Forecasting the future can be tricky, but when you're steeped in an industry it is possible to assess where things are likely headed. Here are nearly two dozen predictions about what will happen with tech this year, made by founders and executives who are experts in their spaces.
1. The war for tech talent between the U.S. and Canada will intensify
"For decades, the U.S. has attracted the best and brightest tech talent in the world. However, the country's recent immigration policies are threatening to limit its access to a pool of skilled workers. Challenges with securing visas is nothing new for employers, but the reality is that it's increasingly harder to obtain approval for existing H-1B visa holders. Denial rates have skyrocketed past the 30 percent mark (for comparison, in 2015 the denial rate was a mere 6 percent). Rather than wait to regain entry to the U.S., we're seeing talent migrate north to Canada, where immigration laws are favorable. Canada is already booming with world class science, entrepreneurial talent, incubators, accelerators, and more later stage companies than ever before. In 2020, we're going to see even more skilled workers relocate to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, establishing the country as the new mecca of technological innovation."
--Mike Serbinis, CEO of League, a digital health-benefits platform used by hundreds of companies
2. There will be a rise in M&A from payments companies
"Many of the biggest payments companies on the market, including PayPal, Stripe and FIS, have made significant acquisitions over the past year-plus. Expect that trend to not only continue, but accelerate in the year ahead."
--Sean Donovan, cofounder of Finix, a payments infrastructure company that recently raised a $17.5 million Series A round
3. Collaboration in the quantum industry will give way to competition and acquisitions
"As happens with most emerging technologies, we're currently in a period of R&D camaraderie in the quantum industry as different universities and commercial labs jointly tackle engineering hurdles by releasing research papers and giving talks at conferences. I predict that 2020 will be the last year where there is a lot of knowledge-sharing in this area as quantum technologies mature and product development advances closer to market distribution. In 2020, we'll see at least one acquisition of a quantum computer hardware maker by a big tech company. IBM and Microsoft are chagrined that Google beat them to the quantum supremacy punch and face an uphill battle acquiring IP and talent to get ahead in the race. Meanwhile, startups in the quantum space that face growing R&D costs and a long road to profitability will be willing acquisition targets."
--John Prisco, president and CEO of Quantum Xchange, a quantum encryption company operating in industries including government, finance and energy
4. Many chief product officers will replace CMOs
"In 2019, we saw notable consumer brands like J&J, Uber, Lyft, Taco Bell and Hyatt ditch the CMO, following a multi-year trend of replacing the role with one reflecting a more focused mandate for growth or customer experience. In 2020, we'll see the early signs of a similar trend in B2B as a few product-led companies swap the CMO with a chief product officer. As buying journeys become increasingly led by a self-service trial and freemium experience, some B2B companies will find that hacking growth and nailing the product experience supersedes a more traditional marketing mix. More often than not, we'll see both roles working in tandem, but many CPOs will rise to stature and influence beyond their marketing peers."
--Jake Sorofman, CMO at Pendo, a $1 billion product cloud company that helps businesses create software products
5. The chief technical officer will take their place at the forefront of the C-suite
"As data expands and the technology that governs it becomes ever more complex, executives who can speak the language of engineers will become far more important. Companies that place importance on technology -- not only as a product, but as an enabler of efficiency and growth -- will in turn place their bets on the people who oversee it. For the CTO in particular, this will bring changes -- many will begin reporting directly to the CEO, and oversee far more than simple product updates. While more innovative CIOs may be able to adapt, many will see their job functions shrink, and 2020 will be the year of the CTO."
--Matthew Halliday, cofounder and VP of product at Incorta, an enterprise analytics platform with customers including Apple, Starbucks and Broadcom
6. Financial governance will become the number one cloud priority
"The cloud provides huge benefits for agility and speed of innovation, but enterprises have recognized that costs can spiral out of control if they are not carefully managed. This year, we will see an even greater emphasis on financial governance in the cloud as CTOs seek to understand their cloud ROI and hold departments responsible for their cloud usage. This means there will be a focus on tools for calculating the costs of cloud storage and compute, as well as chargeback mechanisms for individual business units and departments so they are held accountable for their usage."
