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5 fake (pandemic) tech trends and how to spot one
Are you a missionary or a mercenary builder?
Pandemic brought a lot of opportunities for startup ecosystem, especially given the fact that the Fed literally printed free money and most of it went to the tech ecosystem.
Here are a few trends that I believe were 💯 fake and need to be called out.
I am not saying that they weren’t important enough, but they surely did not deserve so much hype. Importantly, these fake trends also expose the shallow-ness of the tech ecosystem globally and calls for a shout out to the founders/companies who instead of going after these, stayed on to their businesses (Apple leads the race in this case).
In no particular order, here goes my list (do share yours in the comments)
From ‘this will change the world’ to ‘everybody is getting scammed’, crypto has come a long way when it comes to being the fraud network with a promise of ‘easy money’.
Ditto with NFTs. It’s all monkey 🙈 money! Not that crypto/NFTs are fundamentally a bad idea, but we moved way too fast and broke everything that came along.
Edtech : CBCs to be precise
CBCs (Cohort based courses): A cute jargon thanks to a16z and Gagan Biyani (ex-Udemy), CBCs were nothing but rehashed concept of batches.
Fyi: I have taught product management to more than 300 practitioners over 20+ batches and the excitement about CBC jargon felt as if the entire world has just woken up to the concept of batches (did we not go to school and were part of sections?).
Only to realize that CBCs won’t change the upskilling landscape and isn’t very scalable - the real practitioners do not have the bandwidth and fake ones have a ceiling of (fake) knowledge.
Again. A great concept, but overhyped.
DAOs are an extremely powerful notion - but still untested in terms of benefits (and even implementation at scale).
A promising tech hit by pre-matured scaling and a lot of a16z hype.
Send me links of 10 no-code apps that have scaled very well.
No-code is a great *assisted tech*, but it just can’t replace the drill of building a real product (sad but true).
Except for no-code platforms themselves, there are very few developers even excited about these as everybody knows that it does take a lot of effort to build something of value.
Yes, you use nocode as a CMS etc etc, but building consumer-facing products at scale is a different ballgame. In the enterprise space, there is a lot of value in nocode world (for a new product that I am launching, a lot of backend runs on app script/firebase, but limited to usecases).
Lending is neither fintech nor a feature (sorry, Kunal).
The world understood this after burning millions of dollars.
Ofcourse, there are so many useful cases of fintech and there are some great companies building in this space, but the world has hopefully now realized that lending is neither fin nor tech.
Ditto with Neobanks. What are the top 10 usecases? This isn’t a bad idea, but didn’t deserve so much hype.
Product management career
As somebody who has been deep into product management function, it surprises me that PM career became so hot that all I could see was hot air balloons 🎈 everywhere.
There were a flurry of ‘Crack Product Management interview’ courses
(CBCs 😎 ) and the world produced interview hustlers.
Not the ones who cared deep about the craft, but the PMs who could write user stories without ever talking to users!
During the pandemic time, audio startups (like clubhouse) definitely made a lot of sense - but it was touted as ‘the conference killer’, ‘the future of meetings’.
What was a great feature idea, became the core product and the entire world just bought into the frenzy created by a16z team (kudos to them for pulling it off by bringing in all the possible tech celebrities).
All the tech platforms (Spotify, Reddit etc) prioritised audio and now, they are all killing it for the lack of sound engagement in it.
Again, a16z induced hype 😎
(I wrote about clubhouse-as-a-service idea, which I still believe holds value.)
What’s common across all these hyped up trends. How to spot misguided one?
The common attribute among all these trends was:
Web3/crypto bros (and sis) know this shit.
Everybody started running away from engg to become a PM..which of course is a ‘managerial’ role. Result? We have more PMs than products.
Shortcut to success
Right from Fintech to CBCs, the idea was to skip the tough part and jump into cool things - marketing/acquiring customers, without building anything of value.
The brutal truth is that the market is always right. Market is in no hurry to lap up your *trending or funded* product. Market takes its own time to decide.
Market knows it all.
Why is now a good idea to reflect upon earlier hypes?
Because we are again entering a new hype cycle - driven by AI. There will be many products that will create a lot of value and many will just peddle on BS side of the world.
If you are a VC, take a deep breath and check your notes about the above mentioned fake trends - see what was your ‘THESIS’ and where did you go right / wrong (feel free to share notes with me in private).
If you are a founder, a builder - do the same and ask yourself: are you born to be a part of hype cycles, ride those waves or wanna create something of value?
Are you a missionary or a mercenary builder?
FYI: Missionary founders build the product /service because they love the customer, because they love the product, because they love the problem statement.
The mercenaries build the product or service so that they can flip the company and make money.