RSPA Recommended Read: The Third Wave

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, MSP, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA

No offense to Steve Case, but his name hasn’t crossed my mind since his AOL merged with Time Warner back in 2000. When I saw him listed on the spine of The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future on a discount store shelf, I actually had to ask myself, “Why does the name ‘Steve Case’ sound familiar?” But the book cost less than my original AOL monthly subscription, so I figured I’d take a flyer and perhaps learn something about what’s around the corner for our channel.

I certainly did.

Before I share some of the book’s most insightful passages, let’s lay out how Case explains the three waves of the Internet:

  • First Wave (1985-89) – Building the Internet: Laying the foundation for the online world (AOL, Apple, Cisco, IBM, Sprint, Sun Microsystems)
  • Second Wave (2000-15) – App Economy and Mobile Revolution: Search, social, and ecommerce startups grow on top of the internet (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Waze)
  • Third Wave (2016-) – Internet of Everything: Ubiquitous connectivity allows entrepreneurs to transform major, real-world sectors

Now to some top quotes and insights from the book:

  1. The Third Wave is the era when the Internet stops belonging to Internet companies. It is the era in which products will require the Internet, even if the Internet doesn’t define them. It is the era in which the term “Internet-enabled” will start to sound as ludicrous as the term “electricity-enabled.”
  2. Third Wave entrepreneurs will need to build partnerships across sectors.
  3. We are entering a new phase of technological revolution, a phase where the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives – how we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even how we eat. As the Third Wave gains momentum, every industry leader in every economic sector is at risk of being disrupted.
  4. Imagine a refrigerator that can determine whether your produce has been mishandled, or an oven that refuses to cook questionable meat. These are not the things of science fiction; they are the children of the Third Wave.
  5. The Third Wave is cresting. And whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to embrace it or a corporation trying to brace for it, this is not an event you can afford to ignore.
  6. No matter how beautiful the iPod or well-built the software, Apple couldn’t go to market alone. They still needed to license the music content, which meant building a working partnership with the same companies that would be threatened by Apple’s success.

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  1. While your product has to be great, your partnership skills may end up determining your success or failure.
  2. Your initial product may not survive its first contact with the marketplace. Or with regulators. You’ll just have to keep adjusting, tweaking, and pivoting.
  3. Incumbents often fail because they underestimate the speed at which the future is approaching. People at startups think about the future every day.
  4. Embrace self-disruption: Having built its reputation and revenue on selling printed books, Amazon recognized that the e-book industry would rule the future. So they built it themselves — the hardware and software — and now they own the past and the future.
  5. “50% of our business has changed in the last 10 years. The key to surviving is having an ownership culture.” Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens
  6. Disruption has broadened. Your competitors won’t just emerge from the low-end of your industry. Increasingly, they’ll come from other industries, too.
  7. It is no longer acceptable for businesses to see the world purely through the lens of profits and customers; there is also a patriotic duty to make our country stronger, our people more empowered, and the world better. That is as much a responsibility of business as it is of government.
  8. To those who consider themselves entrepreneurs: Our country – and the world — depends on you. Our future is going to rise and fall with the dreamers and doers, the builders of new technologies and the breakers of old orthodoxies.
  9. Let us worry a little less about our net worth and a little more about our net impact.
  10. Our most valuable resource — the endlessly firing neurons in the brains of our brightest people — ought to be directed at our biggest challenges.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.0/10

The Third Wave made me pause, think about the retail IT channel, and ask these six questions:

  • If all important products and advancements require the Internet, shouldn’t retail IT VARs make management of their merchants’ network – and everything connected to it – a top priority?
  • Are VARs and ISVs aggressively building next-gen technology partnerships? Are they thinking beyond standard credit card processing and additionally integrating contactless payments and smart wallets into their linecard? Do they stop at the POS or do they also have expertise in online ordering, IoT, AI, blockchain, cryptocurrency, and cybersecurity?
  • Does every leader at every company in our industry realize they can (and will) be disrupted? If yes, are they embracing self-disruption and taking appropriate action?
  • Are the incumbents in our industry thinking and acting like startups? Or are they comfortable plodding forward?
  • Have the leaders in our industry established “ownership cultures” which will enable them to adapt like entrepreneurs?
  • Is the retail IT channel paying close enough attention to disruptors outside our industry?

Those questions are intended to be directed not just at others but also at ourselves. What are you doing to establish new partnerships for your organization? Do I have the mentality of an entrepreneur or a manager?

Case ends his book with a personal challenge to each reader, and I’m happy to echo his words here: “Put this book down. Pick up your smart phone, your notepad – your blowtorch, if you’re feeling ambitious. Take action. Be fearless.”

Purchase your copy of The Third Wave here.

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact