Five Reasons to be positive about the future of the Tech Industry
By Julia Barber, Director of Platform Engagement at Zeren.
“What a time to be alive,” said a friend of mine who is a senior commercial lead at a B2B SaaS business last week [pause, draws breath] “I am ready to be catapulted to a different planet.”
Steady on. I said.
Notwithstanding the fact that he’s Dutch and dramatic, I thought this was a bit much even given the permacrisis headlines of the last 12 months.
True, the macroeconomic climate is gloomy, geopolitics looks increasingly fraught, the cost of living crisis rages and everyone is on strike.
We are now in the territory of multiple rounds of cuts in big tech and most of us know someone who has been affected. Everybody but everybody’s expectations for the post-pandemic roaring 20s have been managed down.
And yet. And yet.
For those of us who have experienced multiple financial crises, it’s easy to be jaded, close our eyes, cover our ears and tell anyone who will listen that this too shall pass. But I think it becomes us to put a little bit of a brighter shine on things.
A few whimsically pulled-together ideas as to why the end of the world is definitely not nigh:
1. The media loves melodrama
There’s no denying that things are a bit grim. And it’s not just the layoffs: concerns about privacy, income inequalities exacerbated by tech, the FAANG monopoly, dodgy CEOS and robots taking our jobs (see below) abound.
To quote Alex Lim of Blossom Capital via this weekend’s Times Business section on the wild days of 2021: “there was definitely too much capital in venture…”
But the thing to remember is that good news just doesn’t get eyeballs and in this ‘always on’ 24/7 news culture competition for our fleeting attentions has never been greater. So you can expect some flaming proclamations in the media that are simply designed to shock.
However. Whereas the headlines are often hysterical, the stats and the sentiment don’t quite bear it out.
While the days of ‘confetti capital’ might be over, Beauhurst reported last week that the figures around funding last year, although down, were nowhere near as apocalyptic as people had expected.
Kathryn Parsons of Decoded published an incredibly upbeat view of the gradual revival of the tech scene in San Fran just a few days back.
And even Techcrunch admitted in December that things were not all bad.
So let’s hang tight. Better times are coming.
2. We are in the grip of AI fever — and it feels great
The recent thrills and controversy, associated with ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion/Dalle-E etc. have been nothing short of “wait, let me get more popcorn…”
Face it, it feels good to balance the negative headlines with something that is genuinely progressive and leading edge. Who hasn’t marvelled at the sheer speed of CGPT? Who hasn’t genuinely started to wonder if their magic avatars look more like them than the real thing?
And if it’s a bubble, like the excitement surrounding Web3 talked about by Tim Ferris and Naval Ravikant to great effect last year, then really who cares. It will be fascinating to see where this one goes.
3. Layoffs can and will lead to innovation
I remember people packing up their boxes at Lehman Brothers in 2008 as if it were yesterday. It was sudden and shocking. And yet the outflux of those battle-hardened individuals into other sectors and scenarios had a positive knock-on effect.
If you boil it down and look through a simplistic hiring lens there are three types of tech professionals right now:
- not laid off
- laid off, will get reabsorbed into the industry
- laid off, will do something completely different
It’s this third category that’s fascinating as you can argue that other sectors will potentially have a shot at acquiring some great talents: NGOs, or the teaching profession for example.
But there is another aspect to this and that is there will undoubtedly be a number of individuals who use this juncture to flex their entrepreneurial muscles, start that business sooner, and get the MVP built.
I was super inspired recently to see a post by Doug Monro a former client and co-CEO / Founder of Adzuna inviting pitches for angel investment from the recent exits of big tech. It’s my hope that sooner rather than later, the pendulum will swing and we’ll start to see a number of new and innovative platforms/ideas rise from the ashes.
4. When your feet are in the fire, you up your game
It’s true that a rocking market will cover a multitude of sins. There are businesses that should not have gained as much traction as they did in the last couple of years and people that might not have been hired under anything like ‘normal’ circumstances.
To quote Warren Buffet “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
This goes for the talent industry as much as, maybe more than, any other — down markets help you hone your skills, perfect the craft, and work smarter.
You get better, basically. And that’s something to be really appreciative of.
5. The memes. Yes, the memes
The wild world of technology, where both early-stage high growth and more evolved big tech businesses are concerned, can seem truly insane at times. There have been moments this year already that have been absurd.
But what a gift it has been to Twitter 🔥
(*In fact, what a gift Twitter has been to itself, but that’s a separate story)
It all just goes to prove, that the cracks can also let in the light.
Here’s to 2023.
Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.
We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.
We partner with high-growth, VC/PE-backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.