.
With that being said – we have our work cut out for us. Now is the time. Let’s get cranking.
Last week I had the privilege to present a short deck on “The importance of failure” at a conference for entrepreneurs and startups in Germany. The setup was fun – I was in Boulder, Colorado, working with the wonderful folks at the Unreasonable Institute for the week, had about 12 hours of total sleep for the whole week, presented via Google Hangout (i.e. no feedback from the audience for me) and the presentation required me to get up at 5am for a sound check.
It went pretty well (at least from what I can tell from my end – the participants might have a completely different experience) and I posted the slides after the talk on Speakerdeck. A few folks asked me for a voice over to get the full context – and as I am always up for stuff like that, here it is:
Take away the Apple propaganda. Take away the fact that Apple’s products are prohibitively expensive in a lot of these settings. Look at it purely from a vendor-unrelated perspective.
This is it. This is precisely the reason why I am in tech. And this is one of our greatest opportunity to change lives and make this world a better place. Through technology. Combine this with the notion of creating economic opportunity and (our) technology has the potential to become one of the most powerful change agents around.
Making a difference. One app at a time.
P.S. For those of you who read this in their RSS readers or can’t see the embedded video for other reasons – here’s the video on YouTube.
I believe one of the most exciting aspects of Firefox OS is its potential to create economic opportunity (and doing so in new and innovative ways). It also brings up some of the more interesting questions. Let me explain:
Apple announced today that they paid out 10 billion USD to their iOS developers both through direct app sales as well as in-app purchases. 5 billion USD of those were paid out just last year (which points to accelerated growth of the iOS ecosystem). According to Apple this represents 74% of the total market for mobile phone app purchases (with Android accounting for 20% and others for the remaining 6%).
Further take into account that mobile phones are not only creating direct economic opportunity through their app stores but also enable numerous other forms of generated revenue and you get an interesting picture (e.g. e-commerce which originates from a mobile phone; eBay reported 13 billion USD in gross merchandise sales going through their mobile app in 2012 alone).
Consider that Firefox OS plays a different game – both from a technical as well as a target market perspective (using the Web as the platform, thus being much more open and targeting emerging markets respectively) and the really fascinating question becomes: Outside of the obvious economic opportunities “direct on-device commerce through app stores” and mobile/e-commerce as well as content consumption (music, videos, books) – which other forms of economic opportunity can we enable and drive through the device? And in this context: What can we (Mozilla) do to foster and/or enable this?
We are already seeing interesting opportunities especially in emerging markets – from mobile banking for the previously unbanked (e.g. Safaricom’s and Vodafone’s M-Pesa) to market information systems for farmers (using SMS messaging - e.g. Intuit’s Fasal) and much more.
I strongly believe that “we (mostly) don’t know what we don’t know”. That this is likely one of the biggest opportunities we have with Firefox OS. And that it will mostly be the communities/entrepreneurs on the ground who will create and capture these opportunities.
The question remains: What can we, as Mozilla, do to inspire, enable, foster and grow these ventures? What is missing? What do we need to create to make this happen?
EDIT June 11th: Eric Tyler pointed out the following projects in addition to the ones I listed - The World Bank’s M2Work Competition, Wikipedia Zero, Souktel as well as the World Bank’s Maximizing Mobile report.
“We have come to build the most important thing in the world today, perhaps the most important thing ever. It connects us. It widens us. It deepens who we are. We don’t know what it is or what it will be in the future, but we do know it has made us better so far. Our dream is to enlarge it so that all people can join us and share the good in it while ameliorating the bad. This thing we are working on has no borders and – as far as we can see – no end. If everyone can join it, with equal access and no undue ownership, the world will be a much better place. That is why we are working here today.”
~ Kevin Kelly / WIRED 21.05