Maybe it’s time to bring back the forklift

In startup and venturespeak sometimes we use the word “forklift” which means a startup that builds a product that requires customers to rip out their current solution completely to use a new product.

It’s commonly referenced in networking, telecom and enterprise software. Want a new billing system? Well, that means you need to forklift the old one out of there.

For the most part, forklifts are tough to say the least. And it’s one of the reasons why enterprise software can be challenging. It’s also why the best forklift solutions make it easy to ramp (e.g. software as a service).

Capital efficient startups and VCs have tried to avoid direct forklifts when possible. That was one lesson we learned from Bubble 1.0.

But sometimes existing technical problems can become so big that merely fixing/improving the current model isn’t interesting. We need something brand spanking new.

For example, right now our wirelesss system isn’t scaling. We are still in the top half of the first inning when it comes to wireless data services. What happens when everyone has a smartphone (e.g. Android, iPhone, Palm Pre etc). The current cellular system won’t scale as we all make data services requests. They were built with a different design goal and use case in mind.

The same thing is true with the current sytems that deliver video on demand to cable and telco subscribers. Those systems were designed for a different use case than a world where everything single piece of content is on demand.

It doesn’t make sense in every case but I do hope we see more entpreneurs and VCs take on forklifts. But this time with the benefits of cloud computing, open source and with new models of efficiency.

(photo via flickr).