This year has seen the Internet-of-Things (IoT) officially grow up, mobile enterprise deployments become the norm and cognitive systems and machine learning completely change the way we interact with technology.
It's also seen startup and developer communities across the globe--from the Bay Area to Brazil, Israel, Germany and India--use cloud technologies to come into their own and carve new paths for technological originality and advancement. Startups like Swiftype in San Francisco, Hexanika in New York, 9W in Texas, ElektroCouture in Germany, Tekoia in Israel and RankMyApp in Brazil are leveraging the cloud and cognitive systems to bring innovative solutions to market.
As most entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world are looking ahead and mapping their product and business development plans for 2016, it can be helpful to reflect on a few of the most interesting trends within the cloud ecosystem in 2015. Here are a few key industry insights that might help take your tech business or startup to the next level.
1. Business Mashers: The New Startup Leaders
Consider the top tech unicorns from 2015: surprisingly, most of their CEOs didn't come from engineering or highly technical backgrounds. Many of them are hybrid entrepreneurs, combining their technology and business experiences to navigate the highly competitive startup scene. With accessible cloud-based tools, business leaders can easily create applications and tap into cognitive systems without being experts in cloud development and machine learning approaches. These new "business mashers" effectively leverage new technologies to drive their visions while also tapping into business skills to execute on them. This hybrid skillset underscores that a new type of tech leader has emerged and will continue to take center stage in 2016. Technical skills will always be essential, but thanks to user-friendly cloud and cognitive computing resources, a deep technical background is not always required.
Culture and global diversification will also continue to make positive impacts--changing what it means to be a modern tech leader. Consider India's current venture capital boom: investments have reached $4.6 billion across 385 transactions so far this year, compared to $2.4 billion in 2014. India's top tech leaders also have become renowned names in the Valley, from Satya Nadella at Microsoft to Sundar Pichai at Google. Other successful companies led by Indian immigrants include Adobe, Nokia and Global Foundries, and there are also an abundance of Indian-based startups like Swiggy, Simplilearn and Wingify stirring the global pot. This speaks volumes to the new makeup of the tech startup--and the globalization of the broader industry.
2. Hackathons Will Act as the New Proof of Concept
Technology dynamics have dramatically shifted over the past year, and those who attempt to navigate the uncertain conditions alone--without a supportive ecosystem, mentors and partners to help along the way--could develop a costly hole in an otherwise perfect product strategy. In today's environment, it has never been easier to spin up a new idea and get a product up and running, and hackathons provide new opportunities to collaborate with experts in the field and create usable software with 2-3 days of dedicated effort.
Companies like AT&T and Avnet know this well. By hosting more than 145 hackathons around the world, AT&T has discovered new talent and ideas. This year's big AT&T hackathon winner, Anti-Snoozer, was a sleep detection driving app that uses facial recognition to detect yawning, frequent blinking, shifting pupils and closed eyelids. And Avnet has hosted two hackathons with IBM, with the latest leading to this year's winning solution: WatchOver, an IoT based mobile app that lets parents and caregivers track the location of children, senior citizens and those with special needs. It can even be used to track pets and vehicles. Built with IoT and geospacial services, it uses geo-fencing and pulls real-time analysis about locations that might be dangerous.
However, developing apps and executing a proof of concept will no longer be enough--in fact, they could instead be a huge waste of time and resources. Coding in a void, based on sheer principles and concepts, may very well be a recipe for disaster in the year to come. But developing solutions with third-party engagement and data, along with participation in hackathons and meetups with like-minded people, could provide a sounding board to understand the real world viability of an idea. This also plays into the rise of digital ecosystems from online courses available on Udemy and Coursera, to online forums like Reddit, in which previously unconnected people come together. But it's important to note that digital interactions should complement, not replace, in-person connections to drive more opportunities for developers, startups and their collective communities.
3. Tapping Into the Global Ecosystem
Business digitization has kicked open the doors for a global tech ecosystem--and not just virtually. In 2016, digital cities will see the value in linking together and learning from one another. India is already emerging as the developer leader, while Silicon Valley continues to be the overall startup leader and New York City the financial tech leader, but the linkage of these digital cities and pooling of their resources across borders is what will make each more powerful.
This trend will also affect neighboring and in between locations like Oakland, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Austin and Salt Lake City--now also know as Silicon Slopes. Companies looking to grow outside of today's major tech hubs should look for a smart approach to take advantage of these cities' largely untapped markets.
In 2016, the tech startup scene will no longer be trapped in a bubble, restricted by stereotypical platitudes, locations or communities. But with more opportunities than ever, comes more opportunities for startups to miss the mark. Don't emulate the old; tap into the new and find unbounded success in the New Year.