While running startup pitch events in South Florida, I get around and see quite a bit of startup activity. Every once in a while I run into some new trended area that is hot and about to experience high growth. That is key for startups to be successful. They need to be in the right trend. The last 3 years big trends were marijuana, drones, raw juice, 3D Printing and the social economy. These growth areas will continue, but they are no longer bleeding edge. Old trends can also come back with a vengeance as well.
The real challenge is deciding if these are going to really be a trend, because I have seen potential trends suddenly stop, slow down and in certain cases end. But, if you have the vision and can believe you can see the future and you are correct, that is how all the big trends were taken advantage of like the Internet, hosting, smartphone apps, email, PCs, social networking, online banking, online dating and a thousand other things that have been turned into businesses over the last 30 years. It really is all about the next innovation. And it doesn’t mean necessarily innovation, it just means that they got hot and grew.
Tech innovations are the tools needed to get the results and is not the trend itself! Too many tech startups get caught up in building tech for tech’s sake. That’s a waste of time. A business model is everything!
Now taking advantage of these startup trends, that’s never been my personal strength. I always seem to be a little bit behind the curve. I can see the trend, but my feet are typically fixed in cement. It could be that I am a corporate guy under the hood (18 years of corporate work), plus my age, and many other factors. That said, I did happen to run into some interesting areas that I would consider a definite high growth lane and trend for startups to consider. And more importantly in these areas, it is possible 10 years from today these trends will be vast enormous industries.
Disruption is the biggest factor in making a startup decision. Can this area of human life be radically flipped over on its head!
This is once again all my opinion below, but you should start by looking here.
- Virtual Reality — I know this has been already been developed/beat to death, but I really think that VR has not even started. I think this first round of Oculus and Google with those cardboard thingies for Samsung Phones are just child’s play. I have been in the online dating industry for quite a while, yet there is no VR that the common person can easily use and meet people at a virtual bar. I started to investigate the tools and tech, which is still in development in my opinion, because putting on goggles to just look at images or slow moving broken graphics is not really a serious thing. It has to be quite an amazing experience to be a real break-through. If you can get in there and figure some of this out and be one of the innovators in this areas, you will find a future trend that is going to be the next big thing.
- Personal Moving Devices & Transportation — One of the companies that pitched at my last event was Tonomous, which is making a patented series of personal transportation devices that run on electric power that will give the Segway a run for the money. Their devices are going to be lightweight, lower cost, can be chained together, like a family of 4 can go down the road sitting on these small vehicles and it has space under the seat for groceries and it can go up to 30 miles per hour. New devices like this, driverless cars, rent a car by the hour, rent a bike by the hour, cars connected to the Internet & smartphones are already here and now and going to be even bigger down the road. I can actually see a day down the road where a family that typically needs 2 cars can switch to 1. So the landscape in this area will be completely transformed in the next 10 years.
- Personal Concierge Services — This was a business plan some group had in an MBA class I was in 12 years ago. Back then I thought it was silly. But now with not just better tech like smartphones and older folks becoming tech savvy, it is ripe for amazing new services. My mother is finally getting her first smartphone. She is like the very last to get one. The big factor is an aging population, health issues for people and the biggest issue is we just don’t have time anymore to do some stuff due to traffic, life, and too many other choices. One of my friends son’s is already developing a service which delivers dry cleaning, food, takes people shopping and any other service elderly require. A few of the dog walking services are actually doing quite well. How to make this work financially or like a social economy startup, that’s for you to figure out.
- Even more advanced DIY Web Tech — In the past 6 years Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and the big one WordPress and others have really taken a byte out of the web dev market. It’s DIY all the way. It’s one of the reasons I am working at a full time job. Web Agency work has gone through what I call a race to the bottom. That just means that overseas programmers and DIY tools have made it so easy for people, they can just click a few buttons and whammo, they have a website. I even worked on a startup for a period of time like this now called Frandme (I am no longer involved), which is a DIY social networking mobile app & website maker all in one. Now, if you have not yet tried TypeForm.com, well let’s just say that SurveyMonkey now has a serious competitor. And the trend I am seeing here is one click tech creation. Sure you can grab WordPress and pop in a thousand great plugins, but the next level is so automated that customers just need to be good a reading directions and they can make some crazy great things happen. TypeForm.com to me is a new trend, a new direction, where it is even more automated.
