Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Next Big Thing

In a country where ‘long term’ is 4 years (if you keep your hands off the interns), it’s no surprise that getting together capital to invest in long term infrastructure is almost impossible. However, if you have the Next Big Thing you can potentially raise billions. Is IPv6 the Next Big Thing?
[IPv6] shorthand for Internet Protocol Version 6[...] Not only will IPv6 open up a new frontier of interactive communications between devices and the Net, industry experts say, but it will vastly increase the IP address space, a much-needed freeing up of online real estate, given current and anticipated demand.

It almost goes without saying that the name of the Next Big Thing is very important. The name should suggest, well...bigness. The World Wide Web sounded huge, like big ideas should. Think Amazon, the longest river in the world-- that’s big. Amazon women, as well, implant an image of bigness in your brain. Who would’ve guessed you could buy books from Amazon, but I guess that was the clever part, right? The name catches you off guard...you hear 'Amazon' and the next you know you're ordering Marketing for Dummies by the truckful.

IPv6, no offense to the Internet Protocol people, sounds like a version number. Version numbers suggest bad things like derivative and not unique-- not exactly Next Big Thing feelings. Look, even if there will be IPv7,8,9 later on, don't confuse the public with details--act like this is the one and only--the Universal Internet Protocol. Bigger than World-Wide...if ET had any sense, he would be using it to email home.

Mystery is another critical ingredient of the Next Big Thing. Solving a mystery appeals to people’s curiosity. For example, was there ever any water on Mars? Could be, maybe not, but we need to spend about 4 gazillion dollars to send someone up there on a water witching hunt.

Another big mystery: what happened in the microseconds after the Big Bang? We need to build a huge atom smasher costing billions, which will likely show us what a Big Bang looks like firsthand. Want to know who created the universe? Some dumb-ass scientist playing with his quantum physics erector set without the foggiest idea what was going to happen.

The Next Big Thing needs to sound like it comes from the future. One proven technique for identifying future trends is to make something from the movies a real product: the ‘Star Wars’ defense system; the holodeck from Star Trek; the nuclear submarine (Jules Verne); Peter Pan Peanut Butter.

To feel really futuristic, the Next Big Thing cannot result in anything tangible for many years. This is a really important point—you’re not thinking big enough if people need your product right now. A good example is the hydrogen fuel cell. Fuel cells seem like magic, turning hydrogen and oxygen into energy and water. Fuel cells are currently used mostly by the space program-- perfect for powering your new rocket car-- to be on sale a few short years from now.

Another tip, define a military application of your technology-- it helps Wall Street appreciate the magnitude of your idea. The military only funds large, expensive projects, so militarizing your idea will give Wall Street an instant warm fuzzy.

One way to get the military to pay attention is to spread fear that if they don't support your idea, they will be Left Behind. No military leader wants to fall behind, and fewer still want to be immediately left of behind. That’s no good. Even though you’d think you could see better than being Right Behind, you can’t.

A further look at the Ipv6 article:
It could be the most significant development for IT spending and government sales since the Y2K threat loomed large at federal agencies, industry insiders say: Imagine a soldier in a war zone taking misfire information from his weapon and feeding it directly into his Web-connected handheld computer, sending an alert out to his command post, and saving lives in the process.

A little later:

Frankly, the industry is getting a bit giddy in anticipation.

The IPv6 guys are on the right track. They’ve managed to combine future vision, disasters of the past and military applications into one paragraph.

If the IPv6 makers can incorporate a few more of these ideas in their marketing plan, they could well have the Next Big Thing on their hands. So remember-- pick a big name, solve a mystery, make sure its sci-fi with government funding, spread the fear, and don’t hype too soon. That is, unless you want to make a killing without actually making anything.