We are Number One – Tech Big

We are Number One – Tech Big: a blog about the rise of tech big

Tech big is a term being used by investors, entrepreneurs and journalists to denote the emergence of a new class of companies. It is not entirely clear what distinguishes them from other large technology companies such as Google, Microsoft and Oracle – often referred to as “old tech”. But there is an emerging consensus that these new businesses are different. What sets them apart, it seems, is their scale, ambition and appetite for disruption. Here we look at the rise of tech big.

We are Number One – Tech Big: a blog about the rise of tech big

In the last few years, a number of very successful startups have made the leap from being promising startups to becoming tech big firms. These include Airbnb, Pinterest, Slack, Uber and WhatsApp.

This blog will examine the phenomenon of tech big through a series of posts exploring different aspects of the rise of these firms. The first post looks at how they got their start…

Tech Big, a blog about the rise of tech big

The world has changed. Tech is now king. We are Number One – Tech Big: a blog about the rise of tech big.

This is the story of how technology behemoths came to rule our world. These companies were not born to greatness: they started small and were once viewed as niche players. The Economist will chart the rise of this new breed of giant, its impact on people, society and business, and the threats it faces.

In the last five years, something has changed in the way that tech big companies are perceived. They have gone from being seen as exciting, innovative disrupters of industries to cold, hard monopolies that need to be broken up.

This blog charted that change. It was started by a group of journalists and writers who were interested in how this happened – not just in terms of the lobbying (by Google and Facebook) or the scandals (such as Cambridge Analytica), but also through culture. From memes to music festivals to films, it’s become clear over the past few years just how much tech big companies have come to dominate our lives.

We’re shutting down Tech Big now, but we’re proud of what we’ve done. Follow us on Twitter at @techbig for more updates on each of our individual projects.

The rise of Tech Big, the world’s most valuable companies, has been remarkable.

More remarkable still is how their dominance has come to be taken for granted.

While it may seem that Tech Big have always been around and always will be, nothing could be further from the truth.

It was only in the mid-1990s that they emerged; their growth since then has been astonishing.

The speed and scale of this change is without precedent in modern economic history.

In 1995 the combined market capitalisation of the world’s five largest companies was $876bn; today it is $5tn, more than 2% of global GDP.

Each of these companies has annual revenues bigger than the economies of most countries; Google and Amazon are larger than all but 20 nations on earth.

A couple of years ago, I was interviewed for a book about the history of Silicon Valley. At the time, I was working on a startup, and when the interviewer asked me what it was like, I described a typical day: “I get up in the morning, eat some cereal, ride my bike to work, code for a few hours, have lunch with my friends at the sandwich shop, code for a few more hours and then head home to play video games.”

It sounded good to me. But the interviewer was horrified. “Sounds like you’re just messing around all day!” he said. He went on to describe his own job as an editor at a newspaper where everything was very serious and formal, with meetings and memos and so on. He thought that if he got bored at work he’d be fired.

To him, my job sounded ridiculous because it didn’t fit his model of how work should be done. But why would he think that? Because he had never worked in a place like mine. Unless you’ve worked in one yourself or know someone who has, tech big is completely opaque – it doesn’t make any sense at all.

The first people who came up with this new way of working were hackers in garages and dorm rooms

There’s a lot of talk in Silicon Valley about changing the world. Most people there actually believe it. It’s an interesting place and you should visit it if you get the chance. I can’t say for sure what the truth is, but I think some tech bigs are trying to change the world, and others want to be seen to be doing so for business reasons.

The point is that tech bigs are now a major force in all our lives, because they control so much of the digital infrastructure we use every day. That gives them a huge amount of power. Power should be exercised responsibly, but that doesn’t just happen naturally. It takes work. And everyone should know what’s going on. We’re all stakeholders now, whether we like it or not.

All this has been clear for ages, and yet until recently tech bigs have largely managed to avoid scrutiny and accountability. The problem is that reporters tend to see themselves as part of the same industry as the companies they cover. Their job is to write stories that their readers find interesting – or at least almost interesting enough to click on – and then move on to something else next week. Meanwhile, most politicians don’t understand technology enough to challenge them meaningfully; when they try it sounds hollow

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