It's only halftime in the global mobile revolution. The first part largely redefined how rich countries accessed the Internet. The second part will reinvent how the developing world gets education, healthcare, financial services and other basic needs.
If you ask me where the next big whitespace for VC is…I would point to the developing world.Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
This was the gist of weekend musings from Fred Wilson, a leading venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures and a prolific blogger. Wilson's thoughts offer a path out of the thicket of chatter out of the ongoing South by Southwest conference, where tech innovators came under fire for not using their vast potential to address serious issues.
“It’s not enough just to focus on what’s the cool next thing,” President Obama said from the SXSW stage. “Part of what we have to do is to figure out how do we use and harness the cool next thing to make sure that everybody in this country has opportunity.”
Brian Reich, director of Hive and writing on VentureBeat, said “SXSW should be the ultimate playground for people trying to solve complex problems and have a meaningful, measurable impact on the world. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.”
Or maybe it is, in the minds (and occasionally the portfolios) of venture capitalists. Wilson, an early backer of Kickstarter, Etsy and dozens of other companies, posted his thoughts in response to a tweet from another VC, Andreessen Horowitz's Benedict Evans, on Saturday that included a chart showing the projected doubling of smartphone adoption by 2020.
We sometimes think of the shift to mobile as finished, or almost finished. It isn't. pic.twitter.com/l5gaiMlaoU
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) March 12, 2016
The next 2.5 billion people to adopt smartphones will largely be located in the developing world.
“They will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all – from the web or from the offline world,” writes Wilson. “I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like.”
“If you ask me where the next big whitespace for VC is,” writes Wilson. “I would point to the developing world.”
The next 2.5 billion people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all – from the web or from the offline world…
I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister…
Where do we go to find the big mobile opportunities of this second revolution? Do we go to Asia where they are having a very different looking mobile revolution? Do we go to Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia?
I would like to believe that entrepreneurs all over the world now have the capabilities (both technical and financial) to build game changing and disruptive new services and launch them in their countries and regions of the world…
So I am excited to watch this second mobile revolution unfold. It may be an opportunity for US-based VCs like me. But more likely it will be an opportunity for VCs and early stage investors who have had the courage and foresight to set up shop in these emerging locations…
If you ask me where the next big whitespace for VC is, I would point to the developing world. It doesn’t come without its risks and roadblocks, but it feels to me that it has enormous potential.