Reading The Map of Money in the Tech Industry

Mahmud Asrul
11 min readJun 30, 2023

Let’s see how we can create questions that are intriguing so that we can explore the economic/business explanation behind them;

  • Why Google became the best search engine and earned substantial profits in 2000-era.
  • Why ChatGPT gained a staggering one million users in its first five days of launch?
  • How did Gojek/Traveloka become a Unicorn in 2016 & 2017, and what’s the reason behind it?

Let’s start by creating a simple explanation of ‘how money works as a currency’.

However, let’s make it very simple. Money is essentially a representation of value, and transactions occur when we exchange value. There are only two ways to make money.

The first one is by printing money, which it’s only for central banks. (which is impossible, except you’re part of elitist people)

The second way is to provide value to people who already have money in their bank accounts.

Therefore, the only realistic way to acquire money is by offering something valuable to those who already have money (I assume you cannot print money).

Herein lies the problem: in economics, certain factors become more valuable when they are scarce. In the context of supply and demand, if the demand for something is high, but the supply is limited, its value increases to a certain level, but with some threshold.

Let’s create a line of the spectrum that includes the timeline of how the technology evolved and what’s valuable in that time, where we travel through time and understand the economic aspect behind it. Let’s start with the first one.

We start with the Information Era.

This term may sound familiar as you might have heard it from your parents or teachers. The Information Era refers to a time when information became democratized. Before the year 2000, information was scarce until Google disrupted the era. By making information accessible to everyone, Google became one of the wealthiest companies. The key here is that Google followed the economic map and provided a solution by addressing the scarcity of information. It became valuable because it solved a problem that everyone has.

Key Takeaways 1

There will be no 2nd Larry Page, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos. because they already solved their scope of the problem and become rich from that → They become rich because they provide values that no one in the world before did.

If you expect to become rich by creating a clone of Google, you are brutally wrong. Stop thinking you are the next Steve Jobs.

However, what happens when we reach the peak of information overload? If information becomes excessively democratized, its value diminishes as it becomes a commodity. So, Here comes another question.

what can we expect in such a scenario?

There are three concepts I would like to share in an attempt to dig down/curve the path toward an Economy Map of the current status quo as a Tech Student. (or where the money revolves in the era after Google disrupted the world)

1. Welcome to the Curated Economy,

In an era of information overload, people tend to value curated content. Imagine trying to find information about something you want to find in Google with 1 or 2 keywords; what you will get is an overwhelming sea of data.

What I am going supposed to do to find the most relevant answer that I need?

You search through sources A, B, and C.

Yes, you have access to information, but it could be more efficient and effective.

This is why the ability to curate information and become the top of mind now in a specific niche is the way to gain revenue as much as possible. In a world where time is limited and we’re bombarded with messages,

But what about Social Media Algorithms? Why don’t we just follow the algorithm instead of being a Curator?

Algorithm to create our own bubble.

Algorithms were supposed to solve this problem. I think we can see how the algorithm works on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and many more. Tokopedia created a system to automatically recommend products to customers, making human editors seem unnecessary. Since then, algorithms have become smarter at managing certain types of content and figuring out what might interest us.

For example, YouTube’s algorithm is responsible for 70% of the content people watch on the platform.

But algorithms have their limitations. They still don’t fully understand the content and its context, so they can end up sharing harmful or inappropriate things. Algorithms are designed to keep us glued to the platform for as long as possible (which I’ll explain later on), which means they prioritize content that’s performing well rather than focusing on quality or relevance to us (if the cases they have to prioritize between two important aspects).

This is where human curation comes in.

Humans can analyze the meaning of each piece of content, find common themes, explain why something is relevant, and prioritize quality and relevance over what’s new. Just when it seemed like algorithms would take over, human curation is making a comeback.

Key Takeaways 2

When you can steal customers’/people’s hearts by becoming top of mind in a specific niche of curated content, the algorithm is no enemy for you.

Uniquely, Paradoxically, And Confusingly, by being yourself, there will be no other competitors who can be better than you. So it’s not about finding the most people/genre that becoming the popular one, but becoming something that represents who you are and how you can solve a problem.

