My vision for the socially connected future
It’s an exciting time to be in Silicon Valley. We can all agree that technology is advancing faster every day and infilitrating every possible industry - and we’re lucky enough to be exposed to it all. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, especially while reading The Startup of You (by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha), and I want to share my vision for the future I want to help create.
There are three socially-related things I believe will make people happier:
Improved network Intelligence: I have so many connections on various platforms to the point that I don’t know who I know anymore. I want technology that provides me with information on who I know, how often I communicate with them and on what platform, and generates my circles of friends automatically.
Connecting online to go offline, and using technology to increase quality of relationships with people we care about. Technology can’t replace relationships and right now social networks are optimized for loose connections (i.e. the thousand subscribers on Twitter or Facebook). As a result, it’s so easy to get lost in the instant gratification of likes and retweets that it’s like we are all alone together. There are two types of social capital, bridging and bonding. Bonding social capital includes close friends and family i.e. people you would ask big favors. Bridging social capital include people outside of your close network that you would discover nonredunant information from such as job opportunities, etc. Facebook is great for building bridging social capital since I can share articles and comment on, for example, Dave McClure’s posts. He can like those comments, which helps us become more familiar with each other. But we don’t yet have great tools for building or improving upon bonding social capital, and I believe that needs to change to strengthen our social ties to people who we do or should care about.
Expanding the social graph. I want to be intelligently connected to quality people I should meet. The tough part is getting people to want to make new friends, so generally there are three types of individuals that are motivated to meet new people: a) single people, b) people in new communities (i.e. college students), and c) connectors. While we are more connected than ever before, we have become more efficient at filtering out people who think differently. And with technology increasingly closing in on personalization, we are less and less exposed to ideas outside of our filtered social graph. Meeting quality people in different social graphs helps expose us to new ideas and passions we would never know otherwise, and that is a good thing.
This leads me to believe that the next wave of successful social entrepreneurs will require high emotional intelligence. The social age brings less proprietary technology and more value on user experience and network effects as defensibility strategies. To succeed in this venture, I believe we need to find entrepreneurs who are socially savvy in addition to technically competent, or at least pair cofounders that skillfully balance in those domains. This could also be an excellent way for non-traditional entrepreneurs (e.g. women) to successfully enter the startup scene, which will enrich the history and future of Silicon Valley.