Kunal Tandon

This past Sunday, I stocked up on some snacks from Whole Foods, filled up an extra large water bottle to make sure I stayed sufficiently hydrated, and made my way to the movie theater. I was ready for an adventure. I was gearing up to recline in my seat for over three hours to watch Babylon. The main story in Babylon follows the rise of an actress during the silent film era, and her struggles to make the transition into talkies, the sound film era.

The transition from silent to sound films is one I never really thought about before, but it’s fascinating. Being successful in one medium, definitely doesn’t guarantee crossover success in another. Memorizing and delivering lines. Having the right kind of voice. The ability to sing. It’s a different kind of acting. There’s a scene in the film, where the star actress continues to miss her mark on the stage while shooting a scene. In the past, during silent films, this wasn’t the biggest deal, but in the sound film era, the marks were meticulously placed in accordance to where microphones had been rigged above. The skills required to succeed in these new kinds of films were different. What it meant to be good was quickly redefined.

The back half of the film gets dark, as the former star actress struggles to remain relevant, as we see the film industry evolving quickly, and many former stars unable to keep pace. Of course, if you follow startups and the history of technology, this story probably sounds familiar. It is what defines the rise and fall of companies across industries. Technological shifts create opportunities for new winners to emerge, while simultaneously forcing incumbents to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant. At least this used to be popular wisdom. It’s why founders create startups. It’s why venture investors deploy dollars. Everyone is trying to start or back the next big thing. And to become the next big thing, you often have to disrupt one of the existing big things. In recent years, many have questioned if that popular wisdom of disruption still held true. The big dominant tech players seemed to only become bigger and more entrenched with each passing year. With fewer startups able to directly compete and take market share. People claimed that this generation of big company leaders had learned from past shifts, and were trained in the art of disruption. Now many are left wondering what’s possible for new entrants today.

The rise of crypto into the mainstream, followed by a renewed interest and excitement from the broader ecosystem in AI on the heels of exciting progress from OpenAI and others has people in the space imagining what the future might look like, who will get to define it, and where value will be captured. These are questions we are constantly asking ourselves, and conversations we are having as a team, and with Founders who are trying to be a part of shaping the future. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around where value will accrue with these new shifts. Who is best poised to capture it? What conditions need to exist for startups to have a path to becoming category creators/winners against very capable incumbents? It’s an exciting time to be building and investing at the edges, carving new paths, and trying hard things. If you’re building something new, that you believe can be huge, I’d love to hear from you and learn more.