The valley seems to be obsessed with small ideas like photo sharing and messaging apps. There was a time when life sciences and technology that fundamentally changed the society ruled here.
That time seems to be long gone, for the worse.
A big part of it is that VCs gravitate towards these smaller ideas themselves. Why do you think that is the case?
I am not a Silicon Valley insider, but I think there are multiple factors:
1. It's crowded - more entrepreneurs and more startups in general resulted in a lot of consumer-oriented products and services, so the big ideas seem rare due to simple statistics. This isn't necessarily bad because the needs of niche markets are being addressed too.
2. Books like Rework tell us to scratch our own itch and so first-time founders look for familiar problems to solve, which results in a lot of me-too products - project management and collaboration tools, consumer apps, etc.
3. It seems to me life sciences space is being disrupted with technology these days - new innovative approaches to automated testing at scale promise to drop the cost of a setup of a typical research lab. Also, lean methodologies are making their way into research process as well, so I would expect some exciting developments in the field in the near future.
4. There is a lot happening in energy sector that we don't hear about, but a lot of big ideas are being funded and tested (and fail) at huge scale. I feel like the focus of investors shifted from previous decade, that was all about internet related technologies, towards energy industry in the current decade.
A relevant read from HBR - Reversing the Decline in Big Ideas
Steve Blank hit the nail on its head in his post: Why Facebook is Killing Silicon Valley
If investors have a choice of investing in a blockbuster cancer drug that will pay them nothing for fifteen years or a social media application that can go big in a few years, which do you think they're going to pick?