Last week, I was on a panel at the Silicon Valley Directors’ Exchange (SVDX) on Robotics and AI: How will Boards Embrace Tomorrow’s Technologies?
One of the issues we discussed was what happens to displaced workers who lose their jobs to AI.
These days, Silicon Valley is not the darling of the world anymore. Rather, it is facing a techlash for all sorts of issues. The foremost among these is automation and the prospect of robots destroying the livelihoods of people en masse. Of Artificial Intelligence becoming a threat to humankind.
All over Silicon Valley, in Board Rooms and in private parties, the Future of Work is a much-visited topic. Almost every major company has an AI product or an AI-enabled process initiative under exploration. I have spoken with numerous entrepreneurs who actually have software products in the market that are replacing 4000-5000 jobs at each of their customer sites.
The current market is full of really interesting SaaS companies that have built up at least $100M in annual revenue run rate (ARR). Some have gone public. Some are waiting in the wings. There are also many more that are in the $50M to $100M ARR range.
They serve different segments. Some serve verticals. Some horizontal enterprise functions. Some large niches. Some enterprises. Some mid-market. Some SME.
Together, the SaaS market is a healthy, robust, exciting cauldron of innovation.
Unlike Social Media, Search or e-Commerce, SaaS is not an oligopoly. [ref: An Oligopoly, After All This?]
And these SaaS companies that have achieved critical mass in their own segments now have an unprecedented opportunity of scaling to become much larger businesses by broadening their footprints.
They can look within, and look outside to identify the growth levers.
Let me explain.
Tech is becoming an oligopoly of a handful of titans dominating the subcategories: Google (Search), Facebook (Social), Amazon (Commerce). Then there is Apple (Device). In Software, the picture is a bit more encouraging with Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, IBM, and a whole host of other fast growing SaaS companies still maintaining a healthy competitive dynamic.
Indian B-to-C startups started off with huge promise and were constantly compared with China’s Alibaba. But the reality has been consistently sobering. The Economist offers some excellent analysis on the phenomenon in two articles: India’s missing middle class and India has a hole where its middle class should be.
Some notable points:
We saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi last week. It feels dated.
All these alternate realities are essentially religious stories, which is why they’ve achieved cult status.
I love Harry Potter. Some love Lord of the Rings. All good vs. evil stories in epic style.
I’m in the mood for post-religious stories.
The world isn’t black and white. It’s full of gray.
We saw Darkest Hour this week.
The year is 1940. Belgium and Holland have fallen to Hitler’s Germany. France is within days of defeat. England within days of attack. With 300,000 troops stuck in Dunkirk, Churchill becomes prime minister. No one wins by negotiating with a dictator. No nation has survived by surrendering. Churchill operates with instinct and courage, as he turns down Mussolini’s offer to negotiate peace with Hitler.
We saw recently on Netflix Ken Burns’ documentary, The West.
Between the Spanish conquistadors and the Jeffersonian Americans, with some contribution from the British and the French, the American Indians and twenty one million buffalos were wiped off the American West.