The Third Wave Book Summary and PDF

The Third Wave by Steve Case [Book Summary & PDF]

The Third Wave by Steve Case is an insightful look into the future of startups and entrepreneurs in our ever-evolving technological world. Examining experiences from his own life, large global companies and recent stir-ups such as Uber, Case shares plenty of advice for those looking to achieve more and succeed in what he is calling ‘the third wave'.





Who is this summary for?

Ideal for any technology-focused entrepreneur, The Third Wave by Steve Case is an insightful look into the future of startups and entrepreneurs in our ever-evolving technological world. Examining experiences from his own life, large global companies and recent stir-ups such as Uber, Case shares plenty of advice for those looking to achieve more and succeed in what he is calling ‘the third wave'.

About the author

American Steve Case began his entrepreneurship adventure in the 1980’s founding what became one of the largest internet companies in the world; AOL (America Online). Case was a major driving force in the adoption of the internet for both business and everyday life. He is extremely committed to helping entrepreneurs and is the man behind the Startup America Partnership and is passionate about enforcing governmental policies to aid entrepreneurs. Born in Hawaii, Case now lives in Washington DC with his wife.

In this summary

We’ll begin the summary with a brief discussion about what Case considers to be the three waves of the internet. Then we’ll summarise the areas that Case believes are due a disruption from technology. Next, we’ll identify the three P’s and discuss their place in the business world before moving on to summarise the concept of disruption and what Case believes is to come. Finally, the summary will conclude with an explanation of the role the government is going to play and how you can ‘ride the wave’.



The first wave (1985-1999)

Case explains that the first wave focuses on the creating of the internet, building the platforms required and establishing the partnerships and policies that became necessary.

This first wave was almost entirely focused on connecting to the internet and a new online world. It was all about the technology and having access. Case explains that in a funny way, the third wave is going to almost mirror the first, but instead of focusing on connecting to the internet, the third wave will focus on connecting the internet to absolutely everything and every part of our lives.

The second wave (2000-2015)

The second wave became all about a mobile revolution and was driven by a new economy; applications. The introduction of new products and platforms was front and centre.

Case explains that it was the sudden increase in internet use coupled with the invention of the smartphone that led to a thriving online world based on social media and applications. The internet was being used all day, every day and now it could be used anywhere. Companies such as Twitter and Snapchat began to make names for themselves and take over.

It’s easy to assume we are still riding this second wave, our lives are still ruled by constant communication and the constant connection to the internet. However, Case believes that there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that we’re entering a new wave.

The third wave (2016 onwards)

Where we are today, the third wave is what Case describes as the internet of everything, this is in comparison to the second wave, the internet of things. Now we simply cannot escape the internet, and it’s only going to become more integrated into every aspect and moment of our lives.

The internet has the ability to overhaul how we learn, think, move, work, eat. And Case explains that every different sector is simply waiting for a disruption. The third wave is due to take over completely. And in Case’s own words;

”Think about what’s been happening in Silicon Valley over the past few decades and imagine what it will look like when we apply that same culture of innovation and scope of ambition to every part of our economy. That’s the Third Wave—and it’s not just coming; it’s here.”


When Case wrote this book he saw three key sectors that were just waiting for a new technology to enter and disrupt how things are currently done. So as a tech entrepreneur you should be paying close attention to healthcare, education, and food.

Healthcare has plenty of room for improvement, Case truly believes that in the next few years we will see applications monitoring your health, you won’t have to go to the doctors for a check-up any longer.

Another area that’s often slow to adapt but due for a wake-up is the Education sector. People are more aware that students are individuals who learn differently. Case foresees a future with individualised, personal learning plans. Teachers may even be replaced by virtual tutors and online learning resources.

Finally, food, one of the largest economies is due for a makeover. Case believes that companies are ready to adapt and change the way we make food, distribute food and even consume food. Perhaps the hardest to swallow, this industry is set for a huge shift.


”The startups of the Third Wave will collectively shape what could be one of the most thrilling chapters in the history of American entrepreneurship. They will pursue bold visions, but their true gift will be mastery of execution.”

Case explains that starting a business in the Third Wave is going to require a different way of thinking than it may have in the first or second waved. Case believes it’s all going to come down to the three P’s; partnership, policy, and perseverance. We’ll discuss these in a little more detail…


As a tech entrepreneur, it’s likely that at some point you’ll work on developing an app. And your app can be absolutely wonderful, the best out there. But that’s not going to be enough in the third wave. Case emphasises the importance of building partnerships and having an audience before you launch an app. You can’t simply sit back and wait for people to download your product. Case explains that it’s the ‘gatekeepers’ that hold you back.

If you really want to build and launch a successful product and gain a positive reception from audiences, you need to establish connections with the right people. The organisations and individuals who already have an audience, already have a following. Case explains that these are the people who have influence over customer bases, this is how you get your product out there. It’s something you’ve probably seen emerging on social media such as Facebook and Instagrams. Its crazy to think that individuals have built their entire income on being an ‘influencer’ and essentially marketing other peoples products.

