2018 Is Their Year : Top 5 Tech Startup Trends

Dec. 27, 2017

BY TARA MATAMOROS CARTER AND LAURA RINGER

    

2017 was a BIG year for tech companies.

Together, the five largest companies in technology, including Apple, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, comprised 37% of the S&P 500’s total gains in 2017 and we’re on track to spend as much as $3.4 trillion on digital services by 2020. It’s been predicted by Entrepreneur Magazine, that federal investments in digital could climb as high as $95 billion in 2018.

2018 is the year that frontier technologies will finally become affordable and accessible for startups and businesses of all sizes to capitalize on emerging trends and technological innovations. Startups are continually gaining power in the opportunities created by blockchain, eCommerce, SaaS, AI and IoT and the opportunities they create to disrupt whole industries.

Today, we’re covering some of the top startup trends ripe with opportunity and bound for disruption in 2018.

Blockchain

What was once a technical topic is now entering the mainstream as tech startups are raising millions in funding through ICOs and opportunities for the public to get in on the action is growing.

Blockchain is a decentralized, internet-based technology used to safely and securely manage, access and trade cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) and information. The platforms effectively distribute power and risk across all players, regardless of personal reputation or financial backing. Blockchain is leveling the playing field by creating a space where VCs, angels and the public all have equal opportunities.

In the spirit of innovation and independence, blockchain startups are discovering new ways to invest in and grow industries rapidly using automation tools for completing and filing legal documents and processing payments while maintaining the utmost security of data and personal information.

As we become evermore technology-focused, the threat of hacking and our need for protection of digital assets grows. Blockchain tech startup Gameflip, is just one of the many companies using cryptocurrency to create a safer buying process for digital goods. Digital trophies, skins and weapons hold significant value to gamers, and many will pay to gain access to them, but without a safe way to process payment, they’ve been left sitting on accounts, unused. Gameflip is working to empower gamers to buy and sell precious digital assets on the blockchain, a billion dollar industry and growing.

Companies like SparkleCoin are making great strides in bringing about widespread adoption of blockchain marketplaces by empowering anyone to complete online transactions for physical products and everyday services with cryptocurrency. Technological improvements like this could completely transform business as we know it and promise secure transactions for every person, every time.

“The seismic shifts in the business landscape are causing bouts of jitters among the budding entrepreneurs, but they will have to be pragmatic enough to understand the dynamics, accept the technological disruptions and adapt accordingly,” advises Ashish Mittal, Angel Investor and Founder of TurningIdeas Ventures.

We’ve only seen the very beginnings of blockchain and you can be sure to hear a lot more about it in 2018.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Recurring revenue models are quickly replacing pay-per-use models in almost every industry, from groceries and office supplies, to entertainment and automation platforms for business.

Software as a Service (SaaS) models are being applied across the board to automate routine purchases, delivering them to our doorsteps and computers on a scheduled and recurring basis. We’re not likely to see a return of the tired pay-per-use model anytime soon and good riddance indeed!

As more and more businesses switch to a subscription based revenue model, businesses and consumers alike are able to accurately and systematically predict monthly expenditures to better plan for innovation and improvement.

In 2018, startups should embrace the growth of SaaS and look for areas of specialization to increase opportunities for differentiation.

Internet of Things (IoT)

A Business Insider intelligence report predicts a spend upwards of $6 trillion on IoT solutions over the next five years, reaching over 34 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.

Over the past few years we’ve witnessed an astronomical increase of the number of connected devices, including, but not limited to, home appliances, entertainment electronics, security systems and transportation. Combined, technological innovations and machine learning have proven themselves effective in automating routine tasks and eradicating inefficiencies and mistakes caused by simple human error.

Embedded geospatial data continues to further the growth of IoT by predicting human routine, adjusting to customized preferences, and automating mundane tasks, thereby allowing us the clear headedness to further innovate.

In 2018 you can expect to see increased efforts towards the security of IoT devices even as Mike Bell, EVP IoT and Devices at Canonical warns us of at least two or three large scale attacks on IoT-related hardwear to come in the next year. Startups in the IoT space should double down on efforts to secure devices and privacy while learning from the successes of automatic software updates in the consumer space.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) form a power team in alleviating customer service constraints and providing a quicker and more satisfying shopping experience.

Automated chatbot messaging tools leverage AI to create a personalized, interactive and increasingly helpful customer service experience to answer commonly asked questions, address personal account issues and drive quicker conversions. By replacing the need for human to human interaction on basic and common inquiries, our teams have been freed from mundane tasks to focus their efforts on positive innovation and higher level questions. In turn, conversionsions have increased across industries and customers report feeling a higher level of satisfaction and confidence in their purchases and the companies that provide them.

Enterprise messaging bots have spurred the growth of company-built chatbots that run on company websites and in native platforms like Facebook and Slack. Using AI, chatbots will grow in their capability and response to provide even better customer service, decrease conversion times, process payments and even automatically market your business.

"In the past executives may have tinkered with AI to schedule their calendars, but 2018 will see the end of the experimental phase and the beginning of applying artificial intelligence to solve the most soul-crushing marketing problems. For example, conversational AI companies like Conversica will make it possible for PR companies to harness conversational AI for lead nurturing and finding new clients. CRM companies like Helpshift will streamline customer service." – Curtis Sparrer, principal at Bospar PR.

The growing abilities of and access to speech analysis tools within AI are helping to improve human connection. In analyzing and comparing phone conversations completed at call centers, AI is able to recognize patterns and voice inflections that tell us far more than the average employees can. By studying response, words, tone and pauses, AI can provide customized scripts in real time that result in better understanding and more productive calls.

Over the next few years we expect to see enormous AI disruptions in process-based jobs from administrative assistants and brokers to manual labor and customer facing retail positions. AI will help us automate and optimize routine tasks and conversations, paving way for human employees to do what they do best.

Technology Will Become More and More Disruptive

Disruption, a powerful word that gained popularity in 1990s tech business to describe an innovative application that challenges market leaders, introduces a new way to do something and effectively transforms whole industries.

Disruptive technology will continue to grow in 2018, following game changing trends spurred by companies like Airbnb, who transformed the adage of hotel chains, Amazon, who changed how and where we shop, and Virta Health, who is working to connect patients in need with doctors in real time.

And eCommerce Isn’t Going Anywhere

A new report by Forrester found that 83% of all adults living in the United States made at least one purchase on Amazon.com in 2017. As we continue to see brick and mortar stores close and numbers of new physical shops decrease, digital storefronts are becoming the norm. 2018 will spell out the truth for businesses who effectively use the internet to reach customers and market their services and those who refuse to adapt.

With the coupling of eCommerce and AI, a sharing economy is taking hold and growing quickly, finding new ways to connect a growing human population while decreasing the barrier to entry. We’ve witnessed the rise of transportation sharing services like ZipCar and Uber, who empower urban dwellers to cut down on their environmental impact by sharing vehicles. And the server sharing market, lead by Amazon and Google, makes it possible for early stage startups and budding bloggers to get up and running quickly at a fraction of the cost of buying an expensive server.

It’s been two years since our last major industry disruption and 2018 is ripe for change. Prakash Nagpal, VP of Infoblox, advises startups to keep their eyes and ears peeled for opportunities to disrupt, especially in the financial services and healthcare industries.

2018 looks to be an exciting year for any startup or entrepreneur ready to make waves and embrace technological trends in SaaS, AI, IoT, eCommerce and blockchain.

BY TARA MATAMOROS CARTER AND LAURA RINGER
TECH STARTUPS, DISTRUPTION, AI, SAAS, BLOCKCHAIN, IOT