2013 was a better year than I expected. My “What Will 2013 Bring?” post talked about 1) a rough ride for the US economy, 2) the fading consumer web, 3) tight money for start-ups, and 4) fascinating new areas of opportunity. Looking back, I’d say: 1) at the 12th hour the government got its act half together, producing a budget, and the economy muddled through. 2) The consumer web had a pretty good year, with the Twitter IPO and new phenoms such as SnapChat. 3) Money for start-ups was tight, and fundraising for US venture funds was very tough: dollars committed dropped back to 2008-2009 levels and continued to concentrate in few hands. 4) And, fascinating new things did emerge in 2013. Favorites of the New Atlantic Ventures partners are: Amazon’s delivery drones, “business boot camp” for recent college grads that dramatically improves employment prospects, smart watches (esp. Pebble), BitCoin, and practical 3D printing.
Don't Miss: The Best HDR TVs
So that brings us to 2014; here’s what I expect.
1. The economy will continue to make progress, with fewer clouds on the horizon. Fiscal brinksmanship in the US is forsworn for the next year or two, and economic stresses and stagnation in Europe are the new normal. High unemployment persists, but I think a decade from now economists will call that a lasting structural change, with profound social consequences that we have yet to address.
2. The revolution in US health care will accelerate. The ACA staggered but did not fall in 2013: it’s going to happen. Coverage is expanding but costs are out of control: the linked article on Massachusetts (the ACA prototype state where reform occurred in 2006 and coverage is now 98%) reports that both utilization and prices for health services are way up. There’s huge need for tools that promote efficiency: transparency and market mechanisms, care coordination, and patient engagement/compliance tools. Entrepreneurs can address a big part of this need.
3. The revolution in Higher Ed is now! US Higher Ed has an antiquated business system, a product that does not work (many graduates do not find jobs), and ridiculous costs. For many years we accepted this because of the value we put on education. Now, most middle and upper-middle class parents find they cannot give their children the education they enjoyed. Technology has recently thrown a match into this fuel: on-line education works and dramatically improves costs and access. Big chunks of higher ed will be transformed, often by entrepreneurs. Many new companies and programs will emerge in 2014.
4. Big data will impact many sectors (beyond the NSA). Entrepreneurs and companies are finding ways to use “big data” technologies (which enable working with huge datasets to find meaningful information). This emerges in specific, practical applications: I’ve profiled a few here. More will emerge.
5. Tech, media, and fashion will converge. What next after the smart phone? Mobile is more and more a media consumption platform. Some Hollywood stars are successful angel investors. And, with the rumored iWatch and v1.0 Galaxy Gear, Apple, Samsung, and others are adding fashion accessory value to personal electronics. Tech, media, and fashion become one at last: all the big egos together in one place.
6. Robotics will be pervasive. For most of my life robots have succeeded mainly in movies. That is changing: Roomba is a hit, manufacturing is returning to the US because it is robotic, the last fighter pilot has been born, driver-less cars are on the road, and this Christmas robots are picking and packing for Amazon. Look for many more robotic applications in 2014; an entrepreneur showed me a way-cool one yesterday.
And a maybe:
7. A major new platform will emerge? We have not had a world-changing new platform, like the PC, IP/ Internet, smart phones, or social networking for a while now. They seem to come along once or twice per decade. That would open up new frontiers for innovation and growth. Aileen Lee talks about billion dollar exits as “unicorns”. This would be a “narwhale”: a suitable aspiration for 2014.
Don't Miss: See the first leaked Black Friday 2016 Ad