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Founders at Work: Ephemeralization- where ideas come from

Feb 8, 2012

The other day I was scanning through an article on startup entrepreneurship when this word “Ephemeralization” caught my attention. Thanks to great Google. I got the details by a click.

Simply, Ephemeralization means replacement for better,- as I have got it (my extended understanding). Suddenly I got it interested. With few twists of my brain cells I got that, we are living in an age of true “Ephemeralization”. After awhile I thought, why i'm not writing something on Ephemeralization for Future StartUp readers? The idea is really great and useful! You are reading the result of that thought! Hope you will get it right.
In 1938 Buckminster Fuller first used the term ephemeralization to explain the increasing tendency of physical machinery to be replaced by what we would now call software. The story of replacement in human civilization is long. Our civilization literally a long story of ephemeralization/replacement. All the time we replaced something for good.

The first portion of  title of this article is taken from the Book “Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston one of the most fantastic book s on start-up entrepreneurship. At the same time this is the first article of a series of articles on Starting up ranges from idea development to branding and marketing to people management. I hope to bring some more mature thoughts on the way forward of this series by interviewing/inviting some successful entrepreneurs and experts on the issue in Bangladesh. Readers ideas, thoughts and feedback will be highly encouraged throughout the series where enthusiastic readers even will get opportunity to write. If you interested please send me an E-mail<>

At the early stage of civilization people replaced their hunting style with the advancement of their thought. At the beginning they used stone and then bow and arrow and then fire and other more sophisticated weapons. The most interesting fact is that, this story of replacement is still going on.

In recent time replacement become so easy and rapid that sometimes we even cannot cope up with the situation. Camera now replaced by mobile phone with attached camera, postal system going to be replaced by speedy courier system and with the emergence of E-mail and IM now we seldom write letters. Mobile application and software is now become a legend of replacement. You can find your friend by using a certain application, you can find your car by using GPSes and evolution is still going on.

In coming decades, this pace of replacement will be more massive and dramatic. Now we are seeing that, physical shopping is going to be replaced by on-line shopping (it'll take time!), banking is going to be replaced by on-line banking, and Media is going be replaced by social media! Be careful.

The recent trend of Bangladeshi market is that, products like “Jhal Muri” that once were special because of their availability in open places, now we don't buy from open place. Because there is packaged “Jhal Muri” that we think better than open one. Because the level of our health consciousness is increasing day by day. At the same time increasing number of people are giving up cooking at home and running for ready mate food. This trend of changes is somewhat awkward but you cannot ignore it. It would be even better if you can make a good use of all these changes.

The speed of replacement and its acceptance in our society is quiet high. Now, replacement is the new business. Single app of android is changing the total style of doing something, sometimes single innovation is replacing a total system that was there for years.

Doing business is becoming difficult. As giant corporations are entering into the untapped market and it is becoming more difficult for new start-ups to sustain. So what start-ups can do? Simple, replace!

Think about the things you can replace with something better and simple. Find some ways to live inside giants. Just say for example, Grameenphone has to maintain a large customer care, lets come up with an idea that can successfully replace it. Thats it. You cannot compete with Google but can create an app inside android. Then do it. Live on it.
Remember,replacement would be the tomorrows business!

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at

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