I was recently driving down the road on the way to work, and was struck by just how few “high tech” businesses I crossed driving from Kirkland, WA to Redmond, WA (home of Microsoft). You’d think, given the amount of tech savy people in the area, that the streets would be lined with tech offices, all buzzing with new and innovative ways to leverage groundbreaking technology.
Yet, despite what most of what I read about the age of start-ups and the power they have over mankind, all I saw were dry cleaners and mom & pop’s restaurants with the occasional gas station.
It dawned on me then, that despite all the buzz that occurs in technology circles about entrepreneurship and the future of technology, most people are doing just fine without it. The latest apple product isn’t replacing my need to get a dry cleaner, and the newest Samsung tablet isn’t helping me get gas in my car. For most of the day, even though I work on a laptop, I must rely on fairly non-technical solutions to make it through the day. Whether it’s the $30 coffee maker I rely on to get me going in the morning, the relatively low-tech shoes I wear to walk from my car to the office, or the basic plastic water bottle I drink out of it once the coffee is gone, there’s little I do that’s “technical” outside of what I use my laptop and occasionally my phone for.
This led me to suspect that perhaps, just maybe, there’s innovative ways to change peoples lives and start businesses that perhaps don’t deal with gadgets or software. Perhaps the next hot thing is something much neglected, yet is something people need.
Often I go to start-up seminars and it’s full of solutions either using the web, a device, or a power source to function. Yet, if I could create a better solution that’s completely non-tech, how much competition would I run into? Depending on what it was I was trying to improve on, perhaps quite a bit – but as much effort as it would take to make a better shoe, how much more effort would it take to build a better smart phone.
It seems that most start-up minded people these days are bent on leveraging technology to push the ball forward, and make their mark on society. Perhaps though, society has room for more non-tech solutions than one thinks.