5 Takeaways from Steve Case’s Vision of the Future


March 22, 2019 | By: Adrian

I recently finished The Third Wave by Steve Case. If you don’t know who Case is, he was the CEO of AOL from 1991 until when he retired as chairman of AOL Time Warner in 2003. For many, AOL was the internet in the ’90s. I remember dialing up using AOL as my gateway to the internet and using its many services throughout junior and high school. I’m sure many of you know someone still using an aol.com email as their primary email. AOL is an icon and an internet pioneer. If it wasn’t for them, the internet today would look different.

So, when I found out Case had written a book on his “vision of the future,” I had to pick it up.  The Third Wave is what Case sees as the next phase of the Internet. He classifies the three waves of the Internet as:

  • 1st Wave (1985 – 1999) Building the Internet
  • 2nd Wave (2000 – 2015) App Economy and Mobile Revolution
  • 3rd Wave (2016 – ?) Internet of Everything.

Case describes the first wave as the building of the infrastructure and pathways to get on the internet. It happened in the ’80s and ’90s when PCs were invading the household. The second wave was the organization of information through websites and social media combined with the growing ability to easily access it all thanks to the world wide web and proliferation of smartphones. As Case sees it, The Third Wave will be when the internet becomes ubiquitous. What will this look like? According to Case, “the internet will be integrated into every phase of our lives.”

Case sees technologies like the “Internet of Things,” or IOT, as being a driver for what’s going to come. He highlights healthcare, education, energy, and food as industries ripe for disruption.

My five key take ways from the book are:

  1. Partnership with existing, established companies is essential for new businesses looking to disrupt old. There are opportunities yet to be discovered by entrepreneurs who will work in collaboration with established businesses and incumbent leaders in industry. Partners in Industry will bring credibility to these new ventures.
  2. Disruption and the new wave of startups are not going to come from Silicon Valley but from entrepreneurial pockets across the nation. Gone are the days when you must be in Silicon Valley to develop, nurture, and grow a technology company.
  3. Businesses can produce a social benefit and generate a profit. Case defines impact investing as the “bridge between traditional business and philanthropy- and between financial return and social good.”
  4. Innovators in the Third Wave will need to work with government. In healthcare for example, there is a lot regulation around drugs and devices. Food safety comes with its own set of challenges. Entrepreneurs will need to have dialogue with government.
  5. While there are some things you can do with apps, if you really want to revolutionize healthcare, I think there is more you can do when you work with doctors and partner with hospitals.

Here are just a few short quotes from the book I liked:

  • “This lack of credibility may be the single greatest challenge for Third Wave start-ups. It’s also one that can be overcome. What it requires is more partners. Different partners. Partners who can lend credibility and provide momentum and help create a sense of inevitability. “
  • “The entrepreneurs of this era are going to challenge the biggest industries in the world, and those that most affect our daily lives.”
  • “Geographic diversity is vital to our future – startups are the engine of our economy.”
  • “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The book is an easy read and not a ‘futurists’ take on technologies of tomorrow, but rather more of an exploration of a phenomenon that’s already beginning to take shape around us today (with great power to impact our lives). I recommend this book for entrepreneurs, business leaders and anyone looking within their own industries on how to innovate and create new opportunities.

Case goes around the country uncovering new opportunities for investing through his “Rise of the Rest” road trip. The tour will go through Florida, landing in Miami between April 29th and May 3rd. You can learn more at revolution.com.