”Partnerships in the Third Wave are the prerequisite for success. And that can create a Catch-22—where a company needs a partnership before it can get funded, but can’t secure a partnership without showing proof of concept.”

Case explains that in order to navigate the new platforms you’ll need to be incredibly patient and even more persistent. Make sure you’re making the right connections, meeting the right people and learn how to pitch your ideas.


Case believes that within this new era, the third wave, we are going to see even more regulation than ever before. The internet opened up opportunities for absolutely anything to be sold to anyone. Regulation has to do its part to protect industries such as pharmaceuticals, it’s dangerous to have non-FDA approved substances sold on the internet and medications without prescriptions. If you’re planning to sell any product or service online, you’re going to have to get up to scratch with the policies and governmental regulations. And this not only applies to the country you live in but any other country you wish to sell to.


Case appreciates that every company ever established has had to persevere, but Case believes that the third wave is going to have to unleash a new kind of perseverance. You have to be ready to face obstacles at every single corner now, from hardware and software to logistics and supply chains and as we’ve just discussed with partnerships and policies.

”The Third Wave will require a high degree of adaptability. Your initial product may not survive its first contact with the marketplace. Or with regulators. Or, perhaps partners you seek to align with will demand some adjustments. You’ll have to keep adjusting, tweaking, pivoting. Persevere.”


Case believes that there are many companies and industries who were not dramatically affected by the internet revolution. He believes that they will be sitting back feeling pretty confident. However, even these companies who seemed to be immune to the first to waves are due a bit of an upset in the third wave.

”In some industries, the most successful Third Wave companies may also end up being the most established. They’ll be the companies that took the Third Wave seriously enough to get ahead of it.”

How to handle the third wave

Case explains that a well-established company is more likely to struggle with the impending third wave than a new startup. Reason-being, people working in a startup are constantly thinking about the future, they are constantly making adaptions and amendments in order to reach their goals. Whereas, a well-established company is more likely to sit back and be content with the products and services they already offer. Case points out that this is dangerous and they are putting themselves at risk if they underestimate the approaching future and the potential hurdles.

Another reason well-established companies may struggle is due to their decision-making progress. Even if a few people within the company have enough sense to foresee a future that they might need to adapt to, in order to get their idea approved and taken to market can be a lengthy process. There are normally numerous authorities that need to approve an idea before they can move forward.

”Too often corporate executives are too shortsighted to understand how technology that is disrupting a different industry might be adapted to do the same to their own. Uber might be disrupting taxi services today, for example, but as they move into the delivery business, will Uber disrupt FedEx or UPS tomorrow?”

Case explains that the way these well-established companies need to work in order to get through the wave is to focus on hiring new innovators, give them the freedom to tell them where the future is going and how they can adapt to survive.

”Corporate mindset is to avoid mistakes, but in a world that changes rapidly, doing nothing is the biggest mistake.”Click To Tweet


Case uses the term ‘the rise of the rest’ to describe the incoming phenomenon and new ideas being generated by entrepreneurs. However, Case explains that although these entrepreneurs are beginning their journeys in the major cities, learning new skills and developing promising ideas. They then move themselves, their ideas and the potential corresponding jobs and economic activity out of the city. Case believes that in the next decade or two we will see marginalised cities turn into what he describes as entrepreneurial powerhouses.

This is an important notion and essential for a promising future. Case explains that by diversifying the economy, new communities will be formed resulting in new talent and ultimately new products and services. Jobs will be created in cities and communities that are prone to struggle and they will see a transformation in lifestyle and outlook. Case’s rise of the rest is about looking further than just Silicon Valley and finding opportunities in places you wouldn’t expect.

”The rise of the rest can mean diversity of opportunity. It can mean breaking the cycle of money flowing to the same kinds of people for the same kinds of ideas. And it can mean lowering the barrier to entry across the board for entrepreneurs, no matter their background or geography.”


”As investors, millennials, are far more committed to creating positive social change with their investment decisions. And as customers, millennials want to make a positive impact with their purchases.”

Case believes that impact investing is going to be a byproduct of the impending third wave. Impact investments describes the act of accumulating profit while providing to society. Case explains that a successful startup will acknowledge the benefits of giving back to society and establish that as a critical element of their business. This is going to have great appeal with the customers, everyone is looking to improve the world in one way or another, and knowing that their purchase or investment is helping others will be a big motivator.

”What we are seeing is the convergence of three powerful megatrends—the Third Wave, the rise of the rest, and impact investing. Because if Third Wave entrepreneurs, funded by committed impact investors, build successful companies in rise-of-the-rest cities, an economic transformation isn’t just possible; it’s inevitable.”


