The 2020s Are Almost Here: What Will This Highly Anticipated Decade Bring For Startups?
In last 20 years the entire economy has changed significantly. E-commerce, mobility, social media, and the sharing economy have all created mega technology companies—and changed the way we all live. Imagine a world without Google, smart phones, social media or Amazon. It’s probably hard to do. Yet these advancements all happened within the last two decades.
The pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies is accelerating, creating demand for even newer technologies and giving birth to mega-deals and unicorns. This year alone there are more than 330 startups going public through the IPO process. This includes Uber, Airbnb, WeWork, Slack and Stripe. These deals result in billions of dollars of economic value and new jobs.
If new innovations and mega deals are being born this quickly today, what will the next decade—the 2020s—have in store for us? Will there be another Google or Apple? What will the unicorns of the next decade look like and how will they change our lives?
When I think of trends, I always go back to the early days of my entrepreneurial career in the mid-90s. The internet was on the verge of taking off and startups, mostly from the Silicon Valley, jumped on the gold rush of opportunities to build the fiber optics infrastructure and develop an advanced internet system to meet the market requirements of the time. The work they did laid the foundation for everything that is about to come to play in the next decade.
The 2000s were the era of the search engine. Google dominated the market; Amazon gave birth to a new era of e-commerce; and Apple put a computer in everyone’s hand through the iPhone. In the 2010s, we were introduced to social media and the sharing economy. Facebook became a social phenomenon and Uber and Airbnb transformed how we travel.
Fast-forward to the 2020s. The next cycle of innovation will perhaps be the most consequential of all time. Why? The pace of innovation is at an all-time high and the technologies being released have broader impacts than at any time in history. We are also at cross-roads for regulations as lawmakers with technology for good vs. technologies that can cause harm.
This is why I’m going to spend the rest of the year writing about the trends and next wave of innovations that will come into existence in the 2020s. To simplify the 2020 trends, I like to think about it in five segments:
1. Deep Technology Integration. Technology plays a role in almost every industry today, but the level at which it has an impact varies. In the 2020s, technology will become further ingrained in almost every industry. One of the areas where we’ll see this most is in healthcare. Over the next decade, software will increase healthcare quality and efficiency and provide new devices for early detection, care management and biotechnology. Other industries, including finance, education, agriculture and construction will also see major impacts from deep technology integration.
2. Emergence of New Technologies. This may seem like an obvious one, but the new technologies that will be released are those we have dreamt about for years. AI and robotics will impact almost all industries. Autonomous vehicles and smart cities will become our new reality. BioTech will continue to provide us with magic. These technologies are no longer on PowerPoint charts—they are already showing up in many markets. Hundreds of startups are aggressively chasing the innumerable opportunities to create lasting and lucrative technologies. Much like the internet, we’ll see an evolution of technologies once only imagined.
3. New Communications Infrastructure – the 5G. 5G is the enabler for the new technologies mentioned above. It is fast and processes information on a real-time basis. 5G will entirely reshape our existing communications infrastructure and enable things such as computer-to-computer communications and real-time communication between machines.
4. Globalization of Startups and Entrepreneurship. I believe there are some incredible, emerging places for startups beyond Silicon Valley—including Toronto, Atlanta and Austin. The movement will become truly global in the 2020s. UAE, for example, just announced their plans to become an AI center of innovation. In the U.S., Steve Case is touring small cites in the Midwest to support entrepreneurs and their new ideas. Once entrepreneurs had to go where the talent and money was. Now, the money will start to seek the talent regardless of where it is.
5. Funding and the Role of the VC. In the last five years, VC funding has grown to about $100B (in 2018). Where will the money go in the next decade? And where will it come from? Will new sources of funding emerge in the next ten years? How many new super VCs with $100B+ funding, like SoftBank, will emerge? Will struggling early stage startups ever find the resources they need?
The 1920’s was an era of radical social and political change; the 2020’s will be an era of major technological change. If the predictions come even partially to fruition, the next ten years will earn a place in history as significant as their roaring counterpart 100 years ago. Stay tuned and prepare yourself for what comes next.