Takeaways from Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Spend a few days with tech illuminati, and one can't help but feel the surging wave of technology that is changing lives, destroying paradigms, and democratizing information, politics, and networks. I am inspired by what I heard at this year's Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen.

The major themes at Brainstorm were social, local, mobile, cloud, open, and connected. Advertising dollars will continue to shift, targeted at unique locally defined customers. Brands will build loyalty through engagement. Individuals will have the power to start a movement leveraging dynamically connected global social graphs. Gaming will be a part of everyone's life, whether casual, social, or serious MMOG (massively multiplayer online game). There will be real economic value created in these markets. There will also be decade long deaths that will plague many of today's tech giants.

Indeed, much has been written lately about a "new bubble" -  I suppose when one observes the stratospheric valuations paid by buyers of select assets, one can certainly taste the froth. But let's understand a few facts about where technology is today vs. 2000. Then the Internet encompassed about 50 million people. In 2007, there were 1 billion Internet users. Today, there are 2 billion Internet users, roughly a 30 percent penetration of the world's population. That's a tremendous trajectory of growth, the fastest coming from emerging markets in Russia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe.

Mobility and social networks also serve to amplify the consumption, aggregation, and dissemination of information in real-time. Look no further than Egypt and Tripoli - its not only guns and economic power that can topple governments. Indeed, there are more mobile phones in Africa than in the U.S. There are 1 billion tweets every 5 days. We are only at the beginning of another tramsformative technology cycle - not a Ghostbusters' Dr. Venkman described market of free floating vaporous apparitions.

Since I stand at the intersection of these ideas, and the investing capital markets, my biggest observation is that there are limited pure play public investment opportunities that capture these new waves. That will likely continue to drive scarcity based valuations for the time to come. One can only hope that the economics around these markets develop faster than the rate at which scarcity declines.  

In the end, I learned more on the flight back to New York, where I received a handwritten note from Captain Denny Flanagan, our United Airlines pilot, thanking me for being a valued customer. Capt. Denny--you have it dead on. Personally engaging your customers in the conversation is how today's brands build loyalty.

So I will throw out a few tweets, tell my personal and professional social community about my observations, and then hurl an agitated bird at some infrastructure before landing in New York from the Brainstorm.


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