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startups

4 perfectly reasonable-sounding 2018 technology predictions that failed

What were they thinking?! These erroneous guesses about tech in 2018 would shatter any crystal ball.

It’s getting harder to predict the future, what with entrepreneurs creating companies based on the pairing of trendy buzzwords (for example, Uber + edibles = UberEats). But that doesn't stop market analysts, trend spotters, science fiction writers, and technology journalists from venturing their reasoned guesses about the next techno trends.

Accurate prognostications deserve a high five for a job well done. But it's the failed guesses that are most interesting. It gives us a reason to reflect on why the market made twists and turns rather than going boldly forward.

It also gives us an opportunity for snarky commentary.

We found four predictions (made in late 2017) of notable technological achievements expected for 2018. None of these predictions are close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. But they do make for some amusing what-iffing. Even more amusing: our predictions for 2019.

Celebrities will influence purchasing decisions in augmented and virtual reality

Chris Cunningham, founder of C2 Ventures, saw 2018 as the year the two buzzwords “AR” and “celebrities” would merge and become a super-powered marketing tool. He wrote, “Right now, celebrities and influencers metaphorically stand behind products. In 2018, you’ll start seeing them standing right beside it. They’re going to show you how to get to the store and walk you down the aisle, all while holding a two-way conversation.”

Following up in a phone chat, Cunningham acknowledges, “That was atrociously wrong.”

The reality

You cannot blame Cunningham for considering the possibility. Influencer marketing is a time-honored tradition: The first celebrity endorsements came more than 250 years ago, when Wedgwood pottery received a royal thumbs-up from Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, in 1760.

However, despite its usefulness in the real world, VR and AR have one real drawback, Cunningham says: “It’s still a high-price point of entry.” VR, in particular, hasn’t actually become the must-have tech toy forecasters had predicted.

Celebrity endorsements also come with high price tags, and brands need to afford all that star power. While the two most well-established VR companies, Oculus and HTC, may be able to negotiate celebrity deals, they seem uninterested. As Cunningham says, “The VR/AR space is being dominated by smaller players.”

Cunningham says “a bridge between fans and the person they want to follow” will happen when innovation brings price points down. But, he admits, “that’s the hard part: calling the timing.”

In addition, 2018 has seen the rise of micro-influencers, meaning people who have as few as 1,000 social media followers. If these people are passionate about, say, mechanical keyboards and have friends who are equally passionate, a keyboard company could reach more potential customers with a micro-influencer than through any celebrity endorsement.

Besides, celebrities are too busy throwing shoes at each other to snag an endorsement deal.

Our 2019 VR/AR prediction

Thanks to VR, you will be able to interact with well-known-yet-artificial celebrities like Cortana.

But when you do, your goggles will draw power from you in order to change you into a human battery.

Thanks to automation, security will become simpler to use

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) got the first part of its two-part prediction right: “Automated and artificial intelligence-assisted protection measures will make security less intrusive…”

That’s a fact. Smartphones used to require the scan of a thumbprint or, gasp, physically typing in a password before you could tap that app. Now, iPhone users merely wave their phones in front of them, 30,000 infrared dots invisibly caress the user's face, and the phone opens itself up to its master. If it’s an uncomfortable thought, remember that it’s a small price to pay to not have to burn a single calorie.

But, oh, the second part to the IEEE's prediction: “…reducing the burden and dependency upon users to perform and make decisions about security-related actions.” If this prediction were true, our decision-making burden would actually be reduced.

The reality

Yeah, it’s easier to use these protective measures. But they also make you potentially less secure.

For example, take iPhone facial-recognition technology: If a law enforcement official wants you to unlock your phone, you can still refuse to offer your thumb. But the police can simply unlock your phone by holding it up to your face. If you’re security minded, you must actively turn off Face ID. And that kinda defeats the purpose.

Then there are home assistants (also known as smart speakers), such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod. Using only your voice, you can create a to-do list, find out sports scores, or even learn the spelling of a word you can’t google because you don’t know how to spell it. But when they’re not assisting you, those home assistants can listen in on your conversations or, just as bad, assist someone else.

