Tech is overyhyped...except when it's underhyped

Dispatches: Overhyped and underhyped in Silicon Valley

Is the tech industry bubbling with froth or at the beginning stages of a wearable and cloud-computing revolution?

It's a fun debate, one that comes up with regularity at start-up parties, investor conferences and even on our own network. The reality is that certain markets that are raging hot today will eventually fizzle, laying waste to millions of venture dollars, while other bets that seem crazy now will explode, perhaps turning into the next Microsoft or Google.

CNBC officially opened its San Francisco bureau (dubbed CNBC@1Market) last week, and amid the festivities, brought tech entrepreneurs and investors into its studio to sit on the hot seat.

We asked them things like, "If a $1 billion start-up is a unicorn, what happens at $10 billion valuation?" And "If you could ask Jeff Bezos one question, what would it be?"

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We also wanted to know, in this environment, what technologies they view as overhyped and underhyped.

"Periscope is overhyped today," said Rory Eakin, co-founder of equity crowdfunding site CircleUp. "I feel live video is not something that's particularly interesting."

Eakin's comments came just after Twitter announced that its Periscope service reached 1 million users in its first 10 days, surpassing Meerkat, which debuted to plenty of hype at South by Southwest in March.

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Venky Ganesan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, which bet early on Uber, said that home cleaning services like Handy and Homejoy are overhyped because "there's not enough margin."

And what about Dropbox, the cloud storage and file sync app that's worth $10 billion?

"It's amazing technology, but the reality is the cost of storage is dramatically declining," said Peter Hebert, a managing partner at venture firm Lux Capital. "I think it's going to be difficult for them to realize anything beyond the $10 billion that they're currently valued at in the private markets."

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As for what's underhyped, Hebert points to "satellite analytics." What--on Earth--does that mean?

Lux is an investor in a company called Planet Labs, which builds satellites and sends them up to space to collect data.

Jeff Yasuda of music start-up is bullish on the future of content marketing, as companies move away from traditional fluffy, promotional advertising and toward producing original, valuable information about their industry.

What else in tech could be bigger than we now think?

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As much as we hear about Google's driverless car experiment, Vessel co-founder Jason Kilar says the hype isn't loud enough.

"I get very excited by self-driving cars," said Kilar, who previously founded video site Hulu. "Our grandchildren and certainly our great-grandchildren are going to think that we were insane to have humans driving cars on roads." (Tweet This)

A demonstration on how to use Apple Pay, as part of a Visa/Chase promotion, on October 20, 2014 in New York.
Getty Images

As for Google's own David Graham, vice president for strategic partnerships at the search giant, he's more excited about payments, and even gives a nod to a big rival.

"Apple Pay, the stuff that Android's doing--this is transforming the way everyone buys things."

A spokesperson for Twitter—which owns Periscope—declined to comment. Dropbox and Homejoy didn't respond to requests for comment.

Umang Dua, COO and co-founder of Handy, said to CNBC in a statement: "The home services market has been valued at over $800 billion, and the old models for providing these services are broken and inefficient. We've seen exponential growth and are currently on a run rate of well in excess of $70m of marketplace value, generating over $15m of margin for Handy."

Disclosure: CNBC's parent company, Comcast, is an investor in Meerkat.