The One Trend That Defines Our Generation, for Better or Worse

Looking back on history, we can define the baby-boomer generation as one that revolted against social norms and questioned the status quo. This was exemplified by everything from civic protests to journeys to the moon. This trend was admired and studied thoroughly by subsequent generations.

Today’s young adults, specifically those who are grouped as Generation Y or Millennials, are already demonstrating a lasting trend that will undoubtedly have ramifications on the future of business, commerce, society and life: valuing life experiences over tangible things and status symbols.

Just as prior generations valued more traditional things like home ownership, job stability and the attainment of college degrees, millennials simply aren’t following suit. Home ownership among this group is on a decline and will likely not uptick any time soon.

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Is This The Future of Investing?

The landscape of financial investing has entered a new arena. One that goes beyond stocks, mutual funds, real estate and companies. You can now add one new area to your portfolio that will truly help in your effort to diversify.

‘People’ are the new investment vehicle.

In a manner that reflects more of Silicon Valley than Wall Street, we are seeing the emergence of companies that offer opportunities for investors to purchase pieces of future earnings of people’s careers. This is enabling people who may or may not be able to obtain capital through other means to receive money to further their professional aspirations.

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Why The Developing World May Eventually Lead in Mobile Innovation

The rapid economic growth in the developing world should come as no surprise to anyone. China, Brazil, Russia, India, Southern and Northern Africa are all areas where incomes are rising and quality of life is dramatically improving.

Continued growth will partially come from increasing connectivity to the internet, and therefore, connectivity to the entire world and all the information it has to offer. While an estimated two billion, of the roughly seven billion people in the world, currently have some form of internet access, the remaining five billion will soon hit the ground running. Fast.

Yet, early signs are demonstrating that the developing world will not enter the internet age through the same linear path that we did.

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Five Amazing Innovations Most Americans Know Nothing About

If you are a regular consumer of tech news, live in one of the technology echo chambers (i.e. Silicon Valley) or have a family member in the industry, you’ve likely become familiar with today’s most innovative products and services. However, if you are not among this group, then your familiarity with technology may be limited to what is stocked on the shelves in your local mall.

In a continual effort to identify radically new products and services, I’ve compiled a of list innovations that haven’t become mainstream yet but share a common characteristic in that they all can (and in my opinion- will) become something huge. [Disclaimer: This list is by no means complete and consists of technologies that I find uniquely interesting based on my perspective, your list may differ]

With that said, here are five amazing innovations that I believe most Americans know nothing about:

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Online Content & Our Generation: We are Demanding, Not Cheap

By many, we are defined as a generation that is unwilling to pay for online content. One that is too comfortable with piracy. When I say ‘we’ I am referring to the same generation that developed piracy platforms like Naptster, LimeWire and Pirate Bay. But now that we’ve grown up through a period where technology and content overloads our every-waking moment, we’ve changed our habits.

The longstanding belief that we are not willing to pay for content on the internet has caused businesses to rely on advertisement-based models and other diluted consumer experiences. I would argue that the initial premise is completely wrong. Consumers are not cheap. What we are is a generation that knows what we want and wants it on-demand. On our schedule.

For this, we are more than willing to pay for content. Music, movies, television and news all fall into this category and are things that businesses can generate meaningful revenue from, when done right. Furthermore, some would estimate that these industries can see multi-fold increases in profits by taking this approach, despite their already profitable and archaic models.

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Ephemeral Technology: The Future of the Social Web?

Eliminate the intricate features and add user constraint. Deny people the ability to retain content forever. Then, you are on your way to growth. This appears to be part of the narrative that emerging social apps are leveraging. And they are achieving success with this approach.

Snapchat, Vine and similar companies have become mainstream and commercial successes, yet they contain mechanisms that limit user content. Whether it is the time that someone can view something or the amount of characters you can write or the amount of time you can record something, constraint is here.

Why? Experts in the field cite that this level of limitation forces users to do more with less, often creating a better product. Even if the result is a basic image with a text overlay. One of the first companies to add such constraint was Twitter, which limits each message to 140 characters. Twitter CEO said that ‘real constraint creates and emboldens creativity’ from its users.

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Factors Affecting the Success of Google Glass (and similar devices)

The current rate of innovation is astounding and exciting for all fans of technology. One specific product-type that I’ve become increasingly interested in is wearable computing devices. These products are capable of recording videos, taking pictures,  delivering content directly into a screen in front of a consumers face, all while being location-aware and personalized to the user.

If I was a betting man, I would place a big wager on the future of wearable computing devices like Google Glass and similar products. Despite countless critics dismissing it as a niche product for geeks and nerds, I take the opposing stance and believe its future more closely reflects that of mobile phones. I would argue that the value to consumers and society are largely obvious, just yet unrealized by much of the public.

However, there are significant hurdles that could prevent these innovative concepts from becoming part of our every day life. Beyond the technical challenges faced by these innovative manufacturers, I think there are some obvious and non-obvious challenges on the road ahead. The bottom line is that there are certain and very specific things that will need to occur in order for wearable computing devices to become widespread and prevalent.

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Note to Tech Entrepreneurs: Dumb It Down A Little

Entrepreneurs often think they are pretty smart, otherwise, they likely wouldn’t attempt to create a business through a process that is so difficult. They love technology and you build tech and web products that do really cool things. Whether you are an entrepreneur, sales guy or hacker in the tech space, you know the technology of your product and its features. The problem is that you probably often forget that your customers or users don’t understand technology nearly as much as you. To be honest, most times, they don’t care how it works. All they care about is that it works. However, this technological disconnect between you and your customers is important to understand.

In marketing, web design, sales pitches and every interaction point between your customer and the product, your customer needs to understand all the value that your product offers. Communicating the important aspects of value is important, but can be extremely difficult when dealing with very technical products. Focus on what matters and what will be easiest to persuade a potential customer convert into a paying customer. Using language that they don’t understand will not achieve this goal.

For example, if you are selling enterprise software to the human resources department, don’t begin the first conversation with details about the agile development process you used, hosting server environments or how robust your software will be. Upon immediate interaction, these things don’t matter. A human resources officer understands human resources issues. Communicate and discuss why your software will be useful and valuable. As much as we like to brag about the real differences between our product and the other guys, we must work to hold it back sometimes.

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Your Biggest Competitor Is Not Who You Think It Is

Your closest competitor just received great exposure in a major publication and then landed $5 million in venture funding. You are probably thinking that it is time to chase the editor of a great news source then start pitching your company to venture capitalists as well. Before you go and try playing catch up with who you think is your direct competitor, pause for a moment to consider your thought process.

David Cancel wrote a truly insightful post on this very topic, where he outlines that your biggest competitor is customer apathy. It is not the company who sells the same product to your target market, it is customer apathy. Why? For many market segments, especially in this post-recession period, your customer will be making the decision of whether or not to use your product or service or nothing at all. You will be fighting harder than ever to earn their dollar. Positioning yourself against the competition is not the key.

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The Risks and Rewards of Platform Dependency

Because of the great success of so many internet giants like Facebook and Twitter, the door has been opened for web developers and entrepreneurs to leverage the large masses of users and data to build great products and services. Once a great internet company provides access to their platform through their open API, you can be off to the races creating the next Farmville or TweetDeck.

However, building your product or service on the platform of a bigger company has its costs and its benefits. Here is a list of risks and rewards that any entrepreneur should be aware of prior to getting the wheels rolling on a platform-dependent startup:

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