The air travel industry is dominated by four players-American, United, Delta, and Southwest-representing 71% of all revenues. Telecommunications, despite the attempt by the U.S. Department of Justice to break up the AT&T monopoly back in the ’80s, is essentially controlled by four behemoths, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Sprint (which has been eyeing T-Mobile for acquisition). Of course, the big can get much bigger as AT&T vies to buy DirecTV and Comcast is on its way to purchasing Time Warner Cable. One need only contemplate corporate brands like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to recognize where their respective industries are going.
Market consolidation has become an inevitable fact of American business life, producing a diversity of outcomes. In a number of cases, titanic companies with vast resources are able to bring greater innovation to the marketplace at (sometimes) a reasonable cost. In other cases, of course, their powerful grip has forced dramatic, painful change.
Anyone who has been in the optical industry within the last 20 years sees market consolidation prevailing in our community as well. As with other industries, this movement has had a substantial impact on the optical culture.
This can be daunting for what was once a highly fragmented industry where barriers to entry were not as formidable, and the field was rife with garage-style entrepreneurships and shoestring innovators.
But despite the evidence to the contrary, the Davids of optical innovation are still emerging with little concern for the dominant Goliaths. In his terrific book, David and Goliath, Malcom Gladwell points out that the one who is seemingly the underdog often has the hidden advantage. In the case of this 3,000-year-old fable, Goliath was a huge, lumbering warrior well versed in hand-to-hand combat, while David was not. But David had a unique technology that did not require close combat and was especially effective against someone who moved slowly. Hence, David changed the rules with his rock and his sling and won the day.
Rules changers and innovators still populate the optical landscape. A new organization called “Vision Care Inventing,” headed by longtime innovator Ron Blum, OD, is helping to cultivate many of these new businesses and bring them to market. At Vision Expo West 2014, Blum will be hosting a one-day forum, in conjunction with First Vision Media Group, to showcase eight of these new players and their game-changing technologies. The event will take place September 16th and attendance information is available at thefutureinfocus.com.
The Davids of optical will be out in full force.
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