How can we identify the next big thing?

Thursday September 23 2021
Fortnite Battle Royale

Fortnite Battle Royale poster from the immensely popular online streaming video game developed by Epic Games and released in 2017. A decade ago, very few thought gaming would ever amount to anything. PHOTO | COURTESY


What is the next big thing? This is the question on the minds of many leaders and dreamers around the world. If we can just identify the next big thing, then we can take our place in history. Is there a formula for identifying the next big thing?

Who would have imagined that platform Twitter that debuted by allowing people to share messages with no more than 140 characters, could become the preferred platform for former US president Donald Trump to release thoughts, anger, fire people and give policy directions! Stranger still, what we once called traditional media now get their breaking news from platforms like Twitter.

So dramatic are the changes that social media is fast becoming mainstream while the erstwhile mainstream are losing their place. Anyone trying to copy them right now is copying the past. That’s right. They have taken their space and like it or not, the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t be in social media. Platforms have been created and people use these to create newer ones rather than replicate existing platforms.

See, Richard Tyler Blevins, alias Ninja, an American streamer, YouTuber, professional gamer and internet personality, plays video games for a living. He plays and records videos of himself playing and shares them with the world.

Away with convention

Ninja was born in 1991 and has 24.1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and each video has an average of 1.5 to 2 million views. This career netted him a networth of almost $20 million.


He is the kind of guy that conventional people whose orientation is steeped in the past would tell to go and get a real job. This young man has taken up a career playing computer games. Not just any game. He is the poster boy for popular online games — Fortnite — a phenomenon that has swept through the world garnering over 350 million players and is available across different platforms including Sony PlayStation.

Now, Sony PlayStation is another interesting one. The Sony Walkman in 1979, became one of the greatest successes in Sony’s history, selling over 50,000 units in two months against a predicted 5,000 units a month. It was so successful that Walkman became the generic name for any compact cassette player for years.

Sony’s next big leap came from a most unlikely place — gaming. The initial plan was to partner with market leader Nintendo. However, Nintendo dropped them for a partnership with Phillips.

In retaliation, Sony president Norio Ohga instructed his team to develop a system to compete with Nintendo. In December 1994, the Sony PlayStation was released in Japan — an instant hit, selling more than two million units in the first six months and it has stayed at the top and has become a lifeline for the entire Sony Corporation.

Are we benchmarking the past or are we creating the future? A future where people would be able to play their music from portable cassette players might have seemed improbable years before it was realised, but once made, the Walkman ruled the day for years.

At the time, a future creating games must have looked farfetched for a company supposedly making serious things. Games did not look like the way to go. However, it was. In going that way, there was certainly nothing to benchmark.

If we peg our progress on what we can benchmark, we will never own the future. The ability to imagine the future and invest in imagination is what separates the leaders from the followers.

As we journey into never-ending relevance, let us continuously add substance to imagination. Invest in imagination. And… Never forget that the future started yesterday!

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; [email protected]