2020 was a breakout year in many ways and its impact accelerated the rapid adoption of technology in previously loitering sectors.
COVID transformed each facet of everyday life – both business and personal – into a digital interaction and pressed fast-forward on already emerging transitions – retail’s transition to eCommerce, the rise of virtual wellness, hyper-optimization of the supply chain, etc.
On the surface, this shift seems straightforward and the technology used easily recognizable. However, underneath this massive transition, next generation technologies are garnering new applications – both to support emerging business models as well as shifting expectations towards more sophisticated, automated solutions.
Our ‘themes to watch for 2020’ seem incredibly close to what we’ve seen play out in 2020: new marketplace models, human-enabled AI, intelligent data software & ML-powered cybersecurity have all taken massive strides.
For our projections for 2021, we’re digging deeper, breaking down our 2020 themes into macro-themes and adding a few more emerging applications we’re tracking and expect to be keen for investment.
Predictive data and human enabled AI
On Artificial Intelligence and Decision Intelligence
The exceptions around data have shifted – now it’s all about actionability. Businesses are eager for applications that can fulfill the entire data lifecycle. That is to say – apps that capture and identify the right data then turn around and deliver useful, applicable insights and make decisions without us.
Within the data stack, there is and will be increasing emphasis on employing AI to weigh internal and external data, develop sophisticated operational models and make (or serve up) advanced recommendations for complex decisions. We’re interested in seeing how this will decrease costs and reduce human bias in supply chain & logistics, healthcare, cybersecurity, fintech & insurance.
Stripping out the layers of costs & fees
In a troubled economy everyone is motivated to eliminate unnecessary spend. As we’ve observed with the psychology of free shipping on consumer behavior, there is an increasing shift in consumer expectation and willingness to pay for anything other than the base purchase price.
Disintermediation is extending to nearly every sector of the economy – brokerless mortgages, direct-to-consumer retail, peer-to-peer marketplaces, P2P payments and P2P loans/banking. Disruptors are stripping out layered costs, added fees and processes. We expect this to extend further into financial transactions and proptech.
“Back to the customer”
Next generation customer service responsiveness
Along with the shift to ecommerce and online shopping, there has been a reinvigoration of customer-first experiences. People expect to receive a timely, effective customer service resolution. No longer will never-get-a-human or closed-door customer service strategies suffice.
With the shifting customer demands and expectations, live chat and tools that streamline customer responsiveness will take a prime spotlight as a key component to customer satisfaction. Digital interactions with customer service may be the only interaction between customers and brands and that importance will only continue to grow.
Future of work
Collaboration, automation and managing the contingent workforce
Remote work, the gig economy, global distributed teams, the virtual sales cycle, employee wellness (& the role of the employer plays in employee wellness). These trends are all shifting what the future of work and how we do business.
Here are the type of solutions that we think will lead the way we work:
- Intelligent collaboration tools bridging internal and external channels
- Applications that make it easier to work in tandem with clients and improve the efficacy of cross-departmental collaboration will be front and center. As the world simplifies and optimizes for a distributed, global workforce, software that streamlines communication, and the myriad of communication channels, will make teams more effective.
- Automation of the administrative backlog and automation of recurring business processes and functions
- Solutions to manage the gig economy & contingent workforce, such as software that allows companies to scale up & scale down as needed and compliantly manage those workforces
- Solutions that help improve the employee experience
Private commercialization of space
Data collection & new applications
Space-tech is still a greenfield opportunity. We’re looking closely at the myriad of infrastructure that is developing to support this burgeoning industry – especially purpose-built platforms for processing and analyzing large volumes of satellite data and emerging applications for that data.
Advancements in new auth methods, securing distributed workforces & AI
Cybersecurity becomes even more imperative in an increasingly digital world. Security infrastructure is no longer an afterthought for all businesses – even SMBs. With the heightened requirements around securing distributed workforces and systems, comes the improved evolution of authentication methods – more sophisticated yet easier authentication options than remembering passwords and biometrics. Additionally, as cybersecurity continues to grow in importance and the demand for an already deficient talent pool increases, the application of AI for threat detection and response is becoming increasingly vital.