From cloud wars to the certainty that there will be hacks, venture capitalists believe that 2015 will be a year of tumult and (in public markets anyway) triumph for the startup world.
Here are the visions that the general partners, managing directors and partners from firms such as NEA, IVP, Cue Ball Group,General Catalyst Partners and MDV have when they gaze into their crystal balls.
Together these firms have more than $22 billion under management, so they’re not only seeing the future, they’re often shaping it.
1. Jon Sakoda, General Partner, NEA
Cloud Wars – The Empires Strike Back: The cloud computing wars started years ago, but, largely speaking, Amazon has been uncontested and has quietly become the dominant player in the space. In 2015, Amazon will face a multi-front war as Google will launch its assault on Amazon’s traditionally strong presence in the developer ecosystem, and Microsoft will combat Amazon in the enterprise market by re-doubling its efforts on Azure.
Legacy Titanics – Icebergs Ahead: We will see more “unbundling” of legacy software companies. The disruptive forces that have pushed HP and Symantec to break up their operations in order to compete with new entrants will accelerate as activist investors and private equity owners push to maximize the value of these existing assets. Look for significant moves from Microsoft, EMC, VMware, Citrix, and Dell in the next year.
2. Tony Tijan, Chief Executive and Managing Director, Cue Ball Group
The Promise of Payments: Despite heightened focus, increased investment dollars and strong media buzz around a revolution in the payments space, there has been relatively little tangible change in the way we pay for things. NFC payment hasn’t taken off despite the introduction of Apple Pay, POS integrations are incredibly fragmented and interchange fees are being driven toward zero.
Wearables Weren’t Quite Ready: There was much excitement around wearable technology, but practical usage isn’t quite there so adoption has been low. While there were some notable product releases, wide-spread adoption and everyday use is still not at hand. For that to happen, creators need to figure out use cases and applications that genuinely simplify everyday tasks, rather than complicate them. 2015 will feature greater entrepreneurial enablement. For example:
Bigger, Better Deals: With a 21 percent decline in funds but a 40 percent increase in dollars raised, we are seeing larger funds spread across fewer firms. In 2015 we can expect to see the average deal size increase with an uptick in later growth rounds.
Tech Enablement Creates More Entrepreneurs: Real-time and mobile services have empowered a new segment of workforce that thrives on flexible and independent work. This has enabled those that aren’t able to (or simply don’t want to) fulfill 9-5 jobs to enter the workforce and creates a prevalence of non-traditional careers in services. In 2014 in the U.S. alone, there are 18 million independent workers. Expect that number to increase at sharp rates in 2015.
Government Empowers & Creates Even More Entrepreneurs: 2014 saw changes in policy that enable the entrepreneur with greater independence and freedom. More lenient immigration policies will allow people to pursue entrepreneurship, while affordable individual health care makes traditional employment less of a draw. These policy changes will drive a massive influx of entrepreneurs in 2015 and beyond.
3. Steve Herrod, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
Deconstruction Of Traditional IT Applications: Independent of whether this will be driven by startups or by Google, there will be a shift in how and where companies do business in the future leveraging SaaS models and moving away from the stranglehold of traditional ENT software vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others.
Network Virtualization: Virtualization will continue to rise in popularity and finally take the main stage in networking – we have seen this starting to take place with the acquisition of Nicira and ACE.
There Will Be Hacks: As we move into 2015, security breaches will continue to happen as companies work to patch holes in current software and networks. Trying to stay one step ahead of hackers with the latest software or security features isn’t going to be enough; companies will need to work together in order to combat and fight them off.
4. Neil Sequiera, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
The End Of The ‘Superstore’ In Verticals: First it was Circuit City, then Radio Shack, followed by Best Buy. There is still a place for Walmart and grocery stores but not vertical players in alternative commerce. That is were the web and mobile win. With companies like The Honest Company, there will be a rise of vertical commerce with a unique connection to the customer directly.
The Downside To Consolidation And Failure Of Media Properties: Consumers realize that this isn’t a good thing — AT&T plus Direct TV, Comcast plus Time Warner Cable. The fewer people there are to compete on the price of cable, phone and, most importantly, high-speed data, as well as provide thoughtful journalistic integrity is a concern and the consumers will realize this in 2015.
5. Katherine Barr, Partner, MDV
New Enterprise Trend: Labor and Workforce Innovation: Until a decade ago, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) were relegated to research labs, technical publications, and big-budget science fiction films. ML and AL have “crossed the chasm” and will have a profound impact on the way businesses work. Pairing human workers with machine learning and automation will transform knowledge work and unleash new levels of human productivity and creativity. Without the advances in automation, the swelling volume of data would overwhelm knowledge workers and cripple businesses.
A New Era in Retail and Commerce Innovation: The traditional retail infrastructure and supply chain logistics as we know it is being disrupted by companies creating new technology platforms and data-enabled distribution systems that have predictive analytics, better customer profiling, deeper consumer engagement, blended online and offline data, and more agile supply chains. The supply-chain has been fragmented and inefficient for years, particularity with the delivery of heavyweight goods to the consumer, which until now have been expensive and complex. E-commerce platforms are being transformed for the consumer and the manufacturer by leveraging powerful analytics and forecasting tools helping to alleviate “last mile” (i.e. from warehouse to consumer) problem that is the key logistics issue – where most of the cost, complexity and fragmentation lies, especially with the delivery of heavyweight items.
Life Tech Will Take on New Life: In life, time really is money, and a major source of time is spent on home and family tasks. Life tech allows digitally-enabled services, intelligent personal agents and mobile-device-enabled communication and collaboration infrastructure to truly optimize consumers’ lives. Similar to how ERP helped to organize the business side of our lives, life tech promises to organize the personal side of our lives In addition to companies like Nest. Other companies, such as TicketFly and Ruby Ribbon, have products and services that optimize, personalize and automate our lives as consumers and are creating a smart world that shifts and responds to our needs.
6. Jules Maltz, General Partner, Institutional Venture Partners
The IPO Market: The IPO market will stay open, but a large number of tech companies will price their IPOs below the price of their last private financings.
7. Sandy Miller, General Partner, Institutional Venture Partners
Tech IPOs: I think 2015 will be the best year since the ‘bubble’ for venture-backed tech IPOs. We have had a solid year in 2014 and the deals late this year are working well. There is considerable institutional investor appetite; they have made good returns on tech IPOs this year. Most importantly, there are an unprecedented number of high-quality, private, venture-backed tech companies of real scale ($50 million or more in annual revenues) and growth (30-50 percent top-line growth).