Evaluating the prospects for life changing inventions

This morning Chris Dixon posted The typical path of life changing inventions:

  1. I’ve never heard of it.
  2. I’ve heard of it but don’t understand it.
  3. I understand it, but I don’t see how it’s useful.
  4. I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
  5. I use it, but it’s just a toy.
  6. It’s becoming more useful for me.
  7. I use it all the time.
  8. I could not imagine life without it.
  9. Seriously, people lived without it?
  10. It’s too powerful and needs to be regulated

That’s pretty accurate, but with the exception of 10. maybe not that surprising. It reminds me of the Mahatma Ghandi quote “first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win”, but extended and ported to a different context.

However, most would be life-changing inventions don’t make it all the way to number 10 and the interesting thing for future gazers, including VCs, is assessing how far a product will get. That requires an understanding of customers, use cases, ecosystems, cost trajectories and distribution, and it’s definitely not sufficient to think that if a product is at one stage it will progress to the next. For example, most products that people know about but don’t understand it (i.e. at stage 2) whither and die, and to know that any given product is different requires a hypothesis about how people will come to understand it and see how it’s useful.

  • http://www.globalfounders.london Sierra Choi

    I really like how you added #10 It’s too powerful and needs to be regulated as that wasn’t in Chris Dixon’s original post. I’d like to add however, that #10 seems to typically occur after #1 I’ve never heard of it or #2 I’ve heard of it but don’t understand it…at least in the U.S. especially in nascent technology (eg, nanofactories, human cloning) and also in biotech (eg, FDA’s actions against 21&Me, Theranos). By the time it reaches #9 Seriously, people lived without it?, all the regulations have been lifted.