On Valentine’s Day 1997, I left my job as a newspaper journalist to work with the small, smart team who were building a pioneering news service for the web in a squat, Leeds-look, edge-of-centre office block. “You can always come back,” said my editor, “if this Internet thing doesn’t work out.”
For a long time I was genuinely grateful to know that. It was not that newspapers had got any less interesting, just that the world outside seemed to hold such potential.
The news service morphed from PA NewsCentre to Ananova. We were bought, as a team, by Hans Snook’s Orange. The very next week we moved a little further out of town and up in the world to the top floor of Marshall’s Mill where we surfed the amazing surge of mobile, from the “Matrix slider” to the ubiquitous smartphones. (By chance this also planted the historian in me among the ruins of the Industrial Revolution, the time when our city was part of true northern renaissance.)
It has been a brilliant ride – several times up, over and round the hype cycle with text-to-speech, the mobile web, mobile apps and most recently near-field communication and mobile payments.
At every turn, Orange has granted me and my colleagues a privileged vantage point as millions of people have their first encounters with the amazing worlds of web and mobile media. Thank you to everyone who has given me those opportunities.
If you clicked this link looking for a bitter expose of life inside big telco, this is not that post. Please make a back gesture on your device now, or try Paul Ford’s brilliant “Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley“.
It is not that operators have got any less interesting, just that the world outside seems to hold such potential.
Simon Wardley draws a business lifecycle from innovation to custom built to productisation, and finally to commoditisation. From his chart I draw two highly relevant conclusions:
- Lots of the stuff with which I have been privileged to play over the last decade and a half is approaching, or has already reached, the point of commoditisation.
- This is exciting, because it’s in the transition from product to commodity that services are born.
Together those two conclusions point to a Cambrian explosion of useful and engaging new services and business models.
Since handing in my notice at Orange I’ve had conversations with a wide range of people about what those services and business models might be. (Thank you, all of you. You know who you are :) I’ve also become even more convinced that human-centred service design and innovation techniques are the right tools for the job.
Next week I start my first freelance engagement with an amazing agency that is doing great stuff in this space. Longer term I’ll be looking for other clients and partners who are as excited as I am by all these opportunities. Want to know more? I’m at http://mattedgar.com