The A that might disrupt GAFA

Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have been growing so much over the last few years that in the tech-community, everyone knows them by “GAFA.” Stephen Hawking once said of this modern world we’re experiencing together, “We are all now connected by the internet, like neurons in a giant brain.” So how will, or how could, either of these “lobes” decline, falter or cease to exist?

The most important question to ask revolves around the conditions, and trends, that naturally occur over time. The most obvious one, of course, is the exponential growth in mobile devices that belong to the “smartphone” category. According to this article as well as these stats, the number of smartphone users worldwide was 1.57 billion in 2014, but will reach 2.87 billion by 2020. That’s a third of the global population!

In my recent travels, I ended up sat on the plane next to a Google Researcher, and we discussed how in many countries that have been labelled “second” or “third” – world, many families that had never brought technology into their homes because they could not afford it (desktops or laptops), did join the online community via their smartphone devices. Outside GAFA and outside North America’s myopic view on tech giants, a powerful force that has capitalized on this is AliBaba. While co-founder Jack Ma tells the fascinating story of failing four years in a row to pass the university entrance exams, his multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate is now far ahead in business approaches. In fact, AliBaba operates in 200 countries and by creating AliPay, it surpassed Paypal as the world’s largest mobile payment platform in 2013. Recent news confirm this prediction of mine in terms of AliBaba’s growth in North America, and you can read more about it here. In summary, the Chinese giant and America’s largest grocery chain Kroger could partner in the near future and if so, this partnership would prove a real threat against “the dominance of e-commerce and cloud computing behemoth Amazon.”

This would only be the first step in the decline of one of the “big four.” As is often the case, when one company recognizes and responds to habits, a natural ripple effect occurs, where investors begin to replicate one another, and therefore establish and then re-enforce the new trend. For example, I recently came across a video of a local serial entrepreneur that I used to work for, Penny Green. She co-founded Glance Technologies, a leading fintech company recognized for its payment platforms and anti-fraud capabilities. GlancePay, as she describes it in this CEO-interview series, “is a mobile payment system that allows users to pay bills with their phone.” She goes on to say, “if you look at where China is with AliPay and WeChat, it may be surprising to find out that those mobile payment apps are now making $5.5 trillion dollars a year.” While I am by no means an expert in this complex world of the digital commerce industry, I have a gut feeling that these new financial forces will change the pecking order in the next few years and somehow disrupt GAFA’s power-hold. Or, at the very least, replace them.

Anna Stefanovici

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