Riding the technology hype wave

hype cycle

Technologists and business people are constantly looking for the next big thing. And wannabee entrepreneurs are looking for a technology wave that they can surf to riches.

But how can you tell a hyped market like the Internet of Things (IOT) from a genuine platform changes, like PCs to smartphones?

Gartner Group, a leader in technology analysis for decades, has a tool which is well worth reviewing whatever your interest in technology change. Here’s how Gartner pitches its hype cycle analytic tool:

Interpreting Technology Hype
When new technologies make bold promises, how do you discern the hype from what’s commercially viable? And when will such claims pay off, if at all? Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.

Note how Gartner outlines the problem in the first two sentences: how to tell hype from a commercially viable technology innovation and will the promises made by the evangelists for the megatrend, today it’s block chain and it’s complement, cryptocurrencies  – pay off? And I would add, and pay off to whom? Gartner then succinctly provides the solution to the problem it has posited: how to view the way a technology or application evolves over time.

Finally what is product of the product? Providing a sound source of insight to manage the new technology deployment – mainly addressed to its B2B enterprise clients. Gartner illustrates this with a powerful graph, plotting Expectations on the Y-axis against Time on the X-axis. The Gartner Group really knows how to pitch. Founders can learn how to pitch a concept from Gartner’s Hype Cycle web marketing page..

Gartner then goes on to applyd the classic adoption cycle popularized by Gregory Moore in his classic book Crossing the Chasm to answer my “to whom?” question.  Are you an early adopter? Certainly if you are a founder you are. But if you are in a mature enterprise you most likely fall into the bulge in the classic bell-shaped curve of the technology adoption life cycle – the early and late majority. If you perceive too many unanswered questions, such as will blockchain be able to handle thousands of transactions per second when today it can’t even handle thousands per minute ,then you are a late adopter: waiting and watching to see what your peers and competitors do. Certainly a losing strategy for a startup!

The starting point of the technology’s life cycle is what Gartner calls the Innovation Trigger. For the Web it was the first graphical browser, developed by college student, now very successful VC Mark Andreesen and Eric Bina at the University of Illinois.  Andreesen later co-founded Netscape with Jim Clark to commercialize the Mosaic web browser he and Eric Bina had developed. Of course. the insane hockey stick growth of the web led to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, followed by the .com crash, which fits all too neatly into Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment.  The Web has long since climbed out of the Trough and is now on the Plateau of Productivity.

If you buy into Gartner’s Hype Cycle then it’s well worth your time to apply it to historic trigger events in your market and then apply it to one of the most recent innovation triggers such as CRISPR, a tool that enables genetic editing.

If you buy into Gartner’s Hype Cycle as I do, I recommend you read my post on the criticality of market timing: What’s the biggest reason startups fail?

I believe relentless persistence is the key discriminator between startups that succeed and those that fail. And it takes relentless persistence to ride the dangerous wave of the Hype Cycle through the Trough of Disillusionment to the very profitable Plateau of Productivity.


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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