Movin' on up the stack

A friend of mine passed along an interesting blog post by Chris Dixon - notable internet technologist and entrepreneur. The post is about the process of technological revolution, and how it occurs in cycles of installation and deployment. Within those macro phases are iterations of entrepreneurial activity moving further up the stack as technologies mature and enjoy mass adoption.

Extrapolating on Dixon's musings, and in response to the questions he poses, here's how I see it. Our current technology revolution - the Information/Telecommunication Age - is wrapping up one deployment iteration and moving on to the next. Tech entrepreneurs of the 90s focused on the core infrastructure of the Internet. Subsequent iterations focused on the first application layers: search, e-commerce, digitization of media, and consolidation of data. Overlapping with this cycle was the expansion of mobile data infrastructure, followed by the recent flurry of activity in mobile applications, cloud computing, social networking, and big data analytics.

So what's next? While there's still some room in commercial app development (games, commerce, social), there are enough established power players to raise barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. Based on historical patterns, Dixon notes that the likely markets for development are those "that require deeper cultural change" and the "information-intensive mega-industries that have been only superficially affected by the Internet thus far."

If anyone can propose a more apt description of the U.S. Government, I'm all ears.

GovTribe is an entrepreneurial endeavor targeting one of the most notably immature markets of the information age. The government and the business of government contracting are tragically underserved by technology. And attempts to inject some modernity to date have mostly just paved the cow path (i.e., automated bad process). What needs to occur is a rethinking of how government contracting should work.

What is the "optimal structure" for the government services industry? For one, its actors would be able to make decisions based on better, more complete information. Transparency and standardization are the first big hurdles, and still very much a work in progress. But what about access? The government industry is still entrenched in enterprise technology, but this is a world of information democratization.

Better information also means better contextualization. One of the largest challenges in this industry is tying government spending to expected outputs, and connecting those outputs to higher-level objectives.

Increased competitiveness and specialization are also necessary for optimal outcomes. A greater number of small service providers and independent experts in the marketplace would increase competition and bring down costs.

I discussed in a previous post the trends in government contracting that were the inspiration for our business model and our first product, hōrd. These same trends, I think, also indicate that the market is already exerting pressure in the direction of optimal structure. More government data is now available than anyone has yet been able to make use of. There is growing pressure for reduced government spending and for increased accountability of dollars invested. More small firms and independents are indeed emerging in response to this cost pressure, and to the increased focus on individual skills and expertise and away from organizational resources.

GovTribe exists because its three founders experienced these growing pains from the inside and we could see that the status quo is becoming obsolete, a little bit at a time. The hōrd iPhone app, at the moment, addresses the information access problem. Today, we’re making sense of big government data and pricing it for the individual government contractor. But those other trends are also on our radar.

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