Predicting the future is hardly an exact science, but some people are better equipped to do it based upon their line of work. Take Erik Rannala, cofounder of seed-stage venture fund Mucker Capital which invests primarily in internet-enabled software services. Prior to becoming an investor closely watching the tech ecosystem in and around Los Angeles, he spent the bulk of his career as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and executive working for big names like eBay, TripAdvisor and Harrison Metal. Here's what he sees in the crystal ball for 2016.
1. The mass consumerization of IoT.
While there's been a lot of talk about the "internet of things" in the last several years, actual consumer adoption of internet-connected appliances and gadgets hasn't gone much farther than the Nest thermostat. With more products coming to market with embedded sensors, RFID tags and iBeacon (which is based on Bluetooth Smart), 2016 will be the year the average consumer begins to figure out the utility of being able to maneuver devices in other locations simply by being able to get online. "Everything is going to start getting internet-connected and internet-aware," he says.
2. The on-demand economy will continue to accelerate.
With Uber came the mindset people should be able to beckon whatever they need--whether it's a car, hair stylist, massage or dog-walker--instantly with the tap of an app. "People have talked about it being the uberfication of everything, and it will continue to speed up," he says. "Customers are going to continue to demand that and I think there are going to be opportunities to exploit it."
3. Alternative lending options will proliferate.
After 2008, banks tightened their purse strings with regard to anyone other than prime credit customers. As a result, alternative lenders have been filling in the gap. Prosper and Lending Club, for example, started doing peer-to-peer lending, acting as online intermediaries where investors make money by providing unsecured loans to borrowers. Since then, platforms have sprouted for niche spaces, such as agriculture, student loans and even socially-driven loans awarded to people with less than stellar credit scores, but who have family and friends willing to throw into the pot.
"There's going to be a ton more of that which gives consumers and small businesses a lot more financial freedom and options," he says.