Last week Business Insider ran an article about companies that JP Morgan thinks could be "the next Apple". It's worth a read if you are looking for companies to invest your money in (Apple's 10-year return has been about 5000%, the article references companies poised to do the same).
But let's face it, companies like Disney, Comcast and Qualcomm are not the next Apple - they're just big companies with stocks that will likely go up over time. Apple has of course done much more than provide good returns on stockholders' investments - it has provided good returns because it changed the way people interact with their world. Multiple times.
So then who is The Real Next Apple? When we look back twenty years from now, who will we point to and say "that company changed everything"?
Here are a few contenders:
. When Jobs and Wozniak started Apple, computing was in its infancy. They saw the power of computing and wanted to make it cheap enough that people could do it in their own homes. Makerbot is doing the same thing for 3D printing - taking a hugely disruptive, transformative technology that is currently only available to big companies and making it available for anybody with 500 bucks in his or her pocket. Where will this go? Nobody knows, but as the capabilities of 3D printing expand over the next decade, and Makerbot continues to refine its product, it's possible that they could become one of those rare companies that is in everybody's home, everywhere.
Square. Aside from the fact that Jack Dorsey seems to resemble Steve Jobs more with every passing day, Square is a real contender for The Real Next Apple. As Apple did with computing, Square has extended the places in which credit card transactions can occur to include pretty much anywhere on earth. And they're moving into specific verticals too, as with their recent pilot project to put Square in the back of NYC Taxis. When Square was first looking for money, a VC who had heard their pitch said to me "They wont be the next big thing". How wrong he was.
. Banks have been due for a shakeup since... well, pretty much forever. Their collective policy of "fees no matter what you do" makes them ripe for disruption. Enter Simple - a service that "replaces your bank", eliminating unnecessary fees, allowing you to do as much as possible on your smart phone, and giving you access to ATMs to get the cash you need when you need it. It's the sort of huge-yet-simple idea that Jobs himself might have thought up. Simple is still in private beta, but their vision is big and the need is there - if they play things right, they could be the kind of company that changes the way we operate.
. The ecosystem of everything related to computers was barely a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye when Apple began. And then that ecosystem grew. And grew. And grew. Same thing for FitBit - when they started, the quantified self was hardly a footnote in tech. Now it's quickly becoming something that many people can't get through their day without. And the healthcare industry is now eyeing it as an efficient solution
to many challenges it currently faces. The intersection of people's lives and data will only grow over the next decade - FitBit could ride that wave to touch our lives in ways we presently don't even imagine.
The real next Apple, whoever it turns out to be, may eventually return 5000% over ten years - not because they are giant companies positioned to grow into even more-giant companies, but because, like Apple, they've changed the world around them profoundly.