What are the most innovative startups on the market today? Which companies are likely to survive economic turmoil in 2019 - and maybe even change the way we work and live?
I don't have a crystal ball and can't pretend to make predictions - after all, I've been predicting the recent stock market decline since 2016. But we talk to CEOs and founders of successful early-stage companies every day, and we're always on the lookout for innovative products, services, and business models.
Here are five that we'll be watching in 2019.
Company: Tik Tok
What it's disrupting: Media companies
When Musical.ly was acquired for more than $1 billion in late 2017, you might have said, "Musical.ly? You mean the app my 12-year-old niece uses to record lip syncing videos?"
But after it was acquired by Bytedance, Musical.ly's users were transitioned to TikTok, one of the iPhone's top apps and an incredible source of short, astonishing video entertainment. If you want to watch people executing ridiculous athletic feats, producing beautiful works of art, cooking incredible culinary creations, or performing short comedic skits, download TikTok now.
TikTok might steal some time in your day from Facebook and Instagram. But it's not a social network - it's a media company. The companies who should be worried about TikTok are the content producers: yes, that means Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Google's YouTube, and more. Don't believe me? Download the app and try it for yourself.
What it's disrupting: The book industry
Hooked, the chat fiction app, is changing how we think about books. The Kindle stuck with the traditional book format and made it electronic - an innovation that disrupted bookstores but didn't change the way we read. Chat fiction apps like Hooked, which pioneered the genre when it launched in 2015, have the potential to do just that.
How do we tell stories today? Often, we do it through chat. Hooked tells stories through a series of chats or text messages. If you're concerned about the death of reading, don't be - Hooked just gives literature a new form. The company even released a novella-length story earlier this year.
What it's disrupting: Email
Experts have been predicting the death of email for some time now. But Carrot.io is one of the first tools that has addressed the problem of email overload without replacing it with something else, like death-by-Slack-notifications.
Carrot.io lets you keep key company communications in one place. The key to Carrot.io is the fact that it's not for everything. We use it for important company communications, shout-outs, and birthday announcements.
Previously, I worried that important all-company announcements just got buried in our team members' inboxes. Now, everyone knows that key information is shared and stored on Carrot. Birthday announcements used to overwhelm my inbox; now, they are quarantined on Carrot, where I can respond to them once a week instead of three times a day. And shout-outs used to get quickly buried on our company chat channels. Now, I feel confident that they get a wider viewing.
Who it's disrupting: Software developers
This year, we built a software product for a client. The product, Amplify, is a database with detailed information on thousands of events. It's designed for people who want to speak at or attend conferences, and has all the information they could possibly need, including contact information and a list of previous speakers. When we initially got quotes on the software build, the complexity of the database - and the sheer volume of data we had on each event - was a huge part of the cost. But then we discovered Knack.
Typically, building a database requires a lot of back-end software development work. Knack has done the work for you. It's basically an off-the-shelf database that's already built and that you can incorporate into almost any software program that requires a database. Far more powerful than competitors, it's highly flexible and can be used for all sorts of things. We were continually surprised by the power of the tool, and the customer support we received, especially given the price. (Shhh.... Don't tell Knack that part about the price.)
What it's disrupting: Satellite imagery
Planet has more than 175 satellites in space. But here's the key - the images are not as good as some competitors' images. While Google can take an incredibly high-resolution picture of your house, maybe twice a year, Planet can take lower-resolution photos many times a day.
This has a number of incredibly useful applications. Farmers can monitor their crops in real time. Insurance companies can assess risks and validate property valuations. Investors can study retail traffic, view corporate infrastructure build-outs, or monitor supply chain activity. And scientists can monitor environmental changes in oceans, rivers, and more.