Steve Case and Yossi Vardi take the stage at the end of the conference for a look back at the early days of the internet and some thoughts on what its future might hold.
When Steve Case started AOL, only 3% of the American public were online. Those 3% were only online on average one hour a week. “When we said we wanted to get America online, we were dead serious” quipped case.
By 2000 AOL had taken enough Americans online to be able to purchase Time Warner and become one of the largest online media companies ever seen at the time.
How did they get there? “Early on our bet was that the killer app would be people”. Mr. Case was convinced community had to be the foundation of their company.
A community of which he saw himself as Mayor. Part of his mayoral duties included writing a monthly newsletter to customers. Case admitted to Yossi Vardi that he still had a binder full of those newsletters at home. Unlike Yossi, who asked if there were any plans of turning them into a book, Steve wasn’t convinced anyone would be interested in reading them again.
“I don’t know if I would be interested.” he explained.
Leaving the past, Steve explained his idea of the phases of the internet. The first phase was simply building it. The second wave was building apps and services on top of the internet. The next 15 years will see the third phase. Integrating the internet in a seamless and invisible way throughout our lives. In areas that haven’t yet been disrupted by the first two phases.
“Partnerships will be far more important”. Collaborations and cooperations will define the next wave, as will policy and politics. “Governments are not just the principal regulator” principals will also be the principal customer as companies start moving into areas like healthcare and education.
“If you want to disrupt health, you want to disrupt education, you will have to figure out ways to engage in this new kind of way”. Case is convinced there will be some unbelievable companies created. But those companies will need to have an entirely new skill set. A skill set that needs to be developed now.
“Steve, let’s talk about the Future”, Yossi Vardi jokes.
After talking about the past and his vision of the future, Yossi asked Steve to talk about his company, Revolution.
Revolution invests about 250 million dollars a year in projects and companies that Steve believes have the potential to become transformative companies. Health has been one focus, education has been another focus.
“We recently backed a company called Sweet Dream that is trying to revolutionise healthy eating”
He notes that Chipotle is worth 15 billion dollars and he thinks Sweet Dream could be the Chipotle of their business space.
Yossi asked Steve about his civic projects. “The reason we are the leader of the free world” is because America is an entrepreneurial nation. He encouraged everyone in the audience to support immigration reform so the U.S. can maintain it’s entrepreneurial lead.
Steve and Yossi then moved on to talk about the sale of ICQ to AOL. “When we saw that WhatsApp fetched 19billion dollars we realised that you cheated a bunch of Israeli nice guys.” Said Yossi.