Augmented Reality Entrepreneurship: Natural Evolution or Intelligent Design?

In his recent sermon to the augmented reality community, Bruce Sterling, envisaged the dawn of the AR industry.

He talked about things to avoid (magic) and things to embrace (style). He projected the inevitable: as multiple new AR companies give birth and mature – there will come a time of consolidation. We have seen this phenomenonĀ  occurring in many industries before: after going through excruciating pain of the early stage, some companies survive and others go belly up. Among the surviving companies we typically see a consolidation process including mergers and acquisitions.

It is called Natural Evolution, and is viewed by many as a healthy process. Weeding out the weak and letting the strong survive. Hey, after all it turned out well for humans (that’s what some of us think).

On the flip side, that process is far from being the most effective. Significant amounts of investment go to waste, great talent get burned out, and many truly useful products get buried along the path.

So, yes, we could put our blood and sweat, grind through the early stage pain or…we could consider an alternative approach. Dare I say Intelligent Design?

Don’t get alarmed, I am not thinking about a divine intervention…

hands

I am talking about Collaboration.

I should have called it Collaborative Design but that would have taken the punch out of the title, right?

Humor me for a moment and imagine the following scenario (you may close your eyes if it helps…):

A dozen young and ambitious pre-funded AR start ups meet to discuss how to join forces. They devise a collaborative plan that embraces an unmatched pool of talent covering all aspects of a successful company; they create an invincible business plan; they land a significant investment that offers the investing entities a much lower risk. They accelerate the delivery of products and services that work and delight users.

The biggest winners of this approach are naturally – the users.

They get what they want sooner, better, probably cheaper, and with a long term assurance for continuity.

How would this work?

Focus is probably the #1 trait entrepreneurs tend to attribute to the success of all – but especially young – companies. How do you maintain focus when you glue together different entities with different goals?

Definitely not an easy task. Especially when PEOPLE are involved (people tend to have issues and egos).

Federation is an approach that has proven to work in other domains. Each entity has its own leadership, goals, expertise and dedicated funds – and they all share a greater set of leadership, goals, expertise…and funds.

Many other difficulties and concerns will arise: How do you make decisions in such an organization? How do you know who to include prior to proven success? How do you avoid becoming an evil monopoly?

Smarter people than yours truly will have to take a stab at answering these questions. But once we can agree on the following guiding principle I think we’ll be well on our way. The principle is simply sharing a true passion for bringing augmented reality to the world while focusing on the user.

This is simple but powerful.

As Bernard Baruch, a leading banker and financier for much of this century said:

You don’t have to blow out the other fellow’s light to let your own shine.

Some will say it’s naive thinking. Others will say it’s revolutionary.
My friend Robert Rice joked that one day, in 10 years, MBA students will investigate this seemingly crazy initiative as a case study for alternative approaches to nurturing a successful industry…

Is it possible at all?

I truly believe it is. Every day I make an effort to walk the talk.

Robert and I – along with 8 AR companies – have founded The AR consortium as a step towards collaboration.

The timing is critical, though. This scenario is only plausible as long as the AR industry is still small as it is today (to my opinion it hasn’t even given birth yet.)

If you do believe in this approach, now is the time to act.

What will YOU do next?

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This post is largely inspired by the book Coopetition which changed my view of business.

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