Skip to content
Font sizeAAA

Flywheel Partner Sees Opportunity in Digital Infrastructure Trends

intersecting trends

Scott Caruso says that being asked to give a presentation on digital trends gave him an opportunity to step back and think about changes he is observing in the IT world. "I'm calling it digital infrastructure because innovation is not limited to the IT department anymore. Digital infrastructure is much broader." The changes today are across the spectrum of communications, he explains. "We make investments we believe will pay off 10 years from now, so we have to have a vision of where we think things are going."

Scott has organized his observations into 3 broad trends: Always Accessible, Cloud Computing and Social Production. He says that the real opportunities exist where these trends intersect.

Always Accessible

In the early days this was called "always on," but that just meant that the pipeline was on. Although people could reach you via the Internet, you weren't always accessible. Always accessible is device independent. People can be connected wherever they are by using any of a multitude of devices.

Text messaging is currently an important mechanism for sharing information, but Scott sees this as just a transition or interim phase. As bandwidth and capacity increase, he predicts we will move into more media rich messaging platforms.

People are realizing being accessible gives them the ability to stay connected with others that are not necessarily in their immediate circle, but that are interested in the same things. The fact that they can reach these people without going through an intermediary is very powerful.

But how can you be accessible and still choose to be unavailable for the masses of data that are irrelevant? Filtrbox, a Flywheel portfolio company, focuses on providing that relevancy. The company lets you build filters for the information you want to receive. "Fitrbox is like Google Alerts on steroids," Scott says. The company has identified a need that ties to the always accessible trend, providing a service that lets people manage the flow of information they receive.

Another part of being always accessible is Location Based Services. The iPhone with its GPS on by default has opened the door to location aware applications. More are on the way.

Scott foresees that in 5-10 years the idea that your desktop or laptop computer is where all your information resides will change. If you can carry a small device that includes a unique, secure identifier on it, you can connect to your information resources on a network from almost anywhere. An example of this would be a Smartphone plugging into a docking station with a network connection, as well as connections to a keyboard, monitor, printer, projector or other peripherals.

Cloud Computing

These days, it doesn't matter where you are as long as you have access to the cloud. With cloud computing all resources are available in a virtual way, and are not tied to a specific device. The cloud is virtualized resources, and this is already directly impacting the IT world.

Scott likens it to the Internet and Intranets. The Internet is the public space but the real opportunity in terms of IT will be in the private area, creating private clouds or internal resources, analogous to an Intranet for an organization.

The cloud enables centralization of resources, with the ability to centrally manage them. All resources, whether on a desktop or server, are now available to the entire organization. This is happening as the right thing to do from economic, service, and efficiency perspectives.

Dozens of startups are focused on providing hosted application services. "Where I find the most excitement in terms of opportunity is that they can provide these applications so cost effectively and efficiently compared to the traditional model," Scott says.

One example of a hosted application (or Software as a Service) that many businesspeople are familiar with already is Salesforce.

Another is Flywheel portfolio company TrackVia, which offers a hosted application for managing data that lives in the cloud. The database acts like a sophisticated spreadsheet which is completely relational and interactive through the Web. "People use Excel or Access on their computers, which is great except if they want to share or collaborate," Scott explains. "Then they have to email files and make revisions. TrackVia makes this collaboration possible more easily."

Social Production

The newest of the trends, social production is a marriage of social networking and crowd sourcing. Social production breaks down barriers. While social networking brings together people with like interests, and crowd sourcing is about collaboration, such as the open source software movement, social production lets you collaborate with other people on projects that are personally meaningful.

Lingotek is a Flywheel portfolio company that produces a product for social production. Their platform enables people to work together on language translation projects by managing the workflow and QA process. Scott feels that there's a lot of opportunity to build businesses around providing social production platforms for projects, whether it's writing a manual, providing language translation, or developing computer code.

Providing a social production platform for translation such as Lingotek does doesn't change the need for paid translators. There's a lot of content out there that doesn't get translated so people can't share it, Scott points out. On Second Life or eBay, why should you be limited to only interacting with people who speak English?

Lingotek is also a perfect example of intersecting trends. "When I find something that intersects all 3, it's going to be exciting and a good opportunity," Scott says.

Scott Caruso

Scott Caruso, a General Partner at Flywheel Ventures, has been involved with computers from the days of paper tape and punch cards and has stayed at the forefront as digital technology has evolved. Scott has led successful technology start-ups, been a systems and sales support engineer at Sun Microsystems, and managed New Mexico State University�s computer operations group, connecting them to the Arpanet, the predecessor to today�s Internet.