The customer experience is uniformly bad. The business model hasn't changed in decades. The products overpromise and underdeliver. These are just some of the signs when a staid industry is in need of a serious shakeup. Expect to see several shakeups in 2017. Here are five industries we'll be watching.
1. Mobile banking
Fees to use other banks' ATMs? Three days for transfers to clear? Sometimes it feels like you'd be better off keeping a wad of cash under your bed--at least your piggy bank won't charge you a monthly maintenance fee. Already, companies like Square and Stripe have moved customers toward cashless and cardless transactions; it's just a matter of time till those customers will want to become bankless, too.
Mobile banking startups like GoBank, Moven, and Simple appeal to the "de-banked" customer. Zero, which launches in 2017, is looking to give customers a more convenient and rewarding banking option--think credit card perks but with a debit card.
"I think we'll see more innovation in [mobile banking], and companies going deeper with their product offerings," says Matthew Wong, senior research analyst at CB Insights. Even big banks have taken notice, but are moving slowly to join the fast-paced, convenient, and customer-focused modern age. "Silicon Valley is coming," wrote JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in a letter to shareholders in 2015. "There are hundreds of startups with a lot of brains and money working on various alternatives to traditional banking."
2. Live sports
Thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, viewers have already started cutting the cord. But there's one big factor that keeps many people tethered to their cable deals: live sports. In many cases, it's impossible to view a live sporting event online legally, even if you're willing to pay, mostly because of agreements between sports leagues and TV networks established long before live streaming.
In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had talked with several of the U.S.'s biggest sports leagues about acquiring the rights to stream games, calling live sports "the last bastion of traditional pay-television." A few weeks before that, popular Italian soccer club A.C. Milan signed a deal with Los Angeles-based sports streaming startup Sportle to broadcast exclusive live video--the first such deal between a major sports team and a third party. And in 2016, Twitter began live streaming Thursday Night Football games for its users.
Cable and satellite companies won't like it, but leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball have a lot to gain by inking deals with streaming services and getting their products--behind-the-scenes events and eventually live games--in front of more eyeballs.
3. Real estate
In the first half of 2016, investors poured $1.8 billion into real estate tech startups--an 85 percent increase from the previous year, according to CB Insights. These deals included everything from property management platforms, such as Homelink and Buildup, to online tools for lenders and brokers.
But the bigger opportunity might be where the stakes are higher: the home buying and selling process. One startup, San Francisco-based Opendoor, uses location, size, and other variables to calculate a home's price, and then makes an offer. If the seller accepts, he or she gets paid immediately, the home is placed in escrow, and the company arranges an inspection before putting it back on the market for buyers. The company has had some success selling homes in the Phoenix area, where traditionally listed homes spend an average of more than 70 days on the market. Opendoor's process takes about 90 days on average, but the seller gets paid quickly. Says Wong: "That's definitely a theme we've seen lately: building algorithms and using machine learning to take something as complex as buying real estate and reduce the process to a much shorter time span." Don't be surprised to see competitors springing up soon.
Despite some progress, 86 percent of America's energy supply still comes from coal, gas, or nuclear power plants. In 2017, that could start to change in a significant way. The price of solar installations has been cut in half in the U.S. since 2010, and, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum, wind and solar energy now cost less than fossil fuels in 30 countries, with two-thirds of the world's nations expected to reach that threshold within the next several years.
That low, stable price point is a big reason why Google will offset 100 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources in 2017; Apple and Facebook are close to hitting that milestone as well. This year, Tesla's solar roofs will roll out, offering an alternative to the ugly panels that have adorned roofs since the '80s--perhaps the last consumer pain point preventing widespread adoption. Companies that can follow Tesla's lead in delivering solar through attractive or disguised means--like Solar Roadways, which is embedding solar panels in a rest stop's concrete parking lot--could help turn the energy industry upside down. "Renewable energy has reached a tipping point," Michael Drexler, head of infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, told Quartz in December. "It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns."
5. Athletic equipment
The sports industry has internet-connected shirts, pants, and even socks. But what about equipment that reliably protects athletes' heads? With the revelations about the health risks of impact sports like football and lacrosse, there is a huge opportunity to nail down a desirable helmet design that can help reduce concussions and other head traumas.
According to Bloomberg, Ridell and Schutt Sports own 90 percent of the $100 million to $150 million football helmet market--and the vast majority of available products look almost exactly the same as they did in the 1960s. Making the space difficult to tap into is the fact that lower levels of competition tend to follow the lead of the big leagues--and top athletes are notoriously particular about their equipment. Seattle-based Vicis has come close to cracking open the market: Several college programs adopted its "crumpling" helmets that bent upon impact during training camp, but they were eventually pulled when players complained about their fit. Some company will eventually design the helmet that NFL and college teams come to embrace, and when it does, the heads of those athletes, plus one million high school football players, are sure to provide lots of profits.