x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Got a great idea for an app? Join the queue

Got a great idea for an app? Join the ever-growing queue of budding entrepreneurs.

Not so long ago, kids used to dream of starting a band that would change the world. These days, that ambition sounds a little odd. The thing is, popular music doesn't change the world anymore. It hasn't for quite a while.

Of course, there was a time when pop music really did change the world. From the mid-1950s (Elvis) to the late 1970s (the Sex Pistols), music was the primary vehicle of a social revolution that transformed the consciousness and lifestyles of people in developed nations. By the end of the '70s, that social revolution was pretty much done. Today, pop music has reverted to role it played before it hitched itself to the mid-20th-century social revolution: it's just entertainment. Rihanna is great and everything, but world changing? Not so much.

Which leaves a question. What does a kid do today if she wants to change the world? The answer is pretty clear. She starts a technology company. Who is the Generation Y-er that has done most to change our world? It sure isn't Lady Gaga. But you could make a strong case for Mark Zuckerberg. The revolutionary force sweeping through our lives right now - changing the way we think and live - are the connective technologies: if you want to change the world, that's where the action is.

It's against this backdrop that we've seen the emergence of a lifestyle trend that's increasingly hard to ignore. These days, it's not just kids trying to change the world by starting a tech company. Everywhere you look, start-ups are springing into being. Sometimes, it seems every other friend, colleague, and second cousin is launching their own app, Kickstarting their peer-to-peer vegetable sharing business, or 3D-printing their revolutionary new design for a napkin holder. Truly, we are all entrepreneurs now.

In March, Companies House in the UK reported that registration of new companies was at a record level, up 7% on last year (which was itself a record year). UK companies are now being registered at a rate of 41,000 a month. Meanwhile, big tech brands are queuing up to offer support to these legions of new entrepreneurs. Google Campus, opened last year in central London, offers two floors of workspace to budding start-ups.

Meanwhile, this year HUB Dubai will become the first Arab outpost of the worldwide HUB start-up programme, and will offer space for entrepreneurs to work and connect. The number of tech start-ups being launched each year in the UAE is set to double by 2015, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The result of this start-up frenzy? Endless innovation, most of which will fail. But that's a good thing. It takes a ton of innovation, and a ton of failure, to get a few successes. And crucially, the barriers to entry have never been lower, meaning its possible to try to fail without it costing years of your life and sending you bankrupt.

So forget that novel you've always told yourself you'd write one day. Start working on your app idea, instead.


David Mattin is the lead strategist at trendwatching.com

For more trends, go to www.thenational.ae/trends