The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and thus it's everyone's favorite time of year: predicting what will happen during the next earth rotation. 2016 looks to be a fascinating year, dominated by politics and the antics of a certain loud-mouthed, controversial Republican presidential candidate. But it also looks to be a tougher year for entrepreneurs trying to build their businesses, due to a variety of factors.
Some industries and companies are going to win next year, while others will be hit by a less-than-welcome wake-up call. So what's going to happen in 2016? Here are my somewhat-educated predictions for business in 2016:
1) Valuations will tighten as the unicorn market undergoes a Great Correction: Few people would disagree with me when I say that tech companies have been overvalued by the private markets the last few years. Now we're beginning to see a correction -- NOT a bubble bursting -- in valuations, spurred by the realistic valuations these companies can achieve in the public markets. Square was the first to temper expectations, but it won't be the last.
2) Some unicorns will avoid the Great Correction, however: Uber's business fundamentals remain strong, thus why it continues to raise at significant valuations. I don't expect that to stop. It's difficult to pick out the companies that will continue to outperform the market, but keep your eyes on Stripe, Airbnb, Slack, Clever and Wealthfront, among many others.
3) The brands that embrace content marketing will thrive because ad blocking isn't going away. The ad blocking war is escalating. Just this week, Forbes declared war on ad blockers, making it impossible to use its site until you turn your ad blocker off.
In the long run however, the ad blocking war will not be won by outsmarting ad blocking technology -- it'll be won by smarter marketing. Brands that invest heavily in content marketing instead of traditional advertising will be rewarded, because ad blockers will continue to grow in size.
4) VR and AR is just getting started: Have you seen Magic Leap's technology in action? Entered a lightsaber battle in VR? There are simply things you can do in virtual and augmented reality that you cannot do anywhere else. VR will become even more popular next year as VR hardware continues to become more affordable.
5) It's business as usual whether a Democrat or Republican is elected as U.S. President -- unless that Republican is named Donald Trump. You may think a President has significant control over our economic destinies, but all the research shows that simply isn't true. There are too many checks and balances, quasi-independent agencies (like the Fed), and outside factors that have a greater impact on the economy.
I do think there is an exception to this rule, and its name is Donald J. Trump. Throw out the rulebook is he's elected President. Fear the Trump, my friends.
6) But Fed rate hikes will have a major impact on the economy: We haven't had a Fed rate hike since 2010, but it's almost certain to go up before the end of 2015 or sometime in 2016. What does this mean? It'll be harder to raise money for startup, for one. Money typically flows out of high-risk investments when the rates go up -- bonds will benefit, young stocks will suffer.
7) Automation will continue to disrupt EVERY industry. Think your job is safe from being replaced by the machines? Think again. In the next decade, millions of transportation-related jobs as self-driving cars replace far more fallible human drivers. In service, new restaurants are proving that you don't need people to serve your food. Agriculture, media, manufacturing, and even art will be disrupted by automation. No industry safe from automation.