Uncalculated threat: the stay-at-home generation

The excellent Paul Graham observes that the cost of getting a web startup off the ground is very low, and getting lower. Hence the proliferation of so-called Web 2.0 companies. He, like me, believes there’s still a lot of room for more web startups. Facebook, YouTube and company are only the beginning. Innovative minds will find ways to bring many more interesting things to the web. Some of them will be game-changing the way Google was. Some of them will change the web altogether.

What implications might this have for NICTA and other such places? It might just mean that these organisations shouldn’t be surprised if the next big web thing comes out of the suburban bedroom of a twenty-something year old rather than one of the universities or CRCs. Whether this turns out to be a threat or an opportunity partially depends on the way it is perceived by the general public, who might be inclined to ask “If a billion dollar technology company can emerge from some person’s bedroom, why do we need publicly funded ICT institutions again?” Of course, there are at least a few good reasons, like trying to ensure that the brightest computer scientists contribute to Australia’s GDP rather than that of another nation’s. And besides, one web startup, even a tremendously successful one, does not a Silicon Valley make. These institutions have an important part to play in spawning an innovative, self-perpetuating IT industry in this country, and from my point of view, it would be great if the hub of this industry was Brisbane. How to be Silicon Valley is the subject of another of Graham’s essays, and my next article.

Note: This article is covered by the standard disclaimer.