Where are all the new great companies?

While listening to a few talks and panels on developer tools this week, it struck me that despite quickly closing in on 2017, when it comes to companies doing noteworthy things, we’re still talking about the same ones as we were in 2012: Heroku, Stripe, GitHub, and to a slightly less reverent extent, the old giants: Apple, Amazon, and even Bell Labs and PARC.

A lot of other names still get thrown out there, but more often than not, they’re connected to the speaker themselves rather than having made their own dent in the world. Given that these old notable companies are mostly neutral to everyone on stage, they seem to occupy an astonishingly disproportionate amount of our shared consciousness.

So what’s going on? Is the developer tooling market so saturated that it’s now impossible to make a splash? Are we all so jaded by broken promises in tech that we’re unwilling to commit to ideas stemming from a new brand? Maybe the bar to making an impression has just been fundamentally raised. (And then there’s the other possibility of this being explainable by my own biased misconceptions 1.)

All I can say is that there’s been nothing in recent memory that’s inspired me as much as git push heroku master, Stripe’s API docs, the 12-factor App, or even GitHub’s unconventional “no manager” policy 2. In an industry that depends on a feedback loop of current players inspiring the next generation to in turn do their own great things, this is a problem.

1 I expect that anyone who cared to refute this could list a hundred counter examples, but I’d argue that with only maybe a few exceptions, none have achieved the widespread dispersion of ideas compared to those of even a few years ago.

2 GitHub has since retracted this idea, and now looks like any other company.

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