Also, security may be less intrusive than it used to be, but no matter how secure a device is, your personal information will be compromised when you freely offer your name, email address, and date of birth in order to take a quiz titled “Which Harry Potter House Do You Belong To?” (Ravenclaw.)

Our security prediction for 2019

Automated security technology will reduce the burden of most user interaction. But when you finally have a request, it will respond, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Cryptocurrency will be widely accepted

Despite the fact that the best way to describe cryptocurrency to your mother is “invisible math money,” it has some serious benefits over coin of the realm. Your transactions remain anonymous, which is handy if you don’t want “Adult My Little Pony Toyz” on your credit card bill. It’s also a currency that is not regulated (yet), which means that only you own your money and your government can’t access it (yet). Best of all, anyone with a high-quality graphics card, as well as inexpensive electricity, can mine their own cash.

The most popular digital currency is Bitcoin, currently worth over $6,000. That means people who traded (or mined) for 1,000 coins in its infancy, when it was worth 30 cents, are now 6 Million Dollar Men and Women. Yes, Bitcoin is now too expensive for a casual purchase. But with 1,600 different currencies to choose from, your next cryptocurrency investment may prove Lambo-worthy—that is, worth a Lamborghini.

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Last year, Business Insider predicted you’d pay for your cappuccino by opening up a digital wallet, rather than a physical one. Sadly, it didn’t read the tea leaves right.

The reality

Cryptocurrency is volatile, and although the fluctuations in value that cryptocurrencies experienced this year have made them exciting to speculators, it also makes them less appealing as a form of exchange. Businesses are shying away from cryptocurrency, which can drop as much as 17 percent in a single day. It’s why the ultra-popular video game distributor Steam said “Game over” to accepting cryptocurrency as payment.

As a result of this volatility, adoption of Bitcoin and other currencies such as Ethereum or Litecoin has not been as universal as pundits had anticipated for 2018.

Also, although thieves may not be able to pick your pocket, your cryptocurrency is still vulnerable to theft in the form of hacking. And because it’s unregulated, it may be more attractive to digital muggers who don’t want to sully their hands with an actual mugging.

Our cryptocurrency prediction for 2019

AI-based cryptocurrency will evolve and take control of your purchasing decisions: “No, I will not let you buy that shirt. It makes you look fat.”

Smart clothing will be en vogue

You don’t use wearable technology. Instead, you adorn yourself and the wearables do their work. They monitor your heart rate, stress levels, posture, and even the quality of your sleep. Wearables are most commonly worn on the wrist, but you can find technology embedded in rings, jackets, and shoes.

You could argue that endoscopic imaging capsules are a wearable, because after you swallow one, you wear it in your colon.

Wearables were a $10 billion business in 2017. In early 2018, wareable.com made 50 separate wearables predictions, all of which boiled down to, “These boots are made for walking and for tracking your distance.”

It’s here we should mention that wearables are one of the oldest tech trends we know, as people began pocketing watches as far back as 1462. We should have predicting wearable trends down to a science by now, right guys? Guys?

The reality

According to trends expert Daniel Levine, wearable technologies are not dead. “But they haven't become ubiquitous. There's a slow uptake, and we're seeing more of it, but it didn’t take over the world like the smartphone did.”

However, Levine expects to see wearables become the fashion choice for the fashionable when wireless charging becomes ubiquitous. After all, who wants a pair of socks you have to remember to plug in?

Our 2019 prediction for wearables

Smart socks will walk their way to the outlet, where they can plug themselves in. By 2020, they will agree with your AI that your shirt makes you look fat.

Runners-up

  • Google Lunar X Prize: The prediction was made in 2007 that a company would land a rover on the moon, drive it 500 feet, then send images back to Earth. No one had achieved this by the time the prize of $20 million expired in March 2018. If you have the financial and aerospace engineering background, feel free to give it a go. Note that success will have to be its own reward, as the cash prize is off the table.

