Om Malik on the Silver Lining effect of crises on tech innovation

Om Malik, partner at True Ventures, founder of GigaOm, and colleague of mine from the early days of, has written a great piece on the positive impact of recessions, pandemics, and bubbles. Drawing on his first-hand experience in San Francisco’s tech scene after the combination punches of the collapse and 9/11 attacks, Om celebrates the impact of grim times on entrepreneurs who take the opportunity during dips in the economic cycle to invent the next big thing.

Flickr, web applications like Yahoo and Gmail, social media, tagging, and other fundamentals of the social media revolution all blossomed out of the dark pessimism of the early millennial years. As coders and creators are freed from the tedium of improving old tools — partially by finding themselves out of a job with time on their hands — and the distractions of an over-hyped market where too much money chases too few valid ideas, the result of a depressed techonomy can be the invention of entirely new categories of tools and services.

The crisis has given us a chance to take a step back, and think about what’s possible in the future. The simple fact a third of American workers were able to continue working remotely is a testament to the original vision of the Internet as a military network capable of withstanding a targeted strike. Without the connectivity of the Internet and near ubiquity of broadband home connections, the option to social distance wouldn’t have been imaginable. Smart entrepreneurs look at a crisis — be it a virus or a recession or an act of terrorism — seeking what was revealed, what was missing, and what will persist in the future. The post COVID world won’t be all about on-demand shopping. Instead it could be about resilient on-demand manufacturing that is automated and optimized. It won’t be telemedicine. It will be new bio-sensors and technologies that are in sync with our reality a decade from now.

Why every tech downturn has a silver lining, Om Malik