--Ashish Thusoo, cofounder and CEO at Qubole, a cloud data processing company used by customers including Disney, Comcast, Lyft and Grab
7. IPOs for companies with cult CEOs and founders will be discounted by the market as bearing too much risk
"The days of CEO worship are over. High profile problems at Theranos, Uber, and more recently WeWork have made investors skittish about relying on charismatic individuals. In 2020, a good product backed by a sustainable business model will be far more attractive to investors than a messianic CEO."
--Murli Thirumale, cofounder and CEO at Portworx, a container storage provider used by companies including Comcast, GE Digital, Lufthansa and T-Mobile
8. Social video will drive lead generation
"Short-form video will continue to thrive in 2020, and it's not just for consumer brands. B2B marketers can use it to get people to a white paper, or sign up for a webinar or online newsletter. With Millennials and Gen Z increasingly becoming business decision-makers, pithy clips are a smart way to get them into the sales funnel. While this format has historically been used with humorous content, B2B marketers can use the clips by dangling quick-hit carrots in front of prospects. Perhaps quick-cutting video footage of a breadth of state-of-the-art software products, within a few seconds, can segue into a text, call-to-action, like, 'Click Here to Learn How My Software Brand Used Email to Lift Sales by 3x.' Then, viewers are taken to much more information. Such possibilities are endless. And due to the shareability of social media, there's no better place to develop your short-form video strategy for lead generation."
--Penry Price, VP of marketing solutions at LinkedIn, a professional network with more than 660 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide
9. The remote workforce will continue to grow, driven by technological advances like AI and 5G
"The tech that enables remote work still isn't as smooth and efficient as in-person interaction. But that's changing fast. In 2020, I expect we'll see rapid innovation in technology solutions that cater to today's remote workers and distributed workforces. In order to truly enable effective, efficient, and collaborative remote work, as well as the digital equivalent of connection and community, startups will deliver new enterprise-grade technology solutions that provide knowledge sharing, collaboration, and productivity. The remote work tech stack still has a lot of opportunities for improvement, and I expect we'll see many hopeful contenders in the year ahead."
--Susan Liu, principal at Scale Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early-in-revenue enterprise software companies such as DocuSign, Box, and HubSpot
10. DTCs will shift focus to retention and real-world extensions
"Direct-to-consumer brands are growing mobile audiences much faster, but their total reach is still dwarfed by established retailers, according to Comscore's Global State of Mobile, 2019. Expect to see more linkages between these two sets of retailers in 2020, as established retailers seek to acquire more digital acumen, and savvy DTCs ink partnerships to reach more consumers. Above all, expect both to shift their focus to customer retention as Mary Meeker pointed out that social ads are getting too expensive, making customer acquisition harder. An uncertain global economic outlook and regulatory roadblocks to third-party data will [accelerate] this shift, and for the first time in modern marketing history clever lifecycle marketing campaigns will outshine the flashiest 30-second commercials, especially in terms of bottom-line impact."
--Mike Herrick, SVP of technology at Airship, a global customer engagement platform that helps thousands of brands like Alaska Airlines, NBC Universal and Zillow send over one billion notifications per day
11. Business intelligence will become more accessible
"Currently there's a bottleneck between business intelligence (BI) analysts and every other department in an organization. Finance, marketing, sales -- everyone needs access to data to do their jobs well. Everything from budgeting and forecasting to a sales deck relies on updated, accurate data, but the data has become more and more siloed with the explosion of SaaS. New companies are reducing the burden this places on analysts and enabling other professionals to access the information in the way that they need it presented."
