Kim Kandar of the venture capital firm Domain Associations. Photo by Rosalynn Carmen
Kim Kandar of the venture capital firm Domain Associations. Photo by Rosalynn Carmen

By Leonard Novarro

Disruption may be bad for the soul, but it’s good for business, according to a panel of entrepreneurs exploring “The Next Billion-Dollar Opportunity” at a monthly meeting of TiE, The Indus Entrepreneurs.

The rapidly changing world of technology and global competition has shaken up the world of business, but what was once considered a threat has become  a ripe opportunity for entrepreneurs with a keen eye to the future, enabling startups to become billion-dollar businesses.

Platforms such as Uber, WhatsApp, Nest and Airbnb, launched to satisfy the demand of an on-the-go generation seeking taxi service, mobile messaging, assistance at home and finding a place to stay on vacation, have set the stage, but what’s the next act? That’s what panelists Mark Bowles, Kim Kamdar and Austin Murray tried to answer before a packed house at Janssen Research & Development in La Jolla last month.

For openers, the fields of health and education will undergo the biggest changes.

“Looking back years from now, we’ll think we were in the dark days of medicine,” predicted Kamdar, a partner in Domian Associates, a venture capital firm.

Education? “It’s broken” and needs to be fixed, offered  Bowles, senior vice president of innovation for ecoATM, which pays people to recycle their old cell phones.

In addition, “personalized” and “on demand” will dictate future products. Wearable devices, including cell phones; on-demand and cross-platform mobile services; 3D printing; mobile payments, and “cryptocurrency” like Bitcoin will attract much of the investment capital. Add to that drones, robotics and self-driving cars and we have a glimpse of the future.

Taking care of business at home while you’re not at home is another area  attracting attention. As someone in the audience offered: “You’re hard at work and your dog needs to take a poop. You hit a number on your phone and within minutes, there’s someone at the door taking your dog out.” That’s occurring right now and is likely why Google recently paid $3.2 billion for Nest, which, in turn, spent half a billion dollars to buy Drop Cam, a home monitoring system, according to Bowles.

However, the most dramatic change will be in medicine, according to Kamdar, explaining how research into the genome, the human body’s complete set of DNA, will revolutionize medicine. “One genome can’t tell us about a normal individual. We need more than one. We need thousands, healthy and non-healthy, to tell differences, and we can’t do that until the cost is low,” she said.

Software, however, is already changing the medical landscape and will be able to predict serious medical conditions in advance. By monitoring cells shed by the heart, for example, doctors may soon be able to predict a heart attack a month before it is likely to happen.

Spiraling costs will demand radical changes in the way our children are educated, according to Bowles, who called higher education “the number-one area ripe for disruption. College will become passé,” he said, adding that an open approach to learning through the Internet and global sharing will make most of higher education obsolete.

“In our kids’ lifetime, the whole notion of going to a university will be undergoing a radical change,” Kamdar added.  In fact, they may not be going at all.

Leonard Novarro is co-founder of Asia Media America and the Asian Heritage Society.