Maybe you’re an entrepreneur trying to pin down your next big idea. Maybe you’re a small business owner wondering what new competition might be awaiting you around the corner. You might be an investor, trying to jump on early trends to turn an impressive profit. Or maybe you’re just a consumer, eagerly awaiting the new technologies, products and services that are going to make your life better in the coming years.
Whatever the case, if you’re looking forward to the next generation of startups that’s coming in 2017, it pays to know what trends to look for as we leave 2016 behind.
Top startup trends of 2017
Below are some of the most important startup trends you’ll see developing over the course of 2017:
- Anything AI. We’re in the midst of an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. Over the past few years, we’ve nearly perfected virtual assistants, developed programs that can write news articles on their own, and have beat human masters in the game of Go. Any startup that creates or relies on this tech in 2017 is going to see a massive boost.
- Smaller, faster. The biggest advantage startups have over their major competitors is that they’re small, young and therefore nimble enough to adapt quickly to new trends. In 2017, you can expect to see more startups utilizing this critical advantage, making themselves even smaller and developing even faster to remain competitive; this could apply to all industries, but especially technology.
- Virtual and augmented reality. Oculus Rift and Pokémon Go were two VR and AR developments, respectively, that prove the potential for each technology—both in terms of capacity and audience growth. Even if your company doesn’t produce these types of technologies, you can find ways to take advantage of its popularity by having interactive features in your physical location.
- Bridging the technical and non-technical gap. Much in the way that WordPress made it easy for people unfamiliar with web development to design and build their own websites, I suspect we’ll see more startups emerging to bridge the technical and non-technical gap. Look for new products that give technical abilities to even the most uninformed or amateur users.
- Nutrition and wellness. Nutrition and wellness have always been major areas of the startup sector, but with renewed interest in topics like organic foods, GMOs and the availability of on-the-go information and nutrition trackers, the potential here is greater than ever. I expect we’ll see huge growth in startups that help people eat healthy and exercise.
- E-commerce opportunities. E-commerce growth hasn’t slowed down in the past several years, and I don’t think that growth trend is going to change any time soon. There are more e-commerce entry points than ever before, making it possible for almost any business that sells a physical product to create a platform for its sale easily. Expect to see diversification in options, and room for more businesses to enter.
- User connections. Companies like Uber have risen to prominence because of their ability to connect users with other users; in the case of Uber, this means connecting drivers to passengers. Other companies have connected freelancers to employers, or housing to people looking for a place to stay. This trend isn’t going away anytime soon, and I suspect it will see even further growth in 2017 as people grow more used to this kind of micro-economy.
- Blockchain in new industries. You’re probably familiar with Bitcoin (at least in passing), but the technology behind Bitcoin is the most interesting part of the digital currency. Blockchain is a system that allows a single database to be distributed and managed across a number of different, distant computers. In 2017, expect to see this technology marrying other industries, such as the financial or healthcare industries, for improved management and new opportunities.
- IoT possibilities. You’ve been hearing about the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and smart homes for years now, with dozens of products but no major consumer adoption breakthroughs yet. You can bet this trend will develop on its own in 2017, but more importantly, look for new ways this tech can be harnessed or taken advantage of. IoT devices have already been used as tools in a massive cyberattack—but despite this destructive negativity, it shows the potential of how IoT devices could be used collectively.
- International opportunities. Every year, the distant countries of the world get a little closer together. The rise and spread of the internet has resulted in major leaps forward in a number of developing countries, and investors are already looking into foreign markets for further development in 2017. Identifying an ideal country—one with significant growth potential, but with enough stability to support a growing business—is the first step for a new platform to bring success. Watch for promising young startups in other countries, or domestic startups interested in partnering with developing countries.
Of course, only time will tell how these factors play out; a significant disruption in economic growth, consumer preferences, or even a corporate competitor could overwrite or undermine any one of these trends. You’ll need to pay close attention to when and how these trends develop, but if you do, you’ll be several steps ahead of your competition. You’ll also get a step closer to achieving your startup-related goals, whatever they happen to be.