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Fire, toilets and technology

Fire, toilets and technology

02 Apr 2014

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When I tell people I’m a technology investor industry insiders tell me it’s impossibly broad to be covering it all. On the other hand, those outside the industry consider it an impossibly small niche. So who is right?

Rewind 400 thousand years to the prehistoric discovery of fire, humanity’s first, and hottest, technology breakthrough. Imagine the excitement at caves around the world when someone showed up with the latest flints and tinder then literally set the place on fire. Everyone would have talked about this technology that delivered cooked food and warm winter nights. By the Bronze Age, fire is no longer “technology” and instead the label applies to copper smelting and tin alloys. Only historians remember the incremental steps, which were each heralded as the next big thing – like sliced bread! To give another example, when was the last time you talked about “toilet technology”?

The dictionary says technology is “putting scientific knowledge to practical purposes”, which I interpret as “people will pay“. This knowledge can have as dramatic an impact on markets as if you had put a match to them and is the fuel behind our fastest growing businesses. For me, technology investing means focusing on the ever moving confluence of scientific knowledge, practical applicability and willingness to pay.

This means I’m not interested in science projects with no sign of a usable product and I’m also not interested in products that no one will ever pay for (grants and subsidies don’t count). This narrows the field to enough to make it manageable for me. However, unless humanity stops wanting more or stops inventing ways to deliver it I think there’s enough “technology” out there to keep me busy for a while!


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