Our need for more human connection isn't just a cause for worry, it's also an entrepreneurial opportunity, writes angel investor Joanne Wilson. By Joanne Wilson (Blogger & Angel Investor, Gotham Gal)
As technology has taken over our social lives I continue to have conversations about how that has made an impact on our lives and what that means.
Let's start with the short term and what is happening now. Teenagers and tweens are all over instagram. Some of these kids have thousands of followers. That following rises their status among their peers. Social media has created a new dynamic but essentially it is the same dynamic as it always has been for the "it" kids vs the "outsider" kid but social media is the platform. Kids go to their favorite ecommerce sites every day to see the latest and greatest and read the relevant content. Then they share that with their friends. They actually do not need to go to the mall anymore because the mall has come to them.
You walk into restaurants and see a group of people at a table having a meal and there are a few checking their phone. I have been at board meetings where I peek over my shoulder to see someone checking their CNN feed (btw this was not a startup board but a non-profit board). The ability to keep connected 24/7 is amazing but also daunting.
What are the long tail effects of being connected to all aspects of our work and social life all the time? Someone said to me that he thought that third life spaces were going to be important. Third life would be something as simple as a bowling alley. I just recently invested in Royal Palms, a 18,000 indoor shuffle board arena in Gowanus because I totally agree. There is a reason for the success of smaller more intimate restaurants that only have 35/45 seats. Will we see interesting coffee shops where there are art installations that are geared towards neighborhood hang outs throughout the day with music or poetry readings at night? Adult teen centers?
The desire for intimacy and human contact is something I hear from people who are in their 20s. It is why companies like Gertrude are gaining traction because they are providing an opportunity for people to connect with others over something ( in this case art ) in a brick and mortar location. Kitchensurfing has built a marketplace for people to bring chefs into their homes so that people can connect over the kitchen table. Smorgasbourg and art shows are packed as people want to physically connect with others over food and art. They are physically social. Catchafire gives people the ability to give back and make a difference with their professional skills. All of these are related.
I do believe that there will be more of a reaction as we move forward in the next few years because we are human. Humans want and desire human contact, and that isn't contact through a phone or a computer but through touch and face-to-face conversation. There is a reason for the urbanization that is going on across the globe. What will be built because of that are probably more places that physically bring communities together. What they will look like and how they will be used is yet to be seen.
Do you agree that our longing for human contact represents a business opportunity?
About the blogger: Joanne (@thegothamgal) is an advisor and investor in startups, including Curbed (Eater/Racked), Food52, Red Stamp, Catchafire, DailyWorth, Editd, Ricks Picks, Cacao Pietro, Editions 01, Hot Bread Kitchen, Nest.io, Gotham Gym, The Moon Group and MOUSE. Her most successful venture is being married to her best friend and raising three kids.