The Early Adopter Challenge: Everyone is Afraid of Being First

The Next Economy will be driven by 10 key emerging technologies. All of these technologies are in the news 24/7. Yet, most organizations and governments are behind the technology curve. They’re either slow adopters or stagnant. There’s a difference between being a slow adopter and being stagnant; the latter means you’re not even aware of what’s going to change your business in the short and long-term.

Most are stagnant.

The way this plays out in the business arena, and life, is complacency leads to stagnation. There will always be organizations that adopt new ideas faster than others, with various levels of success. To be clear, just because they adopt faster doesn’t mean success is assured; there are many factors that determine success for a startup or established organization.

But you don’t want to become stagnant.

The challenge for any startup that is on the cutting edge of technology is adoption

For example, artificial intelligence is a technology that will develop, and underpin all others, during the next 20 years. A category of AI is emotion AI, or emotional artificial intelligence. It’s what will take us to a scenario like in the movie Her. This technology is what gives computers the ability to recognize people’s cluster of emotions (micro facial expressions, body gestures, eye tracking, voice); it’s the technology we’ve developed at Netek.

The different categories of artificial intelligence (such as image and facial recognition, voice) are hot in the startup world. Our category, emotion recognition, is still nascent. People and organizations are surprised when we talk about it, yet ideas pop into their head on what can be done with affective computing.

As of now we’ve developed a product that is focused on evaluating and optimizing content (video, audio, images, text) based on what people feel; called Neurosurvey. But getting organizations to adopt it on a day-to-day basis has been hard, mostly because organizations want a ready-made solution that doesn’t have to be tweaked or created from scratch.

I’m not surprised by any of this, because the hardest challenge every innovator faces is adoption. And bringing new technology to market doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger, as Aaron Levie (CEO of Box) describes in a tweet:

Points 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 is where most emotion AI companies are at this point. This is not a surprise because the default state of every new idea is no. People reject new ideas for many reasons: fear of loss and uncertainty are top of mind. Mostly, they don’t want to be the first ones to jump out of the gate and fail because it’s easier to wait for others to fail first. The first ones to go for it are the innovators and early adopters; everyone else is a laggard.

So, it’s not worth the time to get frustrated with yourself and others if you’re an entrepreneur doing cutting-edege work; rejection is the norm. Creating a new industry is a long-term challenge, many things have to be true before you get to product-market fit.