If you solve your own problem, we call it problem-solving, but if you solve other problems, we call it as a business. — Dan Koe. (I really like this one)

2. The Rise of Attention Economy

The issue of dopamine detox is often discussed about the problems of social media. The documentary “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix is the perfect explanation for this topic.

Really liked this documentary. But if you also watched the Netflix series Black Mirror, you know how it’s terrifying, yet it’s the reality we face now.

If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend doing so. Here’s a great analogy: in certain parts of the world, such as emerging countries such as Indonesia, there is a culture or something that I don’t know how to explain in a good way. In some marketplaces (let’s say ITC, Pasar Senen, or any Market) every store tries to speak the loudest or make their store as unique as possible until sometimes it feels annoying.

I bet if you come from Indonesia, you can hear this picture.

The idea is that every store trying to grab your attention and the one that successfully grabs your attention has a higher probability of making a transaction.

Similarly, your attention has become a commodity for startups and businesspeople.

Sadly, the reality is that as the Product Manager, your attention becomes our KPI.

the buttons and UI/UX designs of applications are crafted to make you addicted. The goal is to ensure a flawless experience that captivates your limited attention. This is the essence of the attention economy. However, I still didn’t know what the future would be after this Attention Economy or what is the Anti-Thesis/solution after this kind of era.

Based on the data above, we know that in this context, Indonesia has a high adoption rate of social media platforms, with over 84.80% of internet users. So let’s see, based on the market capital →, now move on to the next question, “How long do we spend our attention on mobile devices?”

It’s 5 hours on average, so we move on to the next question. Btw for the full sources, you can check here.

Why it’s necessary, and how much money revolves in social media?

Okay, now short videos have become the current highest growth, consumer spend and time spend → basically we are predicting how is it going in the near future.

I have explained in my previous writings How to be Heard in Noisy World, but here’s the context that I want to share; let’s travel the dimension of time into 2010,

Do you remember that we watch Youtube videos, if it’s 1 hour/2 hour long, we say it’s very long (2010).

But in 2015, we know that if the Youtube video is 30 minutes, then it’s very long because there’s a video that can provide the same output but only 10 minutes.

2020 Bro, 5 minutes is very time-consuming… we have TikTok nowadays.

So what I’m trying to share here it will be always the ones who can give the most efficiency are the ones who win the game. It’s basically how the rules in this world work, have you ever seen people using floppy disks in 2023? (only works on the functionality aspect, if we consider the aesthetic aspect, I think it won’t be relevant because hobbies and functionality are two things different)

The reason why it does not exist anymore is that there’s a flash disk that offers more efficiency than a floppy disk.

Okay, now that we know, Short Videos is the winner in the category of growth in Consumer Spend & Time Spend. It means when there’s a high volume of transactions or investments in certain categories, it implies that is now what becomes valuable because people believe it can bring Productivity Growth.

Now that’s the reason why we see a lot of content creators nowadays they get a lot of money, because they play in this pool of money.

Key Takeaways 3

If you want to make a lot of money, focus on areas where there is a high volume of transactions or money being exchanged (Map of Economy)

Technology is always advancing and solving problems, but in every problem solved by technology, it also creates new problems of its own. It’s a cycle of innovation and challenges caused by technology itself.

Hence why, it’s either of two. Find the antithesis of the Attention Economy or use it to create a technology that follows the behavior (flawless experience, addicting algorithm, etc.)

3. Start-up Using Arbitrage Economy as Opportunity.

Well then, welcome on how most of start-up work in after 2015.

Technological advancements have enabled platforms like Traveloka and Gojek to connect supply and demand. These platforms act as intermediaries.

I think this is one of the simplest graphics to explain what I am trying to say.

For example, imagine you have difficulty finding a plane to a specific destination, but there is an airport nearby. In this scenario, there is both supply (the airport) and demand (people wanting to travel).

