Yesterday’s Innovation is Today’s Legacy System. Repeat.

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I’ve spent the better part of the last month traveling around the country visiting clients and business partners. I suppose when you travel enough the ups (free drinks for no reason, thank you Virgin America) and downs (how could there be a space #989 a half a mile away in the Hertz parking lot of two separate airports) manage to balance out somehow. This trip did get me thinking though, about the cycle of innovation. There were many companies – including Onboard Informatics – that were born from the rubble of the Dot-Com Bust whose burst of creative energy carried through the early part of the past decade. Many of us were driven by a sense of unfinished business, looking to carry on the torch of the internet revolution in an era when financing was scarce. We bootstrapped our way forward, advancing the status quo on a shoestring budget one step at a time.

Today, we’re in a different technology and investment climate. Over the past 2-3 years, cloud computing has transformed the costs basis of innovation. Technology infrastructure can now be tapped for fractions of a penny on the dollar, completely on demand, and with no physical investment. Startups can focus their resources on building new things of value that differentiate them from competition and move the needle forward – at a fraction of the cost and time as it would have a decade ago. Further, there are huge amounts of money available to finance new ideas. Coupled with a rising economy and the revival of the housing markets, this is a golden age for innovation in real estate technology.

But let’s jump back a moment to the Post-Bust class of 2002. In our industry alone, there are many companies formed in that era which are still with us today; pioneers in data and technology who are firmly established in Real Estate tech. However, these companies, now grey-haired veterans of the start-up wars, face a challenge inconceivable when they first launched – Legacy Systems. That’s right – the innovative tools we created a decade ago have become legacy systems which hold back our progress and weigh like an anchor in our fight against the new startups of today. The customers, revenues and systems we worked so hard to build are now the most significant obstacle in moving our businesses to the next level.

It was eye opening to me how apparent this theme became in the last month or so visiting with more than 25 clients, business partners and industry vets. I know I’m far from alone in feeling this way. I’m also energized by the challenge and excited for what lies ahead. Mixing our finely honed survival instincts with some fresh thinking and great people will ready us to charge our torch into the next decade.

How about you…are you ready for the challenge?

Image Credit: Dave Sizer on Flickr.com