  • Drone delivery: Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos predicted that drones would be delivering packages to your doorstep by 2018. Although this forecast may eventually become reality, we predict that his first pizza delivery will be successful…but his pizza will come with pineapple.

Failed predictions: Lessons for leaders

  • Just because these technologies haven’t proved themselves in 2018, it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing them in 2019 or 2020.

  • Not every prediction is a winner. Even the best forecaster can’t predict exactly when the market will melt down or if a CEO will make false claims about taking his company private, but holy smokes, if you really could predict that, you’d be Lambo rich.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

Most Start-Ups Fail. Beat the Odds By Avoiding These Common Mistakes.

Chris Cunningham, founder of C2 Ventures, has built companies himself and now invests in them. I first met Chris seven years ago when I interviewed him for my "Corner Office" series in The New York Times, and he always has sharp insights about what makes companies succeed or fail, particularly in those crucial first two years. There are smart takeaways here for anybody in the start-up space — entrepreneurs, investors and directors.

Q. Let’s talk about the critical first phase of all new tech companies – pre-launch through the first two years or so. What are the patterns you’ve seen? The do’s and don’ts?

A. In this day and age, first and foremost, without having technical DNA in the cockpit, you’re doomed to fail. You have to have the understanding of how quickly technology is moving. It’s not enough to hire your third or fourth person as the VP of Engineering and assume everything’s going to be great. You need that person as committed from the outset as the potential commercial lead of the organization.

"If you didn’t quit your job to do this, then you’re not serious."

So mistake No. 1 is using some outsourced development shop or a friend who’s going to do it. Without a best-in-class technology co-founder, that’s a mega red flag. You can’t really think about or present a company without having that domain expertise because you basically have half a deck of cards.

Q. That would seem like table stakes to me.

A. It’s not, unfortunately. It’s still problematic. A lot of people believe they can navigate the early stage through PowerPoints and things like that, and the truth is they often can. The biggest dilemma for some of these startups is that they lean on friends and family to raise, say, $750,000. Where most of the startup failure happens is when they go looking for the next tranche of money.

Q. What else do you want to know about the team when they’re pitching you, beyond their expertise?

A. How long have you known each other? Did you just meet a few weeks ago? Is there a history of working together? When you look at a lot of successful companies, there are usually two founders who are friends, and what that means is that there is trust. Because without trust, you’ve got nothing. It doesn’t matter if you have the idea for the next Instagram.

Investors also want to see some level of traction, sweat equity and pain. Show me your scars and bruises before you come ask for money. If you didn’t quit your job to do this, then you’re not serious. Did you max out a credit card? What risks were you prepared to take and what traction did you generate? Tell me that you spent $10,000 to get this MVP – minimum viable product – delivered.

"Founders need Jerry Maguires. They need rabbis. They need mentors."

The alternative to that is someone saying, “Here’s my idea. I want your money.” That’s a relatively quick out for me from the conversation because you’re not showing me that you’re an entrepreneur. I need to see the fire in their eyes and that the hustle is there and that they’re willing to literally run through a burning building.

When I started my company, AppSavvy, I had $650,000 in booked revenue before we raised money. The point is that there needs to be a there there. You need to show that that you’re not going anywhere tomorrow and that you’re willing to take the risk and make the sacrifice. As an investor, you want to see that you have those characteristics, and those proof points.

Q. How do you get a sense of whether the CEO can scale themselves as a leader and build the culture of the company?

A. The first four to ten people are going to set the culture for you, long before the values are ever written on the wall. You may not realize it, but if everyone in the company is never late to a meeting, always responds in a timely fashion, are always respectful and follows through on what they say they’re going to do, those four to ten people are going to set the leadership of the organization, perhaps even more than the CEO.

One of the biggest drivers of culture early on is getting some wins. Whether you get that first product out and people adopt it or you get that first check, a big part of the culture of the two or three companies I’ve been involved in is getting some early traction. If you feel like you’re having wins and celebrating them – even though you’re going to have a ton of bad days, which are normal for a startup – that is a huge motivating factor for people to rally around a common goal.

