THE BLOG

What I Learned The Week: The Walls Have Already Fallen

04/21/2013 11:00 EDT | Updated 06/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Historians officially record November 9, 1989 as the beginning of the end -- the tearing down of the infamous Berlin Wall.

I don't know what day they will set for this landmark event, but it's one that's already upon us...for The Business Wall has fallen some time ago.

I remember when my partner Garner Bornstein and myself started our pioneering mobile media firm Airborne Entertainment back in 2000, one of the questions potential investors always asked us was: "What are the barriers to entry?" In other words, what makes it difficult for other competitive entities to enter the field?

Back then, our answers were:

  • "Our proprietary technology."
  • "Our deep wireless carrier and media brand relationships."
  • "Our experienced management team."
  • "The cost of set-up and development."

We had others, as well.

We were cocky and confident.

For we were entrenched behind, and protected by, The Business Wall.

Today there would only be one answer to the question:

"So sorry, but there are NO barriers to entry!"

That's the cold, cruel lesson of the week...although it's probably many months late.

Today, anybody can do anything.

And they can do it any time they want, usually for way cheaper than it was done before.

Easily-available software, net-based social media tools, guts, and a healthy ignorance of "how it should be" have now made every musician a producer, every producer a label, every craftsman an international marketer...and every current international marketer scared as hell.

Desktop 3D printers have become factories.

Ballsy corporations, not governments, are sending citizens into space. Instead of merely buying cool cars, brilliant, rich entrepreneurs like Elon Musk of Tesla Motors are making them (ironically, just like their predecessors at the turn of the 20th century).

College kids are creating companies, products, games and apps with the same speed and reckless abandon they used to expend partying (better still, they're finding time to do both).

In my current field at Just For Laughs, young comedians don't need the comedy club stage, or the TV show break anymore. By knowing how to "use" YouTube, they create their own platforms, their own audiences, their own shows...and their own breaks. And if they have any weight, like Louis C.K., or Marc Maron, or Chris "The Nerdist" Hardwick, they create their own worlds.

In fact, my greatest fear for Just For Laughs and its festivals is not death by our current competition. It's not being rendered irrelevant by some of our well-financed, heavily resourced peers. It's being accidentally conquered by two well-meaning young fans in a suburban basement who don't know what can't be done and certainly ain't playing by any established set of rules. Call it "Inadvertent Demise."

Depending on where you sit, this can either be exhilarating or frightening. If you feel one of these two emotions, you're in a good place, because you're either being driven by it, or being driven crazy by it.

But if you're not thrilled or you're not nervous, if you think you're still being shielded by some sort of barricade...then you're in trouble. Big trouble.

Because the walls have already fallen. And even though the dust has not finished settling, your conquerors have already entered running.

And it's only a matter of time before they come for you.