This week’s article is provided by Eric Redmond, a twenty-year veteran technologist and author. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies that aired on Tuesday, June 29th. The following article has been adapted from the Deep Tech book.
If you’ve seen 2008’s Iron Man, a movie that reinvigorated the superhero genre, you can probably picture the high-tech laboratory of main character Tony Stark. Over a decade ago, much of the technology featured in his lab—augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, autonomous robotics, Internet of Things—was largely confined to the realm of science fiction and academia.
A few years later, these emerging technologies are past the research and development phase, just on the cusp of scale, but not quite yet available for prime time. They’re deep tech: technology that is barely feasible today but will become pervasive and hugely impactful in day-to-day life tomorrow. Why does this matter to you as a business leader?
Deep tech offers the potential for enormous growth to businesses that adopt or invest in it at the right time. If you get in early—but not too early—you can leverage tech that will soon be so ubiquitous, they’re household names as recognizable as the iPhone.
When to Get Involved in Deep Tech?
Successful adoption of deep tech is all about timing. By its definition, deep tech practically begs to be undervalued in its early days, but those who seize on the opportunity at the right time almost always end up the winners. The trick is answering the question: when is the right time to get involved?
If you grab on too early, you may find yourself as Yahoo or Friendster. Jump on too late, and you’re Bing or App.net. But right on time?
You’re Google or Facebook.
The goal should be to not merely adopt emerging technologies but invest in and drive their adoption, forcing everyone else to catch up—that’s how you get ahead of the competition.
There are seven technologies poised to drive somewhere between 50 and 200 trillion dollars in new economic impact in the decade between 2020 and 2030: artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing.
The right time to get involved in these technologies? Now.
Deep Tech Matters in Business
You might be thinking if the deep tech hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, does it matter to my business? The answer is yes. Whether you’re in finance, sales, design, logistics, or any number of fields and industries, we live in a world increasingly dominated by technology.
Over a hundred years ago, factories were the cutting edge, powered by the assembly line, and the world was dominated by those who used them. Then came electricity. Then business structures like the firm. Then supply chain optimization. Then the world belonged to those who cleverly leveraged financial instruments.
Today, we live in a fully digital age, and the major division is between those companies that respond to that change and those that are left behind. As corporate tech expert Patrick Fisher said in Reuters, “all companies are technology companies now.”
Leveraging emerging technology is an effective way to get ahead, and on the flip side, ignoring it can cost you significantly. Recent history is littered with corporations refusing to make the transition into leveraging technology appropriately, from the loss of a century of Sears dominance to the upstart of Amazon to Hertz bankruptcy due to a billion ride-share cuts.
The biggest danger in being ignorant of the current docket of deep tech’s coming of age is apathy, which in other words is a recipe for irrelevance. Whether you’re beginning a startup, or you’re a CEO or a thought leader, don’t allow yourself to flirt with the lines of Luddite groupthink and be drawn into ignoring what you don’t want to believe.
Deep Tech is a Pathway to New Lines of Business
If you want a concrete example of the benefits of understanding deep tech, consider the Winklevoss twins. You may be familiar with these brothers, Cameron and Tyler, as popular foils in the Facebook creation myth. But what’s more interesting is how the Winklevosses made their billions after Facebook: by keeping a keen eye on deep tech.
In 2013, they saw the Bitcoin revolution coming and chose to act on it. They bought in on Bitcoin (BTC) early, starting when the going rate was around $10 per BTC. Then they bought more and more, finally amassing a 1 percent stake of the total number of Bitcoin. To support the technology and community, they worked as ambassadors for the power of the decentralized digital currency. All the while, their investment grew. Once Bitcoin hit $10,000 per BTC in 2017, they both became the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires. What a difference a decade makes.
Like the Winklevosses, deep tech can be a pathway to new lines of business for you and your company. Whether you’re looking for new revenue streams, process effectiveness, or other cost savings, deep tech is the most important avenue to investigate. You’ll get the most value by adopting early and implementing the technology before your competitors.
Act Before Deep Tech Turns into Popular Tech
In 2008, Tony Stark’s lab tech was still science fiction, but today, we’re living with much of it, and the next level of advancement is right around the corner. Remember, deep tech refers to the stage the technology is in: impossible yesterday, barely feasible today, and soon to be so pervasive it’s hard to remember life without it.
The key to leveraging deep tech to your maximum advantage is timing your involvement right. Adopt and invest early, just before the technology is ready for mass market. Moves to adopt deep tech at the right moment are what turned Amazon, Google, and Facebook into the juggernauts they are today.
Technologies considered deep tech now—artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing—will be household fixtures tomorrow, so lean into the opportunity and get involved.
For more advice on emerging technologies, you can find Deep Tech on Amazon.
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
About the Author
Eric Redmond is the Forrest Gump of technology: a twenty-year veteran technologist who always happens to show up wherever deep tech history is being made, from the first iPhone apps to big data to Bitcoin. He has advised state and national governments, Fortune 100 companies, and groups as varied as the World Economic Forum and MIT Media Lab. He has also authored half a dozen technology books (including two tech books for babies) and spoken on every continent except Antarctica. Today, he’s a husband, a dad, and the leader of a global tech innovation team.