However, the missing connection is the one that creates valuable assets for the network

Fundamentally, businesses generate revenue by capitalizing on the arbitrage of information. Consider a simple example: if you have a connection to someone who can build chairs, and you connect them to people looking to buy chairs, you facilitate the transaction. By connecting supply and demand, you can earn money. How you can earn money? it’s because they don’t have access to people who can build the chair. You are the one.

However, as IT guys, we all have the capabilities to create a technology that connects a lot of stuff, such as Banking, Healthcare, Education, Travel, etc. So I’m not quite sure that this is something new.

I believe that there are so much of startups that already have the idea of using the Arbitrage Concept, but not everyone can execute it. I also believe that ideas will always come in every second — but now, what matters the most is the feasibility of execution.

But what about innovation; yes, it’s a very interesting topic. I believe that creative ideas come from a network and the capability to find connections between two or more stuff that not everyone can find the relationship.

How you can connect Healthcare to our daily phone (it becomes telehealth)

How you can connect Education to virtual reality (now we call it immersive learning)

How you can connect a Stock Market to retail? (now we call it Investment Application)

Arbitrage is about finding opportunities to profit by connecting existing supply and demand and making a profit from the price difference between them.

believe that in the next 5 or 10 years, everything will already be well-connected. The kinds of startups that might be rising in 2027/2030 are not the ones using this opportunity because all the startups are doing this, but even more that we cannot predict yet. What do you guys think?

So, what do we do now when understanding the first layer of the Map of Money in the Tech Industry?

Think like a venture capitalist or any investor you can imagine right now. What they do is focus on the ‘narratives’ to attract which company to fund. What does that mean? Consider the next 5 to 10 years.

Identify problems with the highest potential value that can be solved. You would have become wealthy.

if you invested in Google when information was scarce, but now, not so much.

Investing in Amazon when e-commerce was not even a thing, would have made you rich. but not now.

Among the three opportunities discussed earlier, they might not be relevant after 10 years because there will be another type of lucrative venture emerging.

It won’t necessarily be in the arbitrage economy, curation, or any other current trend. There will always be an antithesis to each narrative.

Be the visionary who seizes opportunities by embracing a high-level perspective and understanding the unfolding narratives.

Invest in companies that align with these narratives or address global challenges, or better yet, become the creator of one.

In this dynamic landscape, the power to shape the future lies in your hands.

How can you identify opportunities with significant potential for tapping into substantial returns? by Traveling through spectrum of time, I believe creating another e-commerce platform, especially in a market like Indonesia where giants like Tokopedia and Shopee already exist, might not be the best move. When seeking funding, a crucial and often overlooked question is: Why do we need it now?

This is because the narrative may already be late (or not even cultivated 100%) . Look ahead — live your life 5, 10, or even 30 years from now.

Envision a future where everything is well-arbitraged, information is abundant, and curation is everywhere. Ask yourself, what can be done differently and better?

If u are one day will be investor or a startup founders, considering these questions is key to maximizing the potential within narratives.

It’s not about becoming a Software Engineer

By understanding the changing dynamics of value, we can navigate the waves of innovation, seize opportunities, and create a meaningful impact in this ever-evolving landscape.

It’s not about building a stereotypical Start-up

It’s not about wondering if our job will be replaced by AI (Don’t worry, I am also concerned about that, lol. But we can talk about it later)

It’s all about finding what’s most valuable and solving what we are supposed to do in our lives.

There will be no other Bill Gates, who created Microsoft, no second Jeff Bezos, who created Amazon, and no other Elon Musk, who created Tesla.

Everyone has the capacity and space to contribute to this world.

Remember, you won’t change the world.

It’s as simple as this

if Apple had not been invented, the world would have continued, and it would not have been catastrophic.

You won’t ever change the world, and the world will keep going without you. However, each of us has the chance to make the world slightly better, not by changing the whole world, but by making a positive impact.

Let’s imagine that Kitabisa had never been invented. The world wouldn’t have changed, but think about how many lives are saved because of the Kitabisa startup. You didn’t change the “whole” world, but you changed “their” world.

How many “world” of cancer students were saved by this
How about the other kids?
“Their” world

Every one of us has the power to contribute toward creating a more peaceful world.