Memo to John Doerr: We Are Well Into the Third Wave

I start each day by working out, but today, I made an exception –- I woke up and tuned into the live feed of TechCrunch Disrupt. I was hoping to see what one of my favorite Silicon Valley people had to say — John Doerr, who somehow has a way of encapsulating an era, a trend or a combination of technologies with just a few succinct words.

I mean this is the guy who uttered the memorable (and very true, in hindsight) lines such as “the largest legal creation of wealth on the planet” or “The old economy was about monopolies; the new economy is about competition.” And who can forget: “I have never paid so much for so little,” following his investment in Google.

This is also the man who invested in market-making startups such as Sun Microsystems, Intuit, Genentech, Symantec,, Netscape, Google and more recently, Bloom Energy. He was due to talk about the third wave, Michael Arrington had hinted in a post — and in light of the fact that he was the driving force behind @Home, the company that jump-started the broadband revolution — I was more than a little excited to hear what he had to say.

So I made myself a nice cup of peach-flavored white tea and sat down to watch the conversation Doerr was having with Charlie Rose, another one of my favorite people. Watching two people I admire that much talk about the future was so exciting that I forgot to call my parents, who were leaving to make their way over to the U.S. Oops!

What I got was a commercial for social gaming startup, Zynga, which Doerr described by saying: “We invested in Zynga 20 months ago, and it’s the fastest-growing venture we’ve ever had.” Then came his thesis about the third wave:

I think we’re on the verge of a third great wave of innovation. The first was the microchip and the PC in the early 80s. The second wave was 1995: the Internet. Marc Andresseen brought Netscape Navigator to the world. Then Amazon came. Then in 1999 we saw the 15th search engine called “Google.”

This third wave is social, mobile, new commerce. We don’t have a name for it yet. We could be on the verge of reinventing the web. It’s people, it’s places, it’s relationships. It’s exciting.

These smartphones change everything. They’re always connected, always on. It’s a powerful new platform. 85 million iPhones and iPod touches – we’re there. And now we have the iPad. It took just 28 days to sell a million of them. It’s not a big iPod. It’s a new paradigm. Imagine 10 years forward.

That was the extent of what he had to offer; even in a subsequent follow-up interview with TechCrunch TV he had little to add. But Social, Mobile and New Commerce — that doesn’t add up to the third wave of anything. That’s just the natural evolution of the Internet. It was obvious in 2002 that due to a growing number of broadband connections, more edge touch points (mobiles, laptops, connected televisions) and more people on the web, the Internet revolution, which began in 1995 — with Doerr providing the fertilizer — would continue to gain scale.

It was also obvious that more people and more always-on connections at higher speeds would mean more opportunities. Social — thanks to a determined kid named Mark Zuckerberg — is now part of the Internet fabric. More than 500 million have already signed on to be part a part of his social networking site, even despite the company’s privacy-related shenanigans.

Mobile? We’ve been a mobile society for the past few years — the iPhone only added fuel to the fire lit by the rollout of 3G networks in the middle of this decade. And new commerce? That’s an idea the South Koreans and the Japanese have been mucking around with since the 90’s and lately the Chinese. Zynga might be the darling today, but virtual currencies and gifts have been around an awful lot longer than that.

So if Social, Mobile and New Commerce are the third wave, we are way past the prediction stage. We’re already riding it. What comes next? That’s what I want to know. Especially from the one man whom I’ve have always counted on as being able to see the future better than everyone else.

P.S.: If you have thoughts about the next evolution of the web, leave a comment or feel free to drop me an email with your thoughts.

From GigaOM Pro: As Zynga Profits From Personal Data, Other Opportunities Abound and Is an iPhone- and Android-Only World the Best We Can Do?