Google Drive doesn’t work.*
I’ve heard people don’t scroll down much on the internet, so I’m going to put the asterisked part right below this paragraph.
*Statement applies only to my current personal experience. I’m on PC. Reference to complete failure of desktop folder to sync with web drive. No, I haven’t read all the troubleshooting FAQs yet. And I haven’t finished tweeting Google Drive yet. That’s because I have work to do. I want the stuff I pay for to just work. Right away.
I won’t bore you with the details, but Google Drive is just one example of a bit of technology that sounds great in theory, but doesn’t actually work. Not for me, anyway. Not right now.
And this is technology that belongs to a megalith of the tech industry.
I’m not having much luck lately. I have a smartphone that won’t read a SIM, because it’s been locked. It’s a weird thing that none of the local phone shops want to touch. Neither SIM provider nor phone maker are claiming responsibility. Again: two rather large enterprises. Again: I’m the one whose time is wasted.
Next. My other mobile phone picked up 3G when l left Austria for my December holiday. When I got back, it didn’t. Whose fault? The big-name manufacturer? My market-dominating network provider? I don’t know, but I do know this: I have better things to do than chase this stuff.
I bought two FM radios the other day in the hopes of learning to speak German better. Now, you may call me an old goat for buying a radio, but if you’re going to sell radios, they should work, no? Well, I’m finding that I can’t get static-free reception unless I stand stock-still next to the receiver. I can’t even take one step away to peel the potatoes. Again: things that look good on paper, but don’t work.
More? My camera (reputable brand) has taken to switching itself on and off for no reason. My first attempt to broadcast live audio online via my phone didn’t work because the WiFi in South Africa cut out at the crucial moment. And yesterday, I got stuck in one of those password-creation loops (does anyone else get those?) with a web service, and can only conclude that I’ll never be able to log in. Even the world’s best-known dating app took a couple of months to sulk after I switched from the UK to Austria.
I could go on for a long time, but I’ll slow down and stop — kind of like my laptop does at critical moments on an average weekday. Here’s my point: there’s potential for startups to improve almost every existing technology. You don’t necessarily have to invent something new.
We love narratives about new launches and creations. But how often do you read a follow-up story about whether the thing actually works? Unless it’s Apple getting its maps wrong, user troubles don’t make for very exciting news. So we get lulled into a perception that everything works. I can assure you it doesn’t.
There’s so much space for startups to improve on what we’ve got, even if the tech belongs to the big guns. Just because they dominate markets and column inches, doesn’t mean they’re anywhere even close to optimising their products.
Opportunities abound for startups working to improve the customer experience through making things work. A few ideas spring to my mind.
No more crash scenes
We spend a great deal of money on phones, tablets and computers that boot up slowly, hang, crash and sometimes even burn. Wouldn’t a crash-proof device be quite the USP? Over to you, startups.
Methinks I’ll think for myself
Most of my devices have an obsession with ‘correcting’ my spelling to a specified default language. Well, I write messages and posts in multiple languages. Sometimes I write deliberate nonsense. So sell me something that lets me write any words I want in peace. Please.
The stuff of memories
Even supposedly state-of-the-art devices have major limitations in terms of storage of apps and files. Some fairly popular devices don’t even let you add memory! It’s not good enough in 2017. Can some innovator out there make deleting my WhatsApp photos something I never have to do again?
End the tyranny of passwords
I’m buzzing for the day that something like iris recognition goes mainstream. The arrival of password-free authentication can’t come soon enough, because I’m bored to death of resetting passwords I’ve forgotten. Which usually happens because I’m bored of adding new passwords to my five-page list. Get to it, tech geeks!
Make connections that connect
No matter where I’ve been in the world, I’ve never entirely escaped that thing where your connection (even at home) drops out inexplicably, then comes back. Then drops out again. Then…well, you get the picture. We can and should be doing better than this. Innovators, can you help?
Build me something that lasts
We all know the sickening modus operandi the tech giants subscribe to: re-invent things just often enough that we have to upgrade every 2–3 years. And critically, we don’t get any say in the value proposition. It just is. As a consumer, I find that disgusting. Laptops are great when they’re new, but can someone build me one guaranteed to last 25 years? With an on-call service thrown in to handle all the soft system changes that will come along? And the promise that if all else fails, you’ll give me a new one that works exactly like that one I’m used to? I’d spend a lot of money on that.
I could come up with another dozen ways startups could improve on the flaws of existing technology, and I’m excited to see it happen. In my day-to-day work, these ‘dull’ but fundamental issues are constant blockers on the path to doing anything really constructive and creative. I believe they deserve far more attention than they get.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need the capacity to go into full-scale production. Sometimes an idea and some know-how is enough to go into collaboration with a corporate that may offer you the resources you need.