We spend a lot of time at Viola Ventures researching and debating areas of investment that we think will be instrumental in, if not dictate, the technologies that will shape the next decade. My visit to some of our colleagues in the Bay Area last week reinforced the sentiment that we are between innovation cycles. The “age of consumerism” – based on five innovative platforms that have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary – has reached a certain level of maturity. It’s no wonder, then, that recent data suggests an industry-wide more sluggish pace in early-stage tech investments and an increase in capital being deployed in growth-stage companies. So the question is – how did we get here and where are we headed?
A decade ago, almost to the date, five new tech platforms shattered a dam that enabled a flood of massive innovation. To some extent, the 2008 financial crisis had somewhat masked the unprecedented level of innovation at the time: Apple launched the iPhone (mobile), Amazon introduced AWS (cloud), Facebook founded the largest network on earth (social), Hadoop reinvented data processing (big data) and GitHub revolutionized coding (open source). A symptom of the result: Less than 1,000 apps in Apple’s App Store in 2008 to over 2 million now, and a general sense of saturation. Just think about how difficult it is to rise above the noise these days with a new app or service. Here’s a test: when was the last time you downloaded a new app that you use daily? They may still exist but they’re few and far between.
Enterprise has also benefited from these five platforms with innovations in technology, accelerated time to market and new business models and delivery methods (e.g. SaaS) that streamlined R&D, sales, marketing, ops and finance, as well as enhanced internal collaboration and external interactions with customers and the broader ecosystem. While the enterprise transformation was as meaningful as it was with consumers, I still believe there are “white spaces” in certain verticals that are yet to be overhauled, like Fintech, government, construction, real estate, agriculture and legal, to name a few. These are typically verticals where legacy applications built by incumbents 20 years ago are being replaced by startups that provide superior solutions with agility, scalable architecture, enhanced user experience and capital efficiency.
So what does the next decade hold? What are the next gen platforms that will break yet another dam and enable a flood of innovation that will seem like a no-brainer in 2027? What will be the killer enterprise and consumer applications/services built on top of them? It feels like we are experiencing a transition from the “age of consumers” to the “age of machines”, certainly when you consider some of the emerging platform candidates: machine learning, artificial intelligence, AR/VR, autonomous vehicles, robotics, drones, blockchain and others.
We are continuously looking for entrepreneurs set on making the 2017 cohort as disruptive as the one we saw 10 years ago. My advice? Think big. Be bold. Lead the way to disrupt a new market and let’s take a disproportionate share of it.