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Book Review: What the Third Wave Means for Entrepreneurship

Donna Harris

Cofounder & Co-CEO, 1776

Imagine a world in which your smartphone warns you about a blood clot in your artery so you can jet to the hospital and get some true preventive medicine before you have a stroke.

Picture tablets school-age children use to solve math problems for homework alerting teachers when a student shows a pattern of struggling with how to divide fractions. The student’s teacher then steps in for customized instruction.

Now think of your oven flashing a red message in front of you that says it won’t bake the chicken you put into it for dinner because the meat is spoiled.

In the fast-approaching Third Wave of the Internet, that will be the real world — not a sci-fi thriller.

And it is the world my friend Steve Case envisions in his new book, The Third Wave, a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the massive economic shift we’re already beginning to experience.

Now that we’re online and mobile, we can start deploying even more groundbreaking technology to revolutionize our health, food, education, energy, money, and security. We can reshape our cities and the way we move around them.

But there’s a catch: Anything that sounds that spectacularly breathtaking is complex and hard to execute, as Case knows well. He offers candid, refreshingly honest details about what he and his contemporaries learned when they set out to first commercialize the Internet decades ago and explains how the entrepreneurs of today can apply those lessons as technology transforms everything we do.

He describes how in launching America Online he was forced to court enormous companies like Apple and IBM in order to gain access to markets. He chronicles in harrowing detail the monumental task of simply convincing the masses that the Internet would be a valuable resource for public consumption, as silly as that sounds now. And he reminds of the open access battles in the 1990s that gave way to the fight over net neutrality.

It’s no secret that Case is a visionary, and his view of the world to come is critical to grasp. But what makes Case’s book such a necessary tool for entrepreneurs is how he compares navigating the First Wave that he conquered to this looming next Third Wave.

What sets these two eras apart from the Second Wave is that this phase we’re leaving didn’t require nearly as much heft. The mobile applications that have exploded in recent years didn’t take the policy mastery, the partnership network or the perseverance that it took to set up the Internet. And transforming the sectors that touch every aspect of our lives like our hospitals, schools, and roads necessitate those same concepts.

Among the most important sentences in the book: “If you can’t figure out how to work with government — and how to get government to work with you — you’re likely not going to be a successful Third Wave entrepreneur.”

Donna Harris

Cofounder & Co-CEO, 1776

Donna is cofounder and co-CEO of 1776, a global incubator and seed fund that works to accelerate innovation to solve complex challenges. Under her leadership 1776 has grown from a…

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