This post comes from the perspective of Dave Darsch

In 2017, Apple, Facebook, Google and more looked to Europe for technology and talent. All U.S. tech companies, big or small, should follow their lead, and keep up to date with Europe's startup scene. By staying informed on emerging European brands and industries, we can anticipate trends in our sector, consider promising partnerships and acquisitions, and know where to look for talent and inspirations.

Staying ahead of the curve is key. Complementing Inc's Annual List of Europe's Fastest Growing Companies for this year, here are 3 of the biggest industries and some of the most exciting names I'll be watching in 2018.

1.    Internet of Things

IoT will remain a key growth industry throughout 2018, with connected technologies bringing innovative solutions to key social and consumer issues. One to watch is Cleverciti, who operate in the budding smart cities field, to solve the problem of city parking. By mounting smart city sensors on facades, lamp posts and masts, Cleverciti technology analyzes parking spaces along a street and sends real-time data to a smartphone app. Five German cities have already installed the technology, to reduce air pollution and improve city living. IoT isn't only about home or city life though: Madrid's Drone Hopper provides aerial support in fighting wildfires in rural areas, and can also be used for crop management and pest control. The company just raised $4m funding, and has its sights set on the U.S. As IoT continues to grow, smooth, fast and energy-friendly network connections become extremely important. French startup Sigfox is set to explode in 2018, with its speedy, efficient network, which uses lighter infrastructure than traditional wifi. Having recently raised €150m, Sigfox is ready for extreme impact.

2.    Fintech

Analysts say fintech will be a core European industry in 2018. Cryptocurrencies continue to make the headlines, but the real stars will be companies who provide much-needed services to blockchain and cryptocurrency systems. Paris-based Ledger has just closed a €61million funding round, for its secure hardware wallets, and crypto-asset management solutions, based on a unique Operating System that promises full security. Outside of the crypto-asset field, many startups are providing key virtual solutions for personal and commercial use. Finnish startup Zervant provides innovative invoicing software for entrepreneurs and small businesses, which has already garnered a huge amount of business customers. As the number of freelance workers soars, demand for these kinds of solutions dramatically increases. 

3.    Artificial intelligence

European AI companies are set for major impact in 2018. Solutions that integrate machine learning with human work, for maximum efficiency, are particularly interesting. London-based DigitalGenius have developed a Human+AI platform, which fits into existing CRM tools to give human customer services operators chatbot assistance. Backers like Salesforce think it will be huge. Also in B2B, Ireland's uses machine learning to make the job recruitment process wholly data-driven. Their AI allows recruiters to efficiently filter candidates, and ensures they don't miss out on top CVs. But Europe's AI companies are also finding success with customer-focused products. One of the biggest is Babylon Health, who raised $60 million last year. Their digital healthcare app blends Artificial Intelligence with video and text consultations with doctors and specialists, to bring immediate, effective healthcare solutions to patients and customers. 

This all points to a booming European startup landscape, in various tech fields. That's good news for savvy U.S. companies, who can find opportunities and inspiration across the pond - if they know where to look.