As you may have seen in our recently released infographic, John and I identified three broad macro trends that we feel will shape the world over the next 3 – 5 years.
Increased Personal Efficiency
The first trend that we are tracking closely is that we believe consumers will continue to find ways to ‘increase their personal efficiency’. In our opinion, this trend is driven by the poor economic conditions that many Americans currently find themselves in – lower salaries, higher prices, increased debt burden and the need to augment their income sources. At the same time, the tools that are now readily available to consumers were not too long ago only available to large corporations in enterprise offerings (e.g., large scaled hotel reservation systems versus AirBnB).
Whole industries, or large segments within the greater tech industry, have arisen along these trends including scalable crowd-sourced labor, collaborative consumption, digital personal tracking and management, and digital cottage industries with the aim towards allowing individuals to better manage / monetize their core assets. Each provides an example of a sub-trend within the greater efficiency trend; we expect these to grow and other sub-trends to develop as individuals find new ways to streamline their costs and/or increase how they monetize their existing assets.
Collision of the Physical and Tech World
The second trend is the ongoing aggressive collision between the physical and technology worlds. While this is not a new trend, we do think that there will be additional changes to watch going forward. We have been investing against these principles for the past several years with particular involvement in areas where the smartphone can enable consumer data. With the acceleration of smartphone adoption (the 5th anniversary of the iPhone’s release is coming up in June), we believe that this industry is still in its infancy.
While this trend has to date been driven by smartphones, we have also begun to see a large number of applications to seemingly stagnant industries begin to pop up. For example, sensor network technology is currently having an impact in energy efficiency for commercial buildings, inventory management and even the farming market. Emerging products like Green Goose, Ninja Blocks, and Twine promise to bring more connectivity to the physical world. These companies (and many others) are now building enabling technologies and platforms in an open fashion meaning that developers will be able to drive innovation from the start. Contrast this to the mobile platform that was only truly opened for mass innovation by Apple’s release of the iPhone SDK.
Speed is Changing Everything
The third trend, which is potentially the most nascent, is that ‘speed is changing everything’. The social web broke down communication barriers; cloud infrastructure has drastically reduced the cost of starting a software company. Communication and technological advances provide a virtuous loop that continues to decrease the “time to disruption”. We live in the seed stage world of the technology ecosystem and have had a front row seat for the “Cambrian Explosion” of startups and investors focused on this space over the last 4 years. This process is rapidly accelerating; the result is constantly eroding barriers to entry across all markets. Industries that once had barriers to entry that appeared insurmountable will be disrupted within the next few years.