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Where does Steve Case see Opportunity? The Third Wave – A Review of Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in the Years to Come

By: C’pher Gresham, National Director of Expansion


Steve Case, the preeminent entrepreneur and investor, wrote his first book “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future”, about the future of the Internet. While adopting a forward-thinking perspective, Case incorporates his experience as the founder of AOL to demonstrate how the next phase of technological development, referred to as the Third Wave, will shape the future for entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and society. I dove into this book while on a weekend trip escaping the Phoenix summer heat.

the thirrrd wave

There are several elements woven into the book that make “The Third Wave” not only a great read, but a thought-provoking read. Mr. Case tackles great swathes of futuristic thinking including: how the Third Wave acts as the newest phase of the internet, how the tide is shifting from traditional innovation clusters to cities across the USA, and finally, how impact investing will play a greater role in the years to come.


The Third Wave is the internet of everything.


Mr. Case begins the book by explaining each of the three Internet waves. The First Wave of the Internet built essential infrastructure – literally connecting the physical infrastructure with cables and building modems to transmit data between computers.  The Second Wave connected people and built on top of the existing infrastructure. The Second Wave has produced powerhouses like Google and Facebook. The Third Wave will create the “Internet of Everything” through deep connections within every portion of people’s lives and by becoming ingrained in every business. Gone will be the days of another app, but now a company will integrate technology into every aspect of their business, from managing supply chains to creating a technologically enabled wearable devices.


Industries that Case highlights as ripe for innovation are healthcare, education, energy, and food. With these high barrier- to-entry industries, Case indicates that more similarities exist between the First Wave and the Third Wave than between the Third and Second Wave, and successful companies will need to lead with partnership, policy, and perseverance.


Founder of Primary Book Club, a company that provides caregivers of kids ages 0-5 with developmentally appropriate books accompanied with teaching guides, and SEED SPOT Alumni, Erin Witmer, explains her perspective on his theory – “Unlike the second wave where the motto of “move fast and break things” worked, the third wave, much like the first wave, will require more diplomacy. Take the education space, where we operate. We’re not looking to “disrupt” an industry, we’re looking to fill a huge gap we see in it.”


Witmer further explains how Primary Book Club has leveraged technology that is interwoven into the fabric of her business, while still delivering physical goods. She suggests that interactions with caregivers are critical to a young child’s development and “replacing adult interaction with technology, or an ‘app’, would not benefit our youngest learners”. Instead, Primary Book Club uses technology to
facilitate learning in an individualized way” by integrating it into the real world interactions caregivers have with young children. Witmer asserts that “we are using technology to encourage, adapt, and enhance those interactions— not replace them.”


The Future of Innovation is Everywhere


Case proposes that geographic diversity in the entrepreneurial movement will be vital to maintaining the competitiveness of America and all across America. With support from research by the Kauffman Foundation, Case argues that startups are the engines of our economy and have accounted for the wide majority of all new net job creation. When you couple the growth engine of our economy with the geographic locations where Third Wave transformation is occurring, vast opportunities become evident outside of the tradition entrepreneurial hubs such as Silicon Valley and Boston. Referring to this phenomenon as the “Rise of the Rest,” Case documents his tour around the US investing in startups in emerging ecosystems.


At SEED SPOT, we too have believed in and have witnessed firsthand that entrepreneurs everywhere are creating valuable, high-growth companies that are tackling high barrier industries. SEED SPOT Phoenix has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs ranging industries from healthcare to financial technologies.


Growth of a New Type of Investing – Impact Investing


In the final chapters of his book, Case dives into an emerging trend in the investment world – the idea that investing can be for more than pure financial gain. While not directly tied to the Third Wave, fledgling companies that operate beyond mere for-profit ideals help reinforce the momentum of the Third Wave. Case defines impact investing as the “bridge between traditional business and philanthropy- and between financial return and social good.” In practice, this means an investor has the power to generate financial return AND produce a societal benefit. Revolution, Case’s venture firm, and The Case Foundation, run by Case’s wife Jean Case, have been involved in promoting impact investing on a global scale.


The idea of a business being sustainable by generating a financial return and producing a benefit for society is inherently ingrained in the work we do at SEED SPOT. Our work with social entrepreneurs is driven by the belief and the data that consumers are choosing more socially-conscious brands and that these social enterprises will create a more sustainable future for all to enjoy.  Case points out that evidence of this growing trend has become more mainstream with the largest players in the capital pipeline developing funds and teams to deploy impact investments to emerging companies.


“The Third Wave” provides a history lesson from the entrepreneur that brought widespread Internet access to the USA with the “You’ve Got Mail” soundbite, but focuses decidedly on the future and what comes next. For any entrepreneur or individual with an idea this is a must-read that will serve as your very own “Eye of the Tiger” fight song. For me, this book painted an optimistic future the will be led by visionaries looking to transform the world for the better. At SEED SPOT, we are ready to support those visionaries in cities across the USA.



SEED SPOT welcomes all dreamers to participate in our expansion.

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Lauren McDanell

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