Q. What else?

A. Trust and transparency. Quite frankly, when I started my first company, I made a lot of mistakes. I wanted to send that beacon of light 24-7, which you need to do. You need to keep morale and excitement up. But people are smart, they’re intuitive and they talk. If there’s one moment of people feeling like you misled them a tiny bit, then you have a crack in the culture. Trust and transparency will take you really, really far.

Q. It’s a challenge for leaders – to inspire confidence when things are not going well.

A. And a lot of times the founder-CEO can’t let their ego go. Maybe the marketplace isn’t buying the thing you created. At that point, you should regroup quickly and adjust. But sometimes the founder will push and push. They’re not trying to be deceitful, but they want to believe their idea was right. If they have that blind perseverance, they might burn through three to six months of runway and cash.

When finally that conversation comes up, there’s two months left and there’s not enough time to adjust. This is probably the most fundamental breakdown I’ve seen with startups. You need an agreed-upon timeframe and some level of data that supports the fact that there is a there there.

Q. When you give talks at business schools to aspiring entrepreneurs, what advice do you give them?

A. I try to share some of these lessons and insights about the obstacles in front of them. It’s not about giving them the reality check of X percent of all startups fail. It’s more about telling them, “Go for it. Go start a company. You’re in your early 20s, you can afford to fail, and failure’s okay. Because with every failure, you’re just going to learn and get better. You’re not going to be able to take as much risk when you’re 50 with two kids and two cars.”

I also think we need to change the tune in regards to the acceptance of startup failure.

Q. Because it’s a black mark?

A. Yeah, and 90 percent of startups do fail. But is it because you didn’t have the technical co-founder? Is it because you didn’t have that proof of concept? Is it because you didn’t actually understand the market? Is it because you didn’t have an investor who was patient and would stick with you once you have that proof of concept?

There’s a list of 20 or 30 key components, but what I’d love to see is, how do we get the percentage of startup success to be higher? Founders need Jerry Maguires. They need rabbis. They need mentors. And you can’t expect it to come from the VCs. At the end of the day, the VC wants a return, so they’re going to make decisions that are good for the VC and for their board.

In a lot of cases, we’re allowing founders to basically go out without the supervision that they need and they deserve. There’s a great opportunity to provide more insight and experience with founders who are open to listening. And those are the ones you want to work with – the people who say, “I’m all ears. I want to listen. I want to learn. I don’t have the ego.”

 


Rethink the Slides

Let’s be honest, most pitch decks suck and don’t get investors excited about the company or the founders behind the business. Slides can’t highlight the founders and at an early stage, you bet on people. Not only does the personality or energy of the founder not come across but the general business idea and strategy can fall flat and that can hurt the founders potential on fundraising as well as force an investor to miss an opportunity.

Part of the challenge is founders struggle to tell their story in a clear and concise way. They might know their business but often don’t sell it the right way so pushing the pitch into a deck makes it even more challenging.

Slides can only do so much and given there is no standard template you see a far range of decks that are all over the place.

So why am I telling you this and what is the potential solution?

The solution is to kick off your first pitch with a short video explaining the story and how you got here. Keep it under two minutes, let your personalities shine and make the ask. The video keeps you engaged, lets you feel the founder out and voice is more effective than reading a deck. All of this allows to break through the clutter, save time for the investor and get them to ask for more information or a meeting.

Earlier this year I helped co-found a company called Mekl through my early stage investment platform C2 Ventures. Romet and Martin the other co-founders who star in the story created a video as they were the finalist for a startup competition and needed to submit a video for their pitch at this conference. But then we discussed why not flip this video into a fundraise pitch as we are about to raise seed money for Mekl. After some editing, we had something that was ready to send to other investors and the response and success rate was way higher than I’ve seen compared to other companies. This could be for a number of reasons such as the idea, the likeability of the founders or maybe creating just enough differentiation from other pitches to get the first meeting or lock down the second.

