A new report from McKinsey on technology trends ranks 14 advanced technologies for relevance across 20 industries, from aerospace to telecommunications. Here's how those technologies rank by the number of industries in which they're "highly relevant":
- Applied A.I.: 20 industries
- Future of sustainable consumption: 16
- Advanced connectivity: 12
- Trust architectures and digital identity: 11
- Cloud and edge computing: 10
- Immersive-reality technologies: 9
- Future of mobility: 9
- Industrializing machine learning: 7
- Future of clean energy: 6
- Quantum technologies: 6
- Future of bioengineering: 4
- Web3: 3
- Next-generation software development: 2
- Future of space technologies: 2
The report is useful for any entrepreneur building B2B products because it shows overlap and connections between industries you may not have considered as potential customers. If you're only selling to one or two industries, you might ask whether your product could easily translate into another. As the authors write, "While it remains difficult to predict how technology trends will play out, executives can plan ahead better by tracking the development of new technologies, anticipating how companies might use them, and understanding the factors that affect innovation and adoption."
The technology most relevant across all 20 sectors? Applied A.I., in which, as the report explains, "Models trained in machine learning can be used to solve classification, prediction, and control problems to automate activities, add or augment capabilities and offerings, and make better decisions."
This speaks to a familiar theme for entrepreneurs: In almost every industry, in almost every company, there is likely some problem that can be solved through upgraded analytics, automation, or some other application of A.I. While individual A.I. products are, by nature, narrowly focused, an insight here for entrepreneurs is that different industries might have similar problems to one you're solving in your target market.
The second most broadly relevant tech, according to McKinsey's analysts, is the "future of sustainable consumption." Which, as the report defines, "involves transforming industrial and individual consumption through technology to address environmental risks, including climate change." Entrepreneurs in this space might be surprised to find the full range of industries interested in their technology.
As environmental efforts advance, we continue to see changes in linking society's communications. Third-most relevant in McKinsey's list is "advanced connectivity," which McKinsey describes as, "5G/6G cellular, wireless low-power networks, low-Earth-orbit satellites, and other technologies support a host of digital solutions that can drive growth and productivity across industries." Here again, entrepreneurs may find industries they hadn't considered are among their best potential customers.
While reports like this are often meant to serve the large companies typical of McKinsey's client base, entrepreneurs can make use of this in thinking about the way products are brought to market. Many products begin as a solution to a very specific pain point. Identifying that is a research-oriented process. Founders are expected to go through a customer discovery process, in which they interview potential customers to help identify what their product should become in the march to building a minimum viable product, or MVP.
But even as your product is gaining traction in one field, you can keep exploring others -- continuing that customer discovery process outside of your immediate target market to identify additional markets. For example, you might be targeting retail stores with your product, and then find that banks have a similar pain point. Or you might be solving a problem in manufacturing that's quite similar in agriculture. A tool meant to help teachers might also help leaders of software engineering teams. With some quick adaptations, you might be able to bring your technology to a much larger market.
Think of the way a large-company CEO views this report: There are 14 technology trends listed as relevant to 20 industries, and the CEO, being in one of those industries, looks and sees that a given technology trend is highly relevant to her industry. She turns to her executive team and asks, "What is our strategy for this technology trend?"
As a founder, your company is on the other side of that, because you're likely focused on a single product or service; you might be one of those 14 technology trends. You have the opportunity to look at this report from the opposite direction and ask: What industries can we target with our trending technology?
It's another way to think about whether your product has a wider application.