New Atlantic Ventures’ John Backus On Google Glass, The Battle For The Living Room, And Impending Cyberwar

Some of the best conversations I have about the tech space are with investors — along with being rich and generally smart, they seem to have the best predictive insights into the industry. At a time when the Chinese seem to be making very real attacks to our cyber infrastructure, when legislation could make or break the evolution of the television industry, and when Google Glass stands to store more lifestyle data than any other computer in existence, I thought it only fitting to bring on a DC-based investor, John Backus, to chat out the latest news.

John Backus is a managing partner at New Atlantic Ventures, and before that, he overlapped at Bain Capital with none other than one Mitt Romney. But John has had his eye on the needle of the tech industry for decades, and offered some interesting opinions of what we can expect to see in 2013 and beyond.

According to Backus, “the most interesting thing in 2012 was the perceived shift from consumer tech to enterprise tech,” but that most of that comes down to the fact that “people care more about profits.”

As far as consumer-facing technology is concerned, Google Glass seems to be of some interest to Backus (along with the entirety of the tech industry). Backus believes that the most valuable asset of Google Glass, and other wearable computing devices, is the amount of data these products can collect. “When you think about that much data, we are going to have to start thinking differently about the way we use this much data, and how we parse through it for the stuff that matters.”

Backus also sees great potential with Google Glass in the education sector. “The courses and the professors at a particular school are much less relevant,” he said. “It’s all about the community.”

The education system, particularly in DC, is changing rapidly from the traditional model to online education products, and Google Glass should help facilitate that.

But setting aside the future for a moment, Backus and I took the opportunity to chat out a shift that’s happening at this very moment. That shift centers around the TV — what is a TV? Will any content provider have all my favorite content on one platform? Who will come out victorious?

“Technology can do much more than the legal framework can do,” said Backus. “The legal framework is outdated and needs to be changed.” Backus and I, however, seem to differ when it comes to the most important shifts of the TV space. While Backus feels that access to the channel (such as ESPN on your iPad) takes precedence over a single content provider nailing down content deals to have everything and eventually “getting it right.”

Yet, when measured against the current cyberwar seemingly being fought between China and America, matters of the livingroom seem much less pressing. “The relationship between China and the U.S. as it relates to cybercrime will not be resolved this year,” said Backus. “It will take many years.”

“All of our data belongs to corporations,” Backus reminds us. His solution is to build “much bigger fences,” but he seems optimistic about the fact that many of the most devastating attacks are cases of spear phishing, meaning it comes down to human error and weakness.

He is much more fascinated with how the U.S. will respond, as the U.S. clearly has the ability to launch its own cyber attack. With China being our biggest trade partner, however, launching a cyberattack on the cell in China responsible for these attacks would be considered a declaration of war.