I’ve received so much positive feedback from the video from other investors it made me want to write this post and share the learnings so maybe other startups consider the same format

“Even though Martin and I have spent our careers in data and startups, we are young and this is our first real rodeo as founders. So we figured video is the best medium to show our expertise, build trust and show the investors who we really are. It took us a day to film and put together and we have received great feedback! You can convey a lot of information in 2 min vs. risking someone spending 5–10 min on your deck, misinterpreting it and missing your chance to meet them.

As a couple of bootstrapping founders, we used the tools that we had. Two phones (different angles makes your video look more professional, search in youtube “how to film an interview”), a $5 video recording app (the default app limits quality) a $15 microphone (there’s a world of difference between a dedicated mic vs phone mic) and a free trial in the most basic video editing tool to put it together. Luckily Martin is also a talented musician and he made our background music for the video. If you don’t have such a privilege of making your own feel free to use ours here or there are plenty of websites that have free music as long as you give credits. You should definitely have music, as it will help to grab the attention of the viewers!

There’s also additional business value for recording the video, as you are forced to distill your core message into a short period of time and you get to witness yourself how you talk about the company. As a founder, you have to be ready to pitch your company in a couple of minutes and it’s not always easy to do so, especially in the beginning where a lot of things change and evolve really quickly. Looking at our video now, there’s a lot we would change already but as a bootstrapping founder you need to follow the 80–20 rule, as time is your enemy!”

- Romet Kallas, Co-Founder @ Mekl”

Find the video and the Mekl story here and hope you get a chance to meet the guys, partner and our round is still open :)

Chris

10 Predictions for the Tech Industry in 2018

Last year around this time, I published a post titled How I’m investing in 2017 and see you at CES. In it, I tried to predict how various market segments (data techs, AR/VR, attribution techs, blockchain) would perform in that year. Looking back, I’d grade myself with a solid B — take a look and LMK what you think.

As we go into 2018, I’d like to focus on the advertising industry and try calling some shots that seem obvious (Snapchat = loser, podcast ads = winner), and some that may be a bit farther out there (Disney buying Fox = meh, Microsoft = emerging social powerhouse). As always, your thoughts are most appreciated.

Whatever 2018 brings in your personal and professional life, may you kick its ass fully!

1. Amazon will come to Madison Avenue like never before.

Amazon is about to take major advertising share from Google and Facebook. Why? The incumbents are fatigued, whereas Amazon has tons of cash, a solid identity graph, they understand purchase behavior, and can compete on a recommendation level. This shift will squeeze mid and long tail ad tech players. Content is still king and the most original stuff will still win, but there simply won’t be enough money generated to feed everyone that’s dependent on a media buyer.

2. Snapchat will tumble even deeper.

Given how well Instagram suits me I’ve never been a user, so I am biased, but Snapchathasn’t been able to scale beyond tweens and teens so far, and I don’t see their ad business turning a corner in 2018. They have no real social graph or purchase behaviors to work from. It’s a cute technology, at best.

3. Bad apples will try to worm their way into the location space.

As President of Unacast, I’ve been living and breathing the location data ecosystem for the last two years. In that time, I’ve formed the opinion that we may need to live through the same challenges the ad industry had with the media ecosystem, i.e. a few bad apples taking advantage through fraud, bots and a lack of transparency. That’s created widespread havoc and wasted millions — if not billions — of ad dollars. That led to opportunities for companies like Moat to help fight media fraud, and Uru Video to support brand safety. The parallel?

With location data so hot right now, there is an urgent need for scale and accuracy, leaving cracks in the market. No doubt, shady players will manufacture false interpretations of data lacking verifiable provenance. On the flip side, this will sharpen the opportunity for companies like Unacast that provide buyers of data with better quality and more transparency when engaging third parties. The space will remain white hot, just keep an eye out.

