I don’t love prediction posts typically, but I suppose this is one of them. I started out writing about a couple things I’ve been observing that I think will end up coming to greater fruition in 2017. Next thing you know, I had a 2017 prediction post 🙂 So, here are three fairly unrelated things I’m thinking about as we approach 2017.
1. New New Media. I’m not really a media investor, but I think 2016 was a year where we have seen a shift in media production and consumption, and I think that will continue into 2017. We are at the tail end of the last new-media wave that was driven largely on social distribution. This was simultaneously great and terrifying. Content could be distributed from anywhere to hundreds of millions of people nearly instantaneously, which is incredibly powerful. We also saw the wave of clickbait and trashy content fill our feeds. Then we saw the wave of fake news and the immense power of misinformation. In the wake of these things, I think we’ve seen the rise of more curated, editorial, and premium content beginning to grow in attention and influence. Podcasts I would say are part of this, because the attention required to consume this medium means that the quality bar is higher. I’m excited about publications like WaitButWhy, The Information, and others that are showing that there is market for more thoughtful content. We are also seeing an appreciation that the form needs to shift to match consumer preferences in addition to the content. The Skimm is a good example of this, and in a very different way, so is the recently launched TheOutline (disclosure, NextView is an investor in The Outline)
2. Voice. The infrastructure for voice computing is being laid. The Echo and Echo dot are sold out online, and the Google Home assistant is a worthy competitor (although it’s unclear how that ecosystem will evolve). Siri has been in our pockets for years. Speaking to machines are about to become as natural as touching a screen. 2016 wasn’t the year this really happened really. I think 2017 will be that year. Also, I think we’ll figure out what the heck to really do with these devices. When I ask most people what they do with their Echos, 90%+ basically use it primarily as a music playing device and a weatherman, sprinkled with a bit of other stuff here and there. Most skills are novelties that don’t really work well just yet. But I think we’ll see an explosion of applications next year as the installed base of devices grows and consumers and developers get more accustomed to this interface. Amazon has huge plans for this in the years to come, but I think 2017 will be a seminal year for voice. For more on this topic, check out my partner David’s various posts on this subject.
3. Optimism. Let’s face it, 2016 was a tough tough year on a number of dimensions. There was a huge amount of fear and divisiveness in the air, culminating is a shocking presidential election. In the tech and venture world, there was a bunch of tough fundraises this year. Some high profile companies had flat rounds or effectively were recapped. Many companies went out of of business or are in the tail end of that process. VC funding was hard to come by because many funds were distracted. A ton of VC’s went back to the well to raise new funds this year, and the cynical view would be that they did this while marks were high before things reset. I think this reset will continue, as investors are increasingly valuation sensitive and returning to a focus on building real businesses with solid foundations. But next year will be a return to optimism in the tech markets. The underlying innovation that is happening is more exciting than ever, VC’s have huge amounts of capital now to deploy against new companies, and I think that the companies that were able to retrench this year will find their adjustments will pay off. There will continue to be more discipline in the market, as many investors felt stung this past year, but that will ultimately be a good thing for most of the participants in the ecosystem. I think 2017 will be a very good and exciting year.