Case acknowledges that it’s time we all accept and understand that the Government is going to play a big role in the third wave. You’ve got to figure out how you can work with your Government, not against it.

This is where decisions are made and new rules are established. They have all the power when it comes to establishing a new company, accessing talent from around the world, scaling your local company to a global scale and any monetary investments.

”Government’s role isn’t to commercialize new innovations; it’s to push technological advancement forward in areas that the markets won’t address on their own—to get ideas and innovations to a point where entrepreneurs with vision can turn them into viable products and businesses.”

Case explains that not only are the Government going to be influential in the role as a regulator, but Government will also act as a customer or consumer. Just as they establish new rules around security and privacy, they have to walk the talk and protect themselves. In many ways, this can open up opportunities for innovators. Anyone who is capable of designing a product or service to sell to the government is going to be successful, getting a contract and providing for them is one of the keys to success.


Case truly believes that we should have been investing in new technologies over the past few years, however, this hasn’t been the case. Research and Development have been seriously neglected over the past decade and Case explains that this has been absolutely crippling for potential startups with breakthrough technologies.

Case explains that now is the time to turn this around, we need to look long-term and start investing in our future. R&D needs to be looked after and nurtured otherwise the technologies we so desperately are looking for will never be realised.

It’s time to help out the startups

Case believes that by making it easier for startups, we’ll see a real emergence of new technologies, products, and services. He believes that Americans, in particular, have some great ideas, but the ideas are often almost impossible to materialise without the capital.

”But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the age of the Internet, connecting ideas and investors could be a much easier process—and the federal government can facilitate it.”

Another issue that Case believes needs to be resolved is the ability to hire the best in the field, regardless of where they are from. Often, immigrants have the best ideas and are the ones with the necessary talents. However, the hoops that need to be jumped through in order to hire an immigrant and apply for a green card are just too difficult, so many look closer to home. This means we are missing out on many opportunities.

”The system we have in place to regulate business is stuck on twentieth-century notions of how the American economy works—some of which no longer make sense. Our legal system’s view of employment wasn’t designed for the freelance economy.”


Case truly believes that the future of America and the world entirely depends on today’s entrepreneurs and what they are going to be capable of in the coming years.

”Our future is going to rise and fall with the dreamers and doers, the builders of new technologies and the breakers of old orthodoxies.”Click To Tweet

Case leaves us with a few final suggestions; he wants everyone to set their expectations and ambitions higher than ever before. Case encourages us to take action and to be fearless, to persevere and create something you can be proud of. Finally, Case wants us to remember that the third wave brings the internet of everything, the fact that every little area of our lives is due for an uprising, so tap into that and use it to your advantage.

”Let us worry a little less about our net worth and a little more about our net impact.”


Key Takeaways

  • The first wave was the creation of the internet and connection.
  • The second wave became about the mobility of the internet and a new application economy.
  • The third wave is approaching, and Case calls it the internet of everything. The idea that the internet is going to be integrated into every aspect of our lives.
  • There are many areas due for a technological disruption, some of these include healthcare, education and food.
  • When facing the third wave you need to consider partnership, policy, and perseverance.
  • The startup perspective is favoured in the third wave, you need to be constantly thinking about the future and adapting. Well-established companies may get left behind if they remain content. They need to consider hiring new innovators and considering the impending future.
  • Government and policy is going to play a significant role in the third wave, not only as rule makers but also as customers.
  • There needs to be a bigger focus on investing in R&D and startups. This is the future.

Further Reading

Have a read of The Dip by Seth Godin if you’re a budding entrepreneur and full of fantastic ideas for new business ventures. The challenge that so many face is deciphering when you need to push through the hard times, and when you need to quite and move on. This book is the perfect read for anyone that’s ever had a business idea and wants to learn a little bit about navigating the new-venture ‘dips’.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau has two key themes: freedom and value. Freedom is what we’re all looking for, and value is the way to achieve it. The concept of having your own startup is the ultimate form of freedom according to Chris Guillebeau. He discusses different lessons on the road to beginning your own startup. With a focus on small ‘micro businesses' this book has plenty of tips and advice for every step of the journey.

Sprint is written by Jake Knapp with help from John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. These three have all been a big part of Google Ventures. Together, they have put together a guide for “solving big problems and testing new ideas in just five days”. You'll find useful start-up examples including those from Slack and Blue Bottle Coffee. Knapp, Zeratsky and Kowitz have put together a must-read checklist at the back of the book that will assist anyone on this problem-solving, idea-testing journey!

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  • If you’re a new startup, consider impact investing, how can your company make a profit and provide for society.
  • It’s a really good idea to get up to date on governmental regulations, particularly the new GDPR that’s being implemented in 2018.
  • As an entrepreneur, start brainstorming areas that you think are due a disruption.
  • Remember the three P’s, partnership, policy, and perseverance. Who can you partner with to really get your product out there?
  • Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.