4. GDPR ends up being like Y2K.

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being led by EU nations is set to kick-off in Spring of 2018. The buzz is loud and ubiquitous that GDPR means it’s instant-Armageddon for those reliant on location sources and user opt-in. I’m calling B.S.

It’s going to be like the Y2K build-up when we were going from 1999 into 2000 — a slow burn with lots of doomsday predictions, then nothing much happens, at least not this Spring. GDPR have some fallout but it will take some time for those ripples to make their way around the world.

5. Netflix continues to dominate, Disney just gets bloated.

There’s a lot of reasons Disney bought Fox for north of $52 billion, but what it boils down to is that Disney and every other traditional media company with any common sense should fear Netflix. High 5’s to Peter Naylor and the Huluad team for excelling here, as well. Netflix and Hulu users are always-on, always demanding choice, and always getting what they want. That’s the future.

While the Disney/Fox deal is massive and will evoke change, it’s not going to cause a mis-step in the Netflix march to the winner’s circle, because you can’t rattle a business with a core focus. Disney will be bigger and more bloated but it won’t overtake Netflix in content consumption. No chance.

6. Podcasts and all things audio/voice take a big chunk out of publishing readership.

We’ve already seen every major trade publication in technology, advertising and almost every other vertical move to add podcasts to their free editorial content. With increasingly more people mobile and connected, earbuds in, the demand to capture attention via bite-sized pieces of podcast consumption will skyrocket.

Ad dollars to voice and audio will rise, shifting share for middling and major publishers alike as user’s preferences for how they like to get their news and information continues to evolve. P.S. get used to hearing a lot about ‘dynamic insertion’ for podcasts (sounds dirty; will make some people filthy rich).

7. Old schoolers, such as IBM Watson, Oracle, NYT and GE will continue to leverage their scale and encroach in new innovation.

The ad industry is always quick to label companies as dinosaurs and discount large corporations that have had their bumps in the past, but time is a great healer and it takes a long time to create a diamond. Perhaps because of new leadership, a willingness to move faster, and the evolving means to leverage their tech DNA to win, GE, IBM and NYT have new life.

Thanks to Linda BoffDeon Newman, and Meredith Kopit Levien, digital natives with the power to think big and evoke change are at the helm and driving market share, while the Buzzfeeds of the world who laying people off.

8. Blockchain is coming, but not for a while.

While blockchain technologies are without a doubt the wave of the future, this shit doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take three or four years time to cement change. This is particularly true in the ad tech world (despite already being blockchain saturated), where it will take time to change how transactions occur, ads are traded, etc.

Just like it was with mobile (I think it’s been the year of mobile since about 2008 now), blockchain will take longer to evolve than anyone thinks, and will be bigger than anyone can imagine. Full disclosure: via my investment platform, C2 Ventures, I have skin in blockchain through Monetago and others.

9. A post-M&A Linkedin will continue to win.

LinkedIn takes some lumps, but come-on, man! Does anybody else like this platform as much as I do, not just for the professional side of things, but people discovery, content discovery and messaging? Don’t get me wrong: random people emailing saying they like my profile is lame, and I laugh at some of the non personal messages I get, but if you look beyond that and get active, LinkedIn is better than Facebook.

That’s why people like Jon SteinbergJohn Battelle and Gary Vaynerchuk use its feed and scale to publish shit. Don’t sleep on Linkedin in 2018 — Microsoft is finally going to gain major share in the social game.

10. AR in mobile ads is going to be a thing.

Right now, celebrities and influencers metaphorically stand behind a products. In 2018, you’ll start seeing them standing right beside it. They’re going to show you how to get to the store and walk you down the aisle, all while holding a two way conversation, answering questions, smiling and posing for as many selfies as you can snap.

AR ads are the technical convergence of high speed mobile, location data, AI, chatbots and about a dozen other things. It will forever change the way brands, influencers and users tell stories and interact with one another, and it’s going to produce a whack of money.

Chris Cunningham is President of Unacast, founder of C2.Ventures and a Limited Partner with Bowery Capital and Techstars.