As managing partner of Blumberg Capital, David Blumberg is a respected investor, with two decades of experience investing in early-stage tech startups. I recently interviewed him on the top trends affecting venture capital in the current market. His uncanny insights into upcoming trends could be of great benefit to investors and entrepreneurs alike. He highlighted several major technologies that will be of interest over the coming decade.
Reinventing the Services Economy
Technology is changing businesses everywhere, but special attention now centers on service-oriented industries, which already account for more than 50 percent of global GDP and are likely to see enormous opportunities for innovation in coming years. Blumberg specifically cited the following industries as hungry for innovation, since mobile, social, and cloud technologies can fundamentally transform their ability to meet consumer needs by reducing costs and expanding reach:
The ever-expanding reach of the internet means B2C-based companies are increasingly able to reach a global audience. A business is no longer limited to local solutions such as purchasing airtime on a TV station to reach a specific market. Instead, professionals are aiming their messages at the global online consumer base, using social media and other tools.
Blumberg points to the fact that the middle class is rising rapidly in developing countries, creating an increased demand for products in those areas. Companies will be required to find ways to reach out to this new customer base in order to satisfy consumer demand.
Despite the fact that the average consumer is still trying to decipher what exactly it is, Bitcoin promises to revolutionize payments over the next decade. Blumberg points out, however, that the most important part of Bitcoin is its "blockchain" technology, not the currency itself.
So rather than focusing on Bitcoin as a speculative currency, the true focus should be on the underlying technology, known as the blockchain, and related "sidechains" that result in speedier payment methods, reduced financial friction, and anonymity, as well as accountability and transparency.
As attendees at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) found, there's no shortage of innovative hardware companies. Gadgets like the selfie stick and smart heating vents connect with consumers, and when something connects with consumers on a wide scale, investors take note.
In recent years, the market has seen an explosion in innovative hardware solutions, due in large part to a drop in hardware production costs. Blumberg points to phenomenal successes like Beats, JawBone, FitBit, and the GoPro camera as examples of hardware products that combine low-cost manufacturing with a high overall financial return.
Internet of Things
Another trend at CES was the Internet of Things (IoT), which centers on a world in which everything from toasters to home thermostats is connected to the internet. In addition, there will be myriad applications for IoT in the industrial, agricultural, mining, and other B2B sectors. This is expected to be an important year in the growth of IoT, as more products emerge. However, widespread product deployment to consumers is still likely a couple of years away.
For investors, this means 2015 is likely promising for IoT businesses. For startups and existing businesses, however, it's a signal that now is the time to launch B2B and B2C companies. Brands across multiple industries will feel increasing pressure to create cloud-connected products to avoid being left behind.
Technology is evolving at such breakneck speed that security experts have been challenged to keep up. With each major platform change or software update comes a new need for security products to handle those changes, which means businesses must remain a step ahead. Innovative security solutions will thrive because there are now so many different platforms encompassing a wide variety of devices and environments.
Blumberg has found rapid adoption of security products by consumers and businesses alike, making it a popular investment for venture capitalists. The rapid growth in these markets will likely continue, as financial institutions and health-care-related businesses embrace change through their technologies.
Crowdsourcing has already expanded in a variety of areas, and this will likely only continue in the next few years. Waze is a good example of an application that utilizes the power of users to populate it with information. Instead of creating an app that requires constant updates from a connected source, crowdsourcing services allow users to provide that information. By offering rewards and incentives, successful crowdsourcing apps create a "gamification" effect, where users get excited about providing additional and continuous information.
This will be an important year for businesses in all industries, as changing technologies continue to capture investors' attention. Entrepreneurs can continue to remain competitive by learning as much as possible about the types of businesses that are getting the most buzz.