Wait, What Is Technology?

To start, I consulted the official definitions, to see if I could anchor in something that I understood well.

Oxford English says:

The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry

Merriam Webster:

The use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems

As I’ve been working on describing what it means to be a technology investor, this question has plagued me. I’ve been surprised by this, as a shallow consideration of that question lands me on “software and hardware companies”. But General Motors has 100 million lines of code in each of their cars. Is General Motors a technology company? Why is Groupon a tech company? Because the service is distributed through the internet? Warby Parker makes eyeglasses. Perhaps those were technology in the 1200′s, but surely not now, right?

Maybe Casper is a tech company because it is venture backed. In that case, is Tuft & Needle not? What about GitHub before the Andreessen Horowitz financing? Or Basecamp/37Signals? I loved this tweet: 

My view on this has been evolving a bit, but today it stands as such: there are 20th century companies, and there are 21st century companies. A 21st Century company believes in digital distribution as a core competency. It realizes the power of a modern brand requires that it include transparency, intimacy, and a strong willingness to proactively cannibalize its business model.

As for technology, my working definition is: “a tool that radically solves problems.” After all, technology pre-dates scientific knowledge (and mathematics), as does engineering. Indeed, the printing press was once technology, as was writing — as was the wheel. If your technology is not radically solving a problem, perhaps it isn’t technology. Perhaps it is simply software, or simply a business on the internet. Food for thought.


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