I’d argue that the most powerful force unleashed by the internet is the idea of permissionless innovation. Founders have created many new products and services that make it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to get started with fewer barriers to entry than at any other time in history. In the past, starting any kind of business typically required a large sum of starting capital, access to expensive distribution channels, and long feedback loops for product development. Where you lived, who you knew, and how much experience you had, combined with your ability to access capital didn’t determine if you’d be successful, but if you could even attempt to build anything in first place. The internet has rapidly shifted this reality for all of us. Almost anyone can get started today.
Many are now familiar with the narrative around how the rise of cloud computing dramatically reduced the cost of starting a technology company. This shift enabled founders to build MVPs, raise less money, begin testing their products, and continue iterating towards product-market fit. This trend has largely defined the last decade-plus of technological innovation.
This shift to cloud computing enabled a cambrian explosion of online products and services, which in turn have enabled future founders to start something new even more easily than before. The trend of fewer barriers to beginning is promising for anyone who is excited about innovation, progress, and democratizing entrepreneurship.
Have something to say or sell? Build an audience on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc. Have them support your work by using Patreon, Kickstarter, Shopify, Stripe, Substack or a host of other options. You’re no longer dependent on traditional gatekeepers in industries to decide if you’re worthy of time on their platforms. You no longer have to audition. You just have to perform. The market will choose whether or not to support you. The other big shift? You don’t need to scale a business to millions of people to build a massive company. The market of potential customers is anyone with an internet connection and the ability to transact online.
As it became cheaper to start technology and technology-enabled businesses, a huge barrier still existed for people who weren’t technically proficient. Building websites, accepting payments, ensuring security, capturing and protecting data, setting up analytics, the ability to design, are just some of the barriers that still existed for many people who wanted to bring their businesses into the modern digital age.
An exciting trend in more recent years is how overcoming a lack of technical proficiency has become easier for a greater number of people, simply because of all the new products and services that have been created as a result of the reduced barriers to entry enabled by cheaper cloud computing. No-code and low code tools like Webflow, Zapier, Parabola, Airtable, and countless others are reducing the barriers to building for even more people.
Powerful API’s that are more simple to deploy have also been an incredible new tool for this emerging class of not traditionally technical builders. Products like Stripe, Twilio, Plaid, Checkr are a few of the products that have made deploying previously expensive and cumbersome technology/processes increasingly straightforward and affordable. With cost becoming less of a factor, now technical ability is also becoming increasingly less important at the earliest stages of starting something.
As an investor, I'm excited by the rise of more tools and services that enable domain experts from non-technical industries to bring their insights and ideas into the digital world with fewer barriers. I believe every industry will be reshaped by technology. It’s not a question of if, but when, and when might be much sooner as starting continues to become simpler.