BOOK REVIEW: The Third Wave by Steve Case

An Entrepreneur's Vision

In the Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision for the Future Steve Case, co-founder of America Online (AOL) and chairman of the Case Foundation, shares his vision of the “third wave” of technology innovation.

The book is a quick read that is well-written and well-paced. Case weaves the story of the rise of AOL throughout the book. He shares personal anecdotes on the challenges he faced building the largest Internet company (at the time). He doesn’t shy away from the difficulties and mistakes he learned from during the AOL/Time Warner merger.

The book is particularly valuable because he lays out a framework and context for what he believes to be the future of tech innovation. He talks about the obstacles that could stand in the way of that innovation and offers suggestions for leveraging this “wave” in order to ride it to success.

What Is the Third Wave?

The Third Wave of the Internet is coming, the moment where the Internet transforms from something we interact with to something that interacts with everything around us.
— Steve Case

Case identifies three waves of technology innovation that have followed the Industrial Age:

  1. Building the Internet–companies like IBM, AOL, Apple, etc.
  2. App Economy and Mobile Revolution–companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.
  3. Internet of Everything–?

Case distinguishes between the IoT (Internet of Things) and the “Internet of Everything.” He asserts that in the coming years asking if a device or service is “Internet-enabled” will be as silly as asking if an appliance or building is “electricity-enabled.”

The Challenges of the Third Wave

Because this new “wave” of the Internet will affect every area of our lives, the barriers for entrance for the innovator will be higher.

Industries like education, healthcare, transportation and banking are heavily regulated and resistant to change by the nature of the roles they play in our lives. Tech innovators will need to build teams who can navigate the execution of building the company as well as the challenges of navigating public policy.

Case admonishes readers not to “confuse your views of government with the role of government, which can be either an impediment to progress or a driver of it.”

The Impact of the Third Wave

Case believes that much of the innovation that comes from the Third Wave will be from entrepreneurs who want to create what he calls “profit plus purpose” companies. In addition to profitability, these companies–often driven my Millennials–will seek to create a measurable impact in the world.

By working together and executing with precision, Case insists that “we can remain the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nation.”

Leveraging the Third Wave

If Case’s track record as a visionary of what tech innovation could and will look like in the future is an indication, the Third Wave is already upon us. The smart executives recognize this reality and work to gain from it. The smart innovators and entrepreneurs build the teams that can execute effectively in this new paradigm.

Case closes the book with a chapter entitled, “Ride the Wave.” He offers a summary of key takeaways and then addresses several key stakeholders in the Third Wave–entrepreneurs, corporate America, and government. He then pleads with “all sides” to keep communication open, insisting that there is a role for all to play in the Third Wave. Then he asks the reader to go beyond herself. To get America back on track and lead the Third Wave and beyond.

It will take all of us to successfully navigate this impending shift in the status quo. For decades we have educated and exported the world’s brightest and innovative minds. The rest of the world has been watching, imitating and learning from the innovation in the United States.

In the Third Wave, the competition is stiff. Our nation has slashed R&D funding while other countries have increased spending in these areas. As the frontrunner in innovation, we have to continue to run lean. To innovate. To execute. To invest in what’s really important. We have to create the world that we want to wake up to every morning. The choice is ours. Each one of us as an individual can decide to make an impact.

So, Case urges, “Be fearless. You may stumble but get back up. Keep going…Build something that makes you proud–but not satisfied enough to stop dreaming about what comes next.”


Originally published at The Pivot Point Blog.