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An Investing Megatrend: How Technological Breakthroughs are Shaping the Future

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Factors of Technological Breakthroughs

Since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, few industries have been left unaffected.

This transformational device is a prototypical example of a technological breakthrough. It was a tipping point in turning entire business models upside-down, while also impacting our everyday lives at a more fundamental level.

New growth opportunities emerged from the ensuing disruption, while many status quo solutions were rendered obsolete.

Technological Game-Changers

Today’s infographic from BlackRock highlights the pervasive and positive impact that technological breakthroughs can have on the global economy.

Technological Breakthroughs Infographic

Fueling the Flames of Innovation

According to recent data from Accenture, it’s estimated that 71% of businesses are on the brink of being disrupted.

In fact, disruptive innovation most often emerges in two scenarios:

  • New solutions to existing problems or challenges that have proven difficult to solve
  • New competitors in highly profitable sectors with historically high returns

The occurrence of technological breakthroughs can also be accelerated through several factors, including significant demographic shifts, sustained economic growth, innovative political environments, and urgent societal needs.

Technological Adoption is Speeding Up

Breakthrough inventions have always sent ripple effects throughout society, but today those ripples are travelling faster than ever.

Moore’s Law – the assertion that number of components in a dense integrated circuit (i.e., transistors, resistors, diodes, or capacitors) will double every year, while still getting cheaper – is one factor. Similar examples of staggering increases in utility for less cost can be found in a number of other instances, from DNA sequencing to data storage.

The rate of technological adoption is also speeding up. For example, consider the mobile phone─due to the price point and ease of use, the number of U.S. adults with a cell phone jumped from 10% in 1994 to over 96% in 2019. This is also evident in new technologies such as smart speakers, where the adoption rate in the U.S. is expected to double to 55% in less than 3 years.

Breakthrough Investment Opportunities

Where innovation leads, investment usually follows. However, predicting which technological innovations will have a lasting impact on society has often proved difficult.

Instead, investors can track the wider trends that often spark technological disruption, in order to unlock potential opportunities:

  1. Research and Development Funding:
    The number of investments in emerging technologies is growing. Tech company acquisitions also totalled US$278 billion by Q2 2018—a 50% increase from the year before.
  2. The Future Workforce:
    Historically, productivity gains have increased the demand for more skilled labour. Technical and soft skills are top priorities for employers for their future teams, and it it’s projected that the amount of hours that workers spend using technological skills will increase by 55% from 2016 to 2030.
  3. Shifts in Consumer Demand:
    Companies aware of these factors should seek to incorporate innovations into their platforms for a more customer-centric experience.
  4. Societal Needs:
    Persistent global social issues such as access to better healthcare are drivers of innovative solutions that offer a better quality of life. Symphony Post-Acute Network harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to be able to offer personalised healthcare for over 80,000 patients─cutting costs by more than US$13,000 per patient.

Future Impact of Technological Innovation

Technological change will likely continue to accelerate, and investors should tailor their portfolios accordingly.

At the same time, traditional barriers to entry for new competitors are consistently being eroded by these breakthroughs, sending industries into flux and creating potential new opportunities.

Humanity’s co-evolution with technology will continue to profoundly impact the economy, while improving life on Earth in unimaginable ways.

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Technology

Here’s What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

A lot can happen in an internet minute. This graphic looks at the enormous numbers behind the online services billions use every day.

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What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

In 2020, an unfathomable amount of digital activity is occurring at any given moment. This ongoing explosion in activity is the aggregate output of 4.5 billion internet users today, a number that’s projected to increase even further in coming years.

This powerful visual from Domo helps capture what happens each minute in today’s hyper-connected internet era, and it’s actually the eighth edition produced since the year 2012.

What can we learn from the evolution of what happens in an internet minute?

How Times Have Changed

Over its relatively short history, the internet has been a catalyst for both the rise and demise of new companies and platforms.

By looking at which brands have appeared in the graphic in earlier years, we can roughly chart the prominence of certain tech segments, as well as observe brands with the most staying power.

data never sleeps wheel over time

As you can see above, platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare showed some promise, but eventually got omitted from the graphic as they dropped off in relevance.

Meanwhile, tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have had impressive staying power, evolving to become some of the biggest companies in the world. In the process, they’ve caught up to longer-standing titans like Apple and Microsoft at the top of the food chain.

The New “New Thing”

Not surprisingly, much of the internet landscape looks different in 2020. Here are a few of the digital hot spots today.

Cash Transfers
Nearly $240,000 worth of transactions occur on Venmo per minute. This has served as a catalyst for parent company PayPal, which evolved along successfully with fintech trends. PayPal’s stock now trades at near all-time highs.

E-Commerce
Even before COVID-19 resulted in shuttered storefronts and surging online orders, e-commerce was a booming industry. It’s now estimated that $1 million is now spent per minute online. Amazon ships an astounding 6,659 packages every minute to keep up with this demand.

Collaboration Tools
In a predominantly remote-working environment, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams host 208,333 and 52,083 users each minute respectively. Particularly in the pandemic era, it seems that this trend is here to stay.