--Haley Daiber, senior associate at Unusual Ventures, a venture capital firm that recently raised $400 million to invest in seed-stage entrepreneurs
12. Trade unions will get a bigger say in AI reskilling efforts
"In 2020, the conversation around reskilling and up-skilling will finally actively involve perspectives from blue collar workers and leaders of trade unions. There are perceptions among trade unions that AI will eliminate jobs, but instead, education leaders, labor organizations, local governments and tech companies should and will collaborate on reskilling initiatives that address the needs of underserved workers and help them harness the power of AI."
-- Tara Chklovski, founder and CEO at Technovation, a global tech education nonprofit teaching 130,000 individuals
13. More work will be done online
"Remote work has grown 44 percent in the last five years and it will only continue to increase. Today, the outlier is no longer the one person joining a call via video or dial-in, as the majority of meeting attendees are now distributed across locations. Hiring more remote employees also opens the door to recruit the best talent, regardless of location. In 2020, we'll start to see more companies prioritizing workflows and processes that allow for remote employees, whether that's building an app for internal communications, investing in state-of-the-art video conferencing or revising orientation and training for remote employees. It's not about the space you work in, but the community you work with."
--Sarika Garg, chief strategy officer at Tradeshift, a supply chain payments platform that connects 1.5 million companies across 190 countries and processes $500 billion in transaction value
14. Television will be disrupted by data
"In 2008, Google tried to revolutionize TV ad buying with the launch of AdSense for TV. This means that for over a decade, there has been a slow and inexorable march toward a data-driven future. But even only 12 months ago, there remained a consensus that most planning and buying operated behind closed doors, hidden away from the programmatic and data-driven disruptors. [Last year] saw those walls come crashing down and 2020 will see a tidal wave of change. Accelerated cord-cutting, proliferation of streaming services, innovation in advanced advertising by incumbent networks and unprecedented levels of content investment are creating more disruption than the onset of the post-network era in the 1980s. And perhaps most impactful of all, in 2020, half of all TV content will be viewed on mobile platforms. All of this has created a fertile market for evolution in TV advertising, driven by a proliferation in data making TV more addressable than ever. This pushed U.S. marketers to spend $7 billion on connected TV ad spending in 2019, which is expected to jump to nearly $9 billion in 2020. But in a market of $70 billion, there is plenty of headroom for growth."
--Rob Jonas, CRO at Factual, a location data firm whose data is used by more than 6,000 brands around the world, including all 50 of the top U.S. national advertisers
15. Artificial intelligence will improve human connections instead of replace them
"In 2020, marketers will use advances in AI technology to enable and improve human connections between consumers and brands. Being on the front lines with consumers, marketers are in a unique position to understand the buying journey and at what point people want to speak with an expert, whether it's to get a question answered, calm a concern, or inspire trust. Implementing a chatbot is not enough. Marketers must have the technology in place to tap into first-party data and use it to connect in a meaningful way when there's a lot at stake, such as the decision to take out a mortgage, choose a healthcare provider, or sign a multi-year contract."
--Gregg Johnson, CEO at Invoca, a marketing software company that raised $56 million for AI-powered call tracking and conversational analytics
16. IoT corporate espionage will go public
"The sheer volume of IoT devices tapped into enterprise networks creates a tempting attack vector for attackers, and all industries are exposed to some degree. However, 2020 will be the year where this increased risk plays out in a novel way: corporate espionage. Because corporations lack visibility into the connected devices in their network, they are unprepared to ferret out snoops who gained undetected access through IoT security flaws. For example, Microsoft recently spotted Strontium attempting to compromise popular IoT devices across multiple customer locations by using VOIP phones, an office printer and a video decoder as an entry point into their targets' internal networks. Once in, they scanned for other vulnerable systems to expand this initial foothold and moved laterally. I expect that this is only a prologue to a huge influx of corporate espionage attacks."
