Peak venture capital funding for tech startups may be slowing down, but that doesn’t mean the end is nigh. Technological innovation will continue to drive the global economy into the next decade.
While big data moved to the forefront of tech in the past ten years, the goal of the next ten years will be finding out how to harness, personalize, and connect everyone to this web of information. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing, and 5G connectivity are just a few of the tech linchpins that will define global commerce in the future.
Tech Will Stay Funded
VC investments will fund all of this progress. To be clear, we’re not going to see a return to the aggressive, high-growth tech funding we saw in recent years. Valuations have been dropping, and deal sizes are starting to tighten up.
There are also warnings of a coming recession from every corner, and the current geopolitical climate — especially in light of it being an election year — will only make the threat more serious. In some ways, entrepreneurs will find it harder to raise capital for their next tech ventures.
Still, this isn’t a sinister forecast. With low global interest rates and lukewarm public market forecasts for the next decade, big-money investors are increasing their allocation for venture assets.
The large institutional investors that fund VCs will now look to the high-risk private market. That’s good news for entrepreneurs.
Keep in mind; investors will be looking at more than just the ideas behind startups. The recent implosion of WeWork, for example, raises the bar for the kind of professionalism and ethics investors will be seeking, too. Rapid-growth, cash-draining ventures won’t have the leverage to command meteoric valuations anymore.
This also means the standards are higher for VC leadership. While the careful, holistic approach by investors may slow things down some, it opens the door for influential leaders and entrepreneurs to step up and push the biggest trends forward. The cash will be there to do it if the venture is worthy of the investment.
Tech Will Go Vertical
A shift away from “horizontal” tech toward more vertically focused products will also become the norm. Where the last decade saw companies like Amazon, HubSpot, and Dropbox making big money and putting industry structures in place, the foundation they’ve built is now primarily in place.
The real value creation in the next decade will be leveraging that infrastructure with new tech to solve real problems within specific industries.
Instead of just HubSpot, a CRM for everybody, you’ll have something like HubSpot for realtors. Applied technology with the ability to address pain points within specific industries will let entrepreneurs create change and make money as they build.
Tech Will Spark Change
A well-funded, vertically focused tech industry will ultimately mean significant, exciting changes in the decade to come. Here are six to watch for:
1. Mobile technology will change transportation.
We’re already moving away from a dependence on fossil fuels and the cars that use them. In the next ten years, there will also be a fundamental shift in how we think about getting from point A to point B, all driven by mobile technology.
We’re not far from a time when we can program and control our movements with the click of a button on our phones.
You’ll be able to tell an app that you need to get to the airport, and a taxi or self-driving car will get your luggage from your house and then pick you up to take you where you need to go. At the airport, you’ll zip through TSA with a quick eye scan, grab your flight, and find a cab ready for you when you land. You’ll check into your hotel from your phone and scan yourself straight into your room when you arrive.
All of this will be personalized based on your data and habits, making it seamless for you to move freely through the world without depending on your own vehicle.
2. Renewable energy will finally win out.
The shift away from fossil fuels will be bigger than cars. We’re at the tipping point. The economics are about to slide in favor of renewable energy all around.
Connected mobile technology will take us there. We already see how the Internet of Things can make cities smarter and more efficient in terms of energy consumption. Soon, big energy companies will start to jump on these trends. There’s money to be made in wind, solar, and biofuels, and when businesses realize it, you may be shocked at how quickly the world will change.
3. AI is here to stay.
True AI is still a few years away. But the machine learning we see today will continue to evolve and become ingrained in our economy. As it does, we’re going to see a democratization of software development. Why? AI reduces the amount of work required to build algorithms. While this new reality will displace some coding jobs, it will open the door for others to work with software without knowing code.
Ultimately, this means people in any industry will be able to use technology to solve problems they see in their space.
That HubSpot for realtors? It may actually be developed by a realtor instead of a software engineer.
4. Tech will give us the key to our medical data.
It’s been a long road toward consumer ownership and control over personal medical information. But the technology is finally in place to get us over the hump.
In the next decade, you’ll have the key to your medical data, and you — and only you — will be able to give providers access. Hospitals will have their hands on your records only if you say they can. This growing link network of records, otherwise known as blockchain, will form the infrastructure to make this work, so it’s only a matter of time.
5. Data will be the new currency.
Blockchain makes data privacy possible everywhere, not just in healthcare, and as legislative pressure surrounding how companies acquire and use data online comes down harder, technology will quickly propel that movement.
You’ll have the option to browse sites anonymously for a fee or share some of your data to browse for free in the coming years. There may even be sites that pay you to share your data. Either way, you’ll get more control over your information and how it’s used. In the end, your data will become a currency you can leverage rather than a gold mine for companies to exploit.
6. Retail will be reimagined.
Many have foretold the demise of brick-and-mortar retail in the internet age. But these spaces aren’t dying. They’re just getting reimagined.
We’re already seeing startups sublet space in old malls, some of which even offer residential space. Why? Malls are experience destinations — places to hang out, work, meet people, and have coffee.
Unlike the retail malls, you’re used to, the new malls will be tailored based on your data and behavior.
Imagine a little city, complete with a personal concierge, virtual reality, and experiences customized for who you are and what you want.
Looking into the next decade, it might seem like the forces of exponential tech growth, and economic downturn are in a battle against each other. In reality, tech is the key to keeping the economy in order — even through another recession.