Semantic technologies will lead the web evolution in the not-so-distant future, according to more and more industry experts and observers.
Looking back to how the web has evolved so far, as well as its huge impact on our society as a whole, the shift from an alpha-male (individualistic) entrepreneurship towards a more collective nature is well justified –as it has been anticipated from scholars and experts in the early 90s. Therefore, the credentials 2.0 have reasonably used to accompany entrepreneurship as they express the exact difference between the number of parties involved in it –similarly with Web 1.0 and 2.0, from single to open-source.
Traditional barriers that entrepreneurs were facing in the 20th century have been overcome or obsolete; think only of the globalisation effects to distance barriers –geographic, cultural, and institutional, or at the technological improvements and their rapid diffusion in our society. Just like our economy is constantly changing dynamics, from resource-based to information-based to knowledge-based, the very nature of entrepreneurship shapes accordingly. The involvement of many entrepreneurs in international value-systems is not only feasible nowadays, but also successful. Just think about all the international new ventures (aka Born Globals) to realise both their necessity and value-added.
Having all the above in mind, one can logically think and wonder about entrepreneurship’s next stage in correlation with the upcoming web era; the semantic web or Web 3.0. Here is an idea of what Web 3.0 will bring together and how. If we picture internet technologies in a progressive diagram, the curve moves forward as it better matches human reasoning; this is the ultimate desired outcome for technology. Of course this a very distant possibility that one can only imagine, and cannot be explained through current logic lenses. Despite that though, the foreseeing evolution of the Web as we know will be definitely driven by semantics; the name derives from the Greek word sēmantikós which means ‘significant’.
That is because for the first time in human history, things will can be explained by a program –in a much lesser extent of course. More specifically, the understanding of the actual meaning that information on the Web embed will be feasible through the use of upcoming technologies (programming languages) like the RDF and OWL.
What does this mean for entrepreneurship and how it will affect it? to answer this question with actual paradigms would be risky, perhaps even biased. Just because we identified a new upcoming ‘tool’ for businesses, doesn’t mean that its use can be exactly predicted. Its impact though onto several business aspects can be foreseen.
The first sign is the ‘social media effect’. I use the apostrophe (‘’) because I believe the current buzz around them will fade away soon, as the whole web will transform similarly soon. This effect is not, and cannot be controlled by neither the incumbents nor any late entrants; they will though anticipate upcoming events more accurately making them advantageous compared with others. This is a fact that such pioneers know already, and this is the new central notion around which entrepreneurship 3.0 will orbit. More specifically, successful enterprises understand that instead of protect and control their competencies internally, they can engage in collaborations in a deeper and more efficient extent. Indeed, such evidence exist and are coming mainly from blue chips –the before mentioned pioneers. Now, link this with the de-facto theory of Joseph Schumpeter that ‘entrepreneurs create new industries and/or reconfigure new ones’ to realise the actual importance of this phenomenon.
This new way of doing business has been defined by the Academia as the effect of International Entrepreneurship (IE), an accepted transformation of entrepreneurship into something more open and collective. Here I should note that IE and Entrepreneurship 2.0 are two interrelated and interchangeable meanings, as I found during my research –a natural extension of the eternal debate about the very essence of entrepreneurialism. In a nutshell, new ventures find ways to exploit new technologies much better and quicker than their traditional counterparts. That is because they have a more flexible architecture that enables them to easily and securely engage in collaborative agreements, thus blurring their boundaries with partners’ which ultimately leads to: the active participation in ICT-bounded international value systems, where the fundamental elements of ‘doing-business’ are trustful collaboration and co-operation. Traditional competition as we know it is transforming into co-opetition where the key to success is forming successful clusters.
A commonly accepted definition of IE comes from Oviatt and McDougall (2005) as it is about “the discovery, enactment, evaluation and exploitation of opportunities across national borders to create future goods and services”. In this definition it is clear that it has a ‘traditional touch’ in it; it mirrors the individualistic, controlling version of the traditional entrepreneurship. The absence of egocentric words and the linking importance of geographical override, are expressing the shift mentioned in the previous paragraph. The importance of new ICTs is considered as an important factor here, but still with unrealised potentials; the possibility that such rapid ICT advancements, together with their equally rapid diffusion, may dictate radical changes is not considered. A fact that I believe is a major driver of change for our economy as a whole, as it will impact all the societal and economic layers.
Having clarified this, let’s now consider entrepreneurialism under an evolutionary economic perspective. Clearly IE is the natural evolution of entrepreneurialism, but still struggles to confront its predecessor. In its current form, which mirrors the traditional one, and in combination with the on-going technological advancements, IE will definitely continue evolving into something more complex and open than now; the natural outcome would be firstly to capture more industries, and ultimately to reshape the global business setting into a complex web of actors where everyone and everything are interrelated and co-dependent. Having said that, one can assume that IE represents the trend and not the phenomenon –thus making IE’s life-cycle shorter than its predecessor. This phenomenon is also known as ‘digital revolution’, which currently shapes the dynamics of our economy leading to the so-called ‘digital economy’. IE reaps these benefits through the establishment of global value networks, but still in a very premature extent. Existing pioneers pave the way towards this new entrepreneurial stage, but its diffusion into major socioeconomic layers is still at its early stages; thus preventing the phenomenon to show its actual benefits.
Going back to semantic technologies, and their vehicle of diffusion –the metadata, we can assume (or at least hope) that they will boost entrepreneurship’s curve and quicken its diffusion process. For this reason, the new form of entrepreneurship will involve greater number of participants (from customers, to spectators) in more active extent. This phenomenon will initially allow new radical business processes, starting with more accurate marketing campaigns and market intelligence. But the major impact will be the total re-definition of each party’s role and involvement; for example, since that end-customers will be able to actively contribute to the end-offering, they will have increased bargaining power making them more valuable for the networks they operate in. New wave entrepreneurs will understand that and establish enterprises that can take advantage of that; they will allow their customers to have a participating role –not an advisory one that they may have now (at the best case scenario). Under this prevailing logic, business economics will also change as enterprises will be able to train themselves better and quicker to meet any current or upcoming needs.
In conclusion, I don’t know if entrepreneurship 3.0 will actually be used as a terminology, as admittedly it sounds more like a marketing idea rather the expression of something new. I just think that it will be used just like 2.0 has been to describe the current shift. Definitely though, semantics will lead the technological race creating new opportunities for people and enterprises to interact with each other in a more effective way. This might be the beginning of the end for the multinationals as we know them, paving the way for the new form of enterprises. These will belong into international value networks, where knowledge will be co-created and co-exploited (co-operation). Ultimately, these networks will gain such power to overthrown traditional conglomerates and reach the top of the power pyramid.