--Ben Seri, VP of research at Armis, an enterprise IoT security firm used by companies including Samsung, Sysco Foods and Gett
17. The "everyone wants to be a bank" trend will continue
"Customer acquisition is getting more and more expensive, so we'll continue to see fintech companies try to broaden their share of wallet with banking products, which are now easier to offer than ever with off-the-shelf solutions."
--Jennifer Fitzgerald, cofounder and CEO of Policygenius, an online insurance marketplace with more than 30 million customers
18. Backlash will grow toward listening devices
"Overcollection of consumer data has been an issue for quite some time, but the introduction of smart home devices like Amazon's Alexa and Google's Nest have exponentially accelerated consumer data collection, much of which is superfluous and lacking in value. Large and small organizations alike are not taking the necessary steps to identify which data is sensitive and which should be deleted. By not making this distinction and just storing all the data they get, companies are exposing themselves to potential security and compliance risks. As rash, unnecessary and potentially invasive data collection becomes even more pervasive in devices across the home, I expect the public backlash to grow louder in the new year."
--Dimitri Sirota, cofounder and CEO of BigID, a data privacy firm with $96 million in venture capital funding
19. The hiring of software developers will become more specialized
"In recent years, companies have been hiring for full stack engineers. In 2020, we'll see developers carve out specializations for themselves. And companies who are ahead of the curve will adopt more specific job titles to make it clear to developers what certain roles entail and which team they'll be working on."
--Eddie Zaneski, developer relations manager at DigitalOcean, a cloud firm for developer teams and SMBs with a global community of more than 3.5 million developers
20. Bacteria will become an increasingly important lever in our health
"Alongside diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices, microbes will factor into the decisions we make each day and will entirely transform how we think about the daily care of our mouth, skin and systemic health. There is almost no aisle in the pharmacy or grocery store that microbes won't disrupt or take major market share from in the near future."
--Ara Katz, cofounder and co-CEO of Seed Health, a microbial sciences company with investors including 8VC and Founders Fund
21. There will be even more marketing noise around artificial intelligence
"For all the smoke and mirrors we saw in 2019, 2020 will be even murkier, driven by the financial fervor for all things AI. Private companies, especially startups, will increasingly tout themselves as AI companies in a bid to capture VC dollars, regardless of what they actually offer. Similarly, we'll see companies, especially public ones, repackage their offerings with some sort of AI spin to impress shareholders hungry for stories of digital transformation success."
--Sudheesh Nair, CEO of ThoughtSpot, a search and AI-driven analytics platform that serves over half of the Fortune 100
22. Congress will address data privacy at the federal level
"The U.S. is one of the few remaining developed countries without a national data privacy standard, which is giving rise to a patchwork of state-based regulations that will likely prove to be harmful from both an economic and commercial perspective. It is even starting to raise concerns about national security and the protection of U.S. citizens in today's deeply connected world. In 2020, we will likely see Congress step up to address data privacy at the federal level -- and in the process work to protect more than just data, but also the digital identities of all Americans. We've already seen various business sectors race to develop the de facto standards for this critical aspect of modern-day consumer privacy and security -- particularly financial services, healthcare and internet technology companies -- but in 2020 commercial interests may see their dreams pushed aside by lawmakers. Emboldened by rapid progress on data and security regulation, we will likely see the federal government take digital identity under its wing, in effect creating a robust set of consumer data protections."
--Richard Bird, chief customer information officer at Ping Identity, an intelligent identity company that serves all 12 of the largest U.S. banks and over half the Fortune 100
23. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) will advance with less data
"It will start to plateau at something like 95 percent accuracy. Achieving the other 5 percent is either not important for some markets or will require a really deep understanding of the real world to solve, using innovative advances in fundamental machine learning. These advances will enable more to be achieved with less data, supporting lower resourced language, domains and use cases that will open up the technology to a massive global market.
--Ian Firth, VP of Products for Speechmatics, an automatic speech recognition technology provider and Queens Award for Innovation 2019 recipient which recently raised 6.35 million Euros to fund its global