Look for the Next Tech Gold Rush?

In early 2000, I reg­istered my per­sonal do­main name wei­dai.com, along with a cou­ple oth­ers, be­cause I was wor­ried that the small (sole-pro­pri­etor) ISP I was us­ing would go out of busi­ness one day and break all the links on the web to the ar­ti­cles and soft­ware that I had pub­lished on my “home page” un­der its do­main. Sev­eral years ago I started get­ting offers, ask­ing me to sell the do­main, and now they’re com­ing in al­most ev­ery day. A cou­ple of days ago I saw the first six figure offer ($100,000).

In early 2009, some­one named Satoshi Nakamoto emailed me per­son­ally with an an­nounce­ment that he had pub­lished ver­sion 0.1 of Bit­coin. I didn’t pay much at­ten­tion at the time (I was more in­ter­ested in Less Wrong than Cypher­punks at that point), but then in early 2011 I saw a LW ar­ti­cle about Bit­coin, which prompted me to start min­ing it. I wrote at the time, “thanks to the dis­cus­sion you started, I bought a Radeon 5870 and started min­ing my­self, since it looks likely that I can at least break even on the cost of the card.” That ap­prox­i­mately $200 in­vest­ment (plus maybe an­other $100 in elec­tric­ity) is also worth around six figures to­day.

Clearly, tech­nolog­i­cal ad­vances can some­times cre­ate gold rush-like situ­a­tions (i.e., first-come-first-serve op­por­tu­ni­ties to make truly ex­traor­di­nary re­turns with min­i­mal effort or qual­ifi­ca­tions). And it’s pos­si­ble to stum­ble into them with­out even try­ing. Which makes me think, maybe we should be try­ing? I mean, if only I had been look­ing for pos­si­ble gold rushes, I could have reg­istered a hun­dred do­main names op­ti­mized for po­ten­tial fu­ture value, rather than the few that I hap­pened to per­son­ally need. Or I could have started min­ing Bit­coins a cou­ple of years ear­lier and be a thou­sand times richer.

I wish I was already an ex­pe­rienced gold rush spot­ter, so I could ex­plain how best to do it, but as in­di­cated above, I par­ti­ci­pated in the ones that I did more or less by luck. Per­haps the first step is just to keep one’s eyes open, and to keep in mind that tech-re­lated gold rushes do hap­pen from time to time and they are not im­pos­si­bly difficult to find. What other ideas do peo­ple have? Are there other past ex­am­ples of tech gold rushes be­sides the two that I men­tioned? What might be some promis­ing fields to look for them in the fu­ture?