The Churchill Club's 2009 Tech Trends: Energy, Data And More Energy

ttTonight we attended the Churchill Club’s 11th Annual Top Ten Tech Trends event. These take place every year to predict the next big trends in the industry. This year was a bit different from previous years as each of the five panelists outlined one trend and the rest were “crowd-sourced,” meaning the moderators picked them based on things like which areas are getting venture funding and the number of press mentions.

After each trend was presented, the panelists voted on it (a green paddle held up if they agreed, a red one if they disagreed). They then debated its merits, before the audience got to vote in the same way. Here’s a rundown of the 10 trends along with who came up with them.

1. The Millennials Are Here. Everything is changing. Rapidly!Joe Schoendorf, Partner, Accel Partners

The idea here is that the age group about to graduate from college is going to take over the world. That itself is of course just about the most obvious statement in the world, but Schoendorf specifically meant that a generation is about to take over that doesn’t remember what it was like not to be online — these are the “millennials.” He feels these with further innovation farther than ever before because they were born with the web.

The audience mostly agreed on this trend.

2. Advanced batteries will be the most popular alternative energy investment in ’09 and’10. — Crowd Idea

The group noted that while the press seems to love talking about this trend, it never seems to happen. Battery technology has been very slow to advanced over the past few decades, and there isn’t much to suggest that this will change anytime soon. That said, if there’s is one company that can nail an advanced battery, it will be huge.

The crowd was evenly mixed on this trend.


3. The unstructured data deluge creates the next great information leadersAnn Winblad, Partner, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

Enterprise data growth will be huge in five years, and 80 percent of that will be unstructured, says Winblad. Some argued that this idea isn’t particularly new — but most agreed that the time is indeed right for this.

The crowd mostly agreed with this trend.

4. Wireless broadband that will one of the only IT sectors to see increased funding this year — Crowd Idea

Everyone agreed that this is a very old idea. Even with more investment in the field that boosts bandwidth, people will want more bandwidth.

The crowd almost entirely disagreed with this trend.

5. “Maintech” not “Cleantech” — Increasing carbon efficiency of global GDPVinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures

Khosla believes that we’re on the verge of a carbon-constraint economy. But he thinks that it’s not necessarily the hot “greentech” trend that will thrive in this economy, because it’s still too small a part of the market. Instead, look to newer ideas in more traditional energy technology. A lot of the smartest students in this country are getting into the energy tech field, he notes.

Pretty much everyone agreed with this trend.

6. Power and efficiency management services will see a flowering of investment and innovation — Crowd Idea

The idea here is that energy going forward isn’t necessarily going to be about building new power plants, but instead will be about figuring out how better to distribute the power we’re already creating. The smart grid will be increasingly important and a number of companies are working on this.

The crowd mostly agreed with this trend.


7. The triumph of the distributed webSteve Jurvetson, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson

The distributed web is “the aggregate power of all of you,” according to Jurvetson. He believes that crowds will control much of the interesting things people look for on the web. People are already spending more time in social networks than on email. He also briefly went into the idea of the new things going on in search — not just real-time crowd-sourced options, but also ideas that new versions of search could come from watching what everyone is doing on the browser level as they surf the web.

The audience was about half and half on trend.

8. Healthcare administration will see the best growth in B2B software in ’09 and ’10 — Crowd Idea

Because they were running short on time, the group skipped this one, which everyone dubbed as old news.

9. Consumption of digital goods on mobile devices is THE growth story of the coming decadeRam Shriram, Managing Partner, Sherpalo Ventures, LLC

Shriram believes an ad model cannot continue to fuel growth in the mobile space. He thinks application building may be the model that does it, noting that we’re already seeing it across a variety of platforms in both the mobile and social networking space. He also believes that there’s a trend towards paid applications — though cheap ones — and that will be enough to blossom the industry. Some of the panel thought certain barriers, like the mobile carriers.

The audience mostly agreed with this trend.

10. Electronic displays will prove the hottest investment in hardware this year and the next — Crowd Idea

Again, running short on time, the panel barely talked about this one, but suggested there’s no real money to be made here even though the trend is hot.

The audience almost completely disagreed with this trend.

The Bonus Round

Finally, the two moderators, Tony Perkins, the founder of AlwaysOn and Jason Pontin, the Editor in Chief of Technology Review (and former he former Editor of  Red Herring), got to put up two trends. These were:

1) DC will prove to be a poor VC

Washington trying to get involved in funding new ventures in technology will fail. Entrepreneurs need to be allowed to do what they do best, without government meddling.

The audience all agreed with this trend.

2) The rumors of the demise of the reporter have been exaggerated

While newspapers and magazines will continue to die, there needs to be a place for real journalism in the world — even if it is online. Blogs cannot replace trained journalism — it’s a collaborative process between professionals, Pontin argued. Some of the panel took exception to the notion that bloggers can’t also do journalism, but all agreed that there needs to be reporting on things like the Iraq war.

The audience mostly agreed with this trend.


Energy, data and more energy were definitely the main themes discussed with the trends this year. There was also a lot of back and forth that many of the ideas being brought up were old ones. That rang true to me, but perhaps that’s to be expected we’re in down times, so you stick with what works (or has been predicted to work in the past).

Overall, the panelists trends seemed almost too specific while the crowd-sourced trends were too general. Likewise, the discussions on those topics went from too focused, to not nearly focused enough.

There were some interesting discussions on the energy front, as well as a bit on the mobile space — though surprisingly only Shriram really singled it out. Jurvetson’s talk briefly hit on the real-time web and Twitter which everyone was very opinionated about — but then boring crowd-sourced topics would come up and kill the discussion.

Before the panel began, the moderators went over last year’s trend to see how the previous panel had done. Most didn’t do too well, and I would suspect the same from this panel. Too many of the ideas are still a long time out, or are rehashed trends that no one really seemed to want to even talk about.