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tech

10 Predictions for the Tech Industry in 2019

By Chris Cunningham, Founder of C2 Ventures

It’s become something of a tradition for me to look at the year ahead and predict where the industry is headed. Part of that process involves looking back at the trends that dominated last year and looking to see how much of that momentum will continue into the New Year.

And, what a year it was. Companies like Amazon and Netflix continued to assert their dominance, while others faltered in the face of heightened scrutiny (I’m looking at you, Facebook). On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) have continued to develop rapidly, to the point where voice assistants and other smart gadgets have become commonplace.

It can be hard to keep up in the face of such innovation, but here’s what I consider to be the top issues and trends facing the tech industry in 2019.

2019 is the year of the consumer.

My favorite tech movement of 2018 has to be the steady growth of companies focusing on direct-to-consumer products. Allbirds, Casper, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Netflix, Peloton — the list is endless. So many of the best brands nowadays are choosing to go straight to the consumer, instead of having to rely on middlemen and third parties. What do these brands all have in common? They all know how to talk and listen to their consumers, and they don’t rely on suspect adtech to do it.

In 2019, consumers will take back control of their data, and start becoming more choosier about the brands they interact with. People will start participating more with the brands they love in a personalized way, which in turn, will allow them to get more value out of the interaction.

The cannabis industry will embrace technology wholeheartedly.

2019 will be the year that cannabis companies start to utilize technology to grow their businesses. While the ecosystem remains highly fragmented and not standardized, technology will allow companies to build a more robust infrastructure, and better meet the demands of its consumers. As cannabis becomes less of a taboo subject and more of a revenue driver, expect to see more brands branching out into the space.

Personalized animation will captivate the public imagination.

What text chain would be complete without at least one gif, emoji, or meme? I’ll add one element to the mix: personalized animation. As we continue to incorporate visuals into our written communications, it’s only natural to want to include more dynamic forms of creative — including animated forms of ourselves and our stories. Apple’s Animoji and Memoji are just a few examples of this.

Fintech will continue to eat financial institutions’ lunches.

Fintech is no longer a cute concept that banks can ignore or make fun of. Instead, it’s quickly taking over every element of the financial industry, from credit cards to savings accounts to payments to determining credit scores. Fintech is THE sector to invest in 2019 — so consumers, take notice.

The wellness craze will continue.

People want to live long lives and feel good while doing so. The global wellness industry is currently worth a whopping $3.7 trillion, so companies that help people on their journey, whether by providing an app that helps you meditate (Headspace) or giving you flexible access to a host of fitness classes in your area (Zenrez: Disclosure, I’m an investor and EVP.), will absolutely crush it in the next year.

Services and software that support SMBs will win.

While larger retailers struggle to leverage their data effectively, smaller businesses will get smarter about their customers through software, CRM tools, and pricing. This will make SMBs nimbler, and better able to respond to shifts in consumer sentiment.

Consumer tech products will stage a comeback.

After a long dark winter of believing that consumer products are impossible to win, new consumer-shaped businesses will rise. Long live the consumer — but maybe this time, do more than just build an app.

People will opt for curated travel experiences.

Everybody wants to feel like something’s been made just for them — that’s why personalization has worked so well. In 2019, more companies will arise that focus specifically on creating personalized travel itineraries based on previous behavior. Given both the premium that people currently put on unique experiences and the fact that more people are traveling than ever before, expect such services to become hugely popular. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see large hospitality companies such as Travelocity or Hilton opting to bring such services in-house.

More industries will embrace dynamic pricing.

Dynamic pricing isn’t just for airlines anymore. Other industries, such as auto and real estate, will also rely on the model so that they can better manage available inventory and reduce production costs. It could also have implications for the customer journey, as it allows users to get better deals depending on when they purchase and how much stock is available at the time.

AI and machine learning (ML) will break past the blockchain.

Let’s face it, the utopia that blockchain promised has failed to materialize. Instead of continuing to spend resources on a technology that has not paid dividends, both investors and entrepreneurs should focus on how to use AI and ML to grow and develop companies. Not only has AI been shown to provide value to businesses, but it’s also much less of a hassle to implement.

There you have it, folks — my 10 predictions for the coming year. In case you’re curious about my predictions last year, check them out on Medium. Check back next year to see how many in 2019 came to pass!

Chris Cunningham is an active tech startup investor and founder of C2 Ventures and C2V Studios focused on investing in amazing founders in consumer-tech, data, financial-tech, travel, and wellness. Follow him on Twitter atC2cunningham and through www.c2ventures.co

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.

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.