- Robotics — I feel in the case of robotics, we are just at ground level zero. There are a few not so useful, inexpensive devices that we can grab and use right now, but they are just the beginning. I have tried Irobot Roomba, clean you house products. but even that I feel they are just in one small category. I can see robots mowing the lawn, robots brushing our teeth, robots organizing our laundry, robots changing our laundry, getting the mail, getting a pizza, cleaning our windows, fixing a wall, painting a room, washing us, and doing a lot of other human things we have to do right now. I have this saying about address books, in my life time. If you are under 30 you have not used an address book. If you are under 20 you have never seen one. Once these automation techniques (robots) come along we won’t remember a day that a robot did not clean our teeth. :) This area is worth looking at with so much opportunity.
- Health Care Cost Consultants — I have been predicting that this will be a high growth trended business in the near future. I personally think that there will be young people handing out business cards as you leave every emergency hospital entrance, doctor offices or emergency places. There is so much work that has to be done between the practice and the patient and the health insurance provider that a consultant will gladly be hired. Imagine your deductible is $15k a year, even on a great health care plan. This will lead to a whole new industry which makes it’s money in arbitrage between you and your doctor, or for the insurance industry, negotiating pricing on your behalf, especially if the average hospital visit is a $20,000 deal. I would not be surprised if that is the real number nobody talks about. That number means a multi-billion dollar opportunity for a startup willing to get in there and work the problem.
- Interactive online Plays/TVs/Websites — Now I am not talking about anything that exists out there in any form I am aware of. My wife always refers to this Ray Bradbury reference in Fahrenheit 451 to Parlor Walls. Here is a reference. What I am referring to is a TV show where you take on a part or role and interact as one of the players in the show. In the case of Ray Bradbury he had the walls as the way they interacted, which effectively is large screen TV. Either way, I think complete interactivity, where you are reading from a script or even better ad-libbing and being part of the show is coming down the road as a trend. Just need to be the ones out front and making it happen.
- Machine Learning — Real Intelligence not just Artificial Intelligence. I am seeing a bunch of startups that are saying they have the ability to predict things and create answers for stuff to automate whole technologies. An example is IBM Watson is being used this tax season for H&R Block to predict what additional tax breaks people could use by interacting with people. They use databases, Hadoop and other technologies to product new kinds of predictive tech. The tech is apparently all ready, but I am yet to see a startup really take advantage of this. I don’t know where it will be used, but let me give you an example of what it could do. You could take a picture and a program could produce a bunch of outfits that best fit your body shape. You could enter information and it could predict and tell you the best type of person you should meet in a relationship. You could enter all the information about yourself when you have an illness and it will make recommendations like a doctor, yet it has much more than doctor in its system.
- Wearable Tech — I think this is a trended area that is still waiting to be a big thing. There are some things I have seen like guys wearing iPads as billboards, but that will change when the screen text gets more flexible, which I think is happening. But there is so much more from our cellphone’s evolving into shirt tech or tech that is built into shirts that connects with our body for health readings, to shows that correct our feet, to pants that help with sciatica, to clothes that changes with the temperature or weather, to new types of fabric to hats that have built in tech. So much here that it is such a great area of tech startup development, can’t give you all the opportunities, but the tech is underway already in this trend, just has not really taken off big time yet, and that’s where the opportunity lies.
- Tech Surrogates — This is a funny term that so far in 2017 has been used in as a way of describing somebody who does your bidding. In the tech world the idea of somebody doing your stuff for you elsewhere has been a tiny trend, but I think it can and will explode. First we saw sites which said we will wear your shirt for a day, a month around San Fran for instance. They were a passing fad. I think it will go much further in round 2. Caribu.co is a startup that allows parents to be remote with their children on business trips and read to them while being in a skype/Facetime like environment. I think people will walk around for other people, go to meetings for them and sit there and be their eyes and ears visually, record things, pick up things. Imagine an executive who needs to be in 3 meetings at the same time. There have been some robots doing this, but I think people are much easier, if they are wearing the right tech. I also think that this can be used for real estate, buying yachts, visiting factories. I think that the market for tech surrogates is something so new and undefined, it will be in the near future.
Have a great weekend and hope you enjoyed this column. I am not predicting anything in this column, just giving you some ideas.
If you are in South Florida and you are not a member of our Tech Startup Meetup, where we run pitch events, then please join one of these groups:
Boca Raton, FL https://www.meetup.com/Boca-Raton-Tech-Start-ups-Meetup/
Fort Lauderdale, FL https://www.meetup.com/South-Florida-Aspiring-Entrepreneurs/
North Miami/Aventura, https://www.meetup.com/North-Miami-Tech-Startups/
And we are planning a New York City event this year, so:
New York City: https://www.meetup.com/StartupPOP-New-York-City/
Or just get on our email list here on my website Startuppop.com: http://www.startuppop.com/about-us-2/