Sunday, November 17, 2013

Permissionless innovation -- can the internet break us free?

Permissionless innovation means that the Internet serves as a global platform on which anyone can try out new, unorthodox ideas without the need to secure authorization from anyone -- and that freedom to experiment results in the flourishing of innovative online services that we have seen over the last decade or more. Is permissionless innovation reserved for just certain types of innovators, such as software developers? Anyone with a dynamic idea can leverage innovation and competition to grow within this electronic ecosystem. We see the ability to innovate spring to life without having to seek permission from your mom and pop, the boss, or investors. Freedom to build new mousetraps, better or not, is critical to the continued success of the Internet.

What risks could an entrepreneur run into? Prohibition attempts to eliminate potential risk through suppression of technology, products, or services, or outright censorship of content. Worse, governments may make anticipatory regulation controls -- preemptive, precautionary safeguards, including administrative regulation, government ownership or licensing controls, or restrictive defaults. In terms of market conditions, we might see a resilient space, where a business owner might need to employ education, awareness propagation, and empowerment to propel his/her idea forward. In my mind, ultimately adaptation serves as the greatest mitigation to these risks -- learn to live with risk, embrace trial-and-error experimentation, and evolve as one's understanding of one's audience or potential buys changes.

Let's look at Kickstarter, which, since its launch in 2009, has become the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. What makes the their model so interesting is accessibility for individuals and small organizations seeking a fresh way to build support for their work. With a winner-take all funding approach (if you don't reach your funding goal, no money changes hands), the most fleshed out ideas move forward. This is an awesome resource for testing concepts. Another interesting take-away is the core concept of “offering products and experiences unique to the project” rather than having funders “own” projects in any way. What is the real and unique value our potential contributors are seeking? Many times, it is a product. Kickstarted is not about investing, but about brining new products to market, without anyone's permission.

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