The beginning of the year is always one of our favorite times at Two Sigma Ventures. For us, it’s time of reflection, planning, and looking ahead at what’s to come. Judging by all the out of office responses we’ve seen over the last two weeks, it can also be a welcome respite and a well-deserved break, hopefully full of rest and the joys of family and friends.
Every year during this time, we like to share some of the top tech trends we’re most excited about as a team, along with a few predictions for 2019. We’ll revisit as the year progresses to see how we’re doing. So without further ado, here is what we think will shape 2019:
1. We’ll see an increase in the number of companies using data science and advanced engineering to fight climate change — Dan Abelon
It’s no longer a question of whether climate change is happening, but rather a question of how quickly, at what scale, and what can be done to stop it. With a seeming unwillingness for nations to step in to address the problem, I think it’s likely we’ll see more companies using data science and advanced engineering to fight the challenges facing our planet. From lab-grown food and cellular agriculture, which lead to substantially less greenhouse emissions, to optimizing the electrical grid and agriculture production utilizing data science, there are some great opportunities to leverage technology to fight climate change.
2. Quantum computing applications will see slow development and adoption, while hardware tries to live up to the hype — Kyra Durko
The launch of IBM Q and Rigetti’s Quantum Cloud Services made headlines and increased the promise that quantum applications will be deployed in the near future. However, error rates remain high and hardware still has technical milestones to achieve before these applications are proven valuable and become worth financial and human capital investment. This year, I think we will continue to see new hardware approaches, such as photonics and quantum dots to address current hardware shortfalls.
3. 2019 marks a resurgence of interest in space-focused startups and exploration — Mickey Graham
It’s already been a busy year on the space exploration front. With SpaceX paving the way for cheaper satellites and launches (and an upcoming test of their spacecraft, Dragon Crew, that will take astronauts to the ISS aboard a U.S spacecraft for the first time since 2011), I think we can expect a flurry of space-related startup and exploration activity this year. It was an auspicious start to the year with Nasa’s New Horizons’ whizzing by Ulitma Thule at 31,000 miles per hour on New Years’ Eve, and just last week, China’s Chang’e-4 landed on the far side of the moon. We’ll also be celebrating the 50 year anniversary of Apollo 11, so mark your calendars for July 21.
4. It will be a year of positive achievements and milestones for autonomous vehicles — Colin Beirne
Last year we saw reality deliver a setback to the autonomous vehicle industry. The general population got a glimpse of how incredibly difficult it is to marry driving and planning software with the sensors available today to produce reliable, safe driving in all conditions. We saw tech troubles, exposés on previously unreported crashes, and a general industry-wide tempering of expectations. Nevertheless, it was an important incremental year that focused on improvements in core technology, which I believe the world will start to see the benefits of in 2019. We expect to see more successful deployments in limited scenarios focused primarily on goods (e.g. grocery delivery, sidewalk robots), while pilot programs in Phoenix and Pittsburgh make credible steps toward proving the wider viability of the technology for transport of people.
5. We’ll see regulatory action against one of the large tech companies — David Winton
Elected officials will continue their attacks on the tech industry, spurred on by the general unease with these companies and a tenuous grasp of the technologies they deploy. These platforms will continue to be blamed for societal ills and simultaneously get slammed for exerting too much and too little control over their platforms and the messages promulgated through them. Sooner or later we may see a deeper regulatory approach from government focusing on how Silicon Valley conducts business, either in the form of new regulations/laws or emboldened regulators. One potential side effect is that this increased regulatory scrutiny could be the catalyst for a new wave of competitors trying to take advantage of the perceived weakness in consumer trust in the existing brands.
6. Tech-enabled and hyper-focused customer experiences separate the winners from the losers — Erhan Soyer-Osman
Rising costs associated with both reaching new customers (digital advertising) and servicing existing ones (customer support) could make it difficult for enterprises to ignore software tools that can create improved efficiency in both repeatable and scalable ways. Companies that started utilizing smart tech over the last few years, such as a customer data platform (unified customer views) or customer support platform (using AI to better manage service requests while making humans more productive), could begin outperforming competitors, creating increased opportunities for early-stage companies focused on providing these hyper-focused customer experience tools.
7. User/consumer scrutiny of companies’ policies and ethics reaches an all-time high, while reputation management becomes vitally important – Colin Beirne
In their attempt to personalize and differentiate ads and content, technology companies will continue to wrestle with where users’ privacy red lines are. Consumer scrutiny of companies’ policies and ethics could reach an all-time high, with trust taking precedence, especially as the technology to create deep fakes and deceive the public becomes more pervasive. Good, thoughtful PR management to engage with consumers may become more important than ever and could be a big driver of whether companies thrive or fail.
Thanks for taking a look through. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know if you agree or disagree, and feel free to reach out directly if you’re working on a company tackling any of these trends.