Accelerated Turnover

The accelerated world we are in today means that many companies do not sustain a competitive advantage for as long. Social media companies have dwindled as observed above, and this is similarly reflected in the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company.

A typical company’s tenure on the S&P 500 is expected to shrink rapidly in the next few years:

  • 1964: 33 years
  • 2016: 24 years
  • 2027E: 12 years

Companies are shaving anywhere between 15-20 years off those highs, with estimates of further declines. This metric symbolizes the rapid evolution of the business landscape.

What Lies Ahead

It’s seemingly easy to forget mankind is still very early in the developments when it comes to the internet. But in this short period, its rise to prominence and the broad digitization of the world has left us with a very eventful timeline.

If the last decade serves as a reference point, one can expect further and intensifying competition among tech companies. After all, the reward—winning in today’s digital economy—reaps much greater value.

All signs point to internet activity advancing to further heights, if not because of 5G and its associated breakthroughs, then perhaps due to the steady rise in people gaining internet access.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

This animation provides an interesting overview of the websites with the highest traffic over the last few decades, and how the rankings have changed.

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The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

The internet has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.

While it’s hard to imagine modern life without Google or YouTube, it’s interesting to reflect on how much the web has changed over the last few decades.

This animation by Captain Gizmo provides a historical rundown of the most popular websites since 1993, showing how much the internet has evolved since the early ’90s.

The Top Websites

While the web has changed drastically over the years, the top-ranking websites have remained relatively consistent. Here’s a look at the websites with the most traffic since 1993, and when each site held the number one spot:

Date RangeTop Ranking Website
Highest Number of Monthly Visits
Jan 1993 - Jun 2000AOL405,000,000
Jul 2000 - May 2006
Yahoo
5,500,000,000
Jun 2006 - Jul 2008
Google8,300,000,000
Aug 2008 - Jun 2010
Yahoo11,600,000,000
Jul 2010 - current
Google81,000,000,000

*Note: Numbers rounded for clarity.

AOL

AOL was one of the first major web portals, back in the era of CD-ROMs and dial-up modems. In its heyday, the company dominated the market, largely due to an aggressive free trial campaign that cost millions (possibly even billions) of dollars to execute.

Despite the large investment, the campaign worked—at its peak, AOL had over 30 million users, and a market cap of over $200 billion. It was the most popular website online until the early 2000s, when broadband started to replace dial-up. As the sands shifted, AOL struggled to stay relevant and was eventually sold to Verizon for just $4.4 billion.

Yahoo

Following AOL’s downfall, Yahoo became the next internet giant.

Starting off as a web directory, Yahoo was the first website to offer localized indexes for major cities. At Yahoo’s zenith, it was worth $125 billion, but a series of missed opportunities and failed acquisitions meant that it could not keep up. Like AOL, Yahoo is now also owned by Verizon, but remains a top 10 website globally.

Google

It’s no surprise that Google currently comes in at number one. It started out in the early ’90s as a university research project. Today, it’s become virtually synonymous with the internet, which makes sense, considering 90% of all internet searches are made on Google-owned properties.

Old School Search Engines

Prior to Google’s success, there were several other go-to search engines that paved the way for Google in many ways:

  • WebCrawler: One of the earlier search engines, WebCrawler was the first search engine to enable full-text search. At one point, the website was so popular, it’s server would constantly crash, making it virtually unusable during peak hours.
  • Lycos: This was another pivotal search engine, created in 1994 (a year before Yahoo). Lycos was the first of its kind to incorporate relevance retrieval, prefix matching, and word proximity.
  • Infoseek: As Netscape’s default search engine, Infoseek was popular during the web browser’s heyday. Eventually, Infoseek was purchased by Disney and rebranded to go.com.

Unlike Infoseek, Lycos and WebCrawler have somehow managed to stick around—both companies still exist today. Of course, they’re nowhere near comparable to Google in terms of revenue or daily search volume.

The Evolution of Social Media

Unless you are a Gen Zer, you probably remember MySpace. Like Lycos and WebCrawler, MySpace technically still exists, although it’s certainly not the high traffic site it used to be.

Created in 2004, MySpace became a hub for musicians and music fans on the web. In just a year, the website saw massive growth, and by 2005, it was acquired by News Corp. MySpace continued to dominate the social media landscape until 2008, when Facebook took over as the internet’s most popular social media platform.

Facebook’s story is well-known at this point. The Zuckerberg-led creation was a social networking site that was exclusive to Harvard students, but it soon opened up to dozens of other universities and then finally the general public in 2006. Just two years later, and the site had 100 million active users, rising to the top of the social media spectrum.

Although Facebook often finds itself mired in controversy today, the site remains the world’s most popular social media platform on the internet with close to 3 billion users.

What’s Next?

It’s hard to predict what the future holds for Facebook, or for any of the other websites currently dominating the web.

If anything is clear from the above animation, it’s that the list of the world’s most popular websites is constantly shifting—and only time will tell what the next few decades will bring.

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