Silicon Valley's uber-VC, John Doerr, said today that "we are on the verge of a massive reinvention of the Web" -- one that will call forth social entrepreneurs in rising numbers to create "social commerce" around new devices like the iPad , which combine social media and on-the-fly mobile communication.
Doerr, interviewed by PBS host Charlie Rose at the start of today's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Manhattan, said the first great wave of social innovation came with the rise of computer power in the 1980s; the second great wave came in 1995, with the rise of the Internet as an information-sharing device. The third great wave is now, he said. "We've entered a whole new applications economy, where all sorts of new applications of Web technology are being driven by new relationships" being fostered by social media. "This is turning the world around in a really excitiing way," Doerr said. For example, the iPad "is not just a new fad but a new paradigm" for the way people create relationships and for new types of business products, cultures and strategies for social good.
"The iPad is not a computer; you do not need a mouse to operate it," said Doerr, a partner in the legendary Silicon Valley VC firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. "These are commercially new kindsof magical surfaces that are social. You can take the iPad to concerts, to church." He said the iPad and other such portable social interfaces also "lead to a new kind of social fluidity, a full immersive experience" for people "and a rich terrain for hundreds of new start-ups and social ventures that both make money and serve society." This new type of commercialism, Doerr said, will make one's friends "the most important driving factor in making purchasing decisions."
Doerr also predicted that the convergence of social technology and commerce will change the workplace, speeding the rise of new "missionary" business cultures, rich with new levels of collaboration and social consciousness. "Mercenaries are motivated by financial statements, and sometimes a sense of entitlement," Doerr said, "but missionary cultures are driven by value statements about contribution -- not simply the bottom line." Doerr added: "mercenaries lust for making money but missionaries lust for making meaning." He cited Apple founder Steve Jobs, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, among others, as being among these new missionaries. "These guys have turned down opportunities to sell their companies because they're passionate about their products and their impact on society, where the product is the most important contribution."
Doerr said Zynga, the online children's games company, is the "fastest-growing social venture we've ever invested in." He estimated that about 2 percent of the 60 million daily users across the games the company produces want to "buy a better tractor for a farmer or give to a friend or raise money to send bicycle seats to Haiti" or "otherwise do important social things with this technology." This, says Doerrr, is part of the vision and promise of this fledgling new era of social commerce "and it calls forth social entrepreneurs in numbers previously not anticipated."
TechCrunch Disrupt continues through Wednesday. Watch this space for updates.
-- Marcia Stepanek
(Photo: TechCrunch Disrupt on Flickr)