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Looking Into the Crystal Ball: 22 Predictions for 2018

Inc. logo Inc. 11/24/2017 Christina DesMarais

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Predicting the future is hardly a precise science, but it's possible to identify macro trends by paying close attention to what's happening in an industry. Here's what a handful of founders, executives and investors are seeing in their crystal balls.

1. The artificial intelligence hype bubble will burst.

"Many companies which raised large sums based solely on buzzword-laden pitch decks will fail. When the dust settles, the companies using machine learning to solve focused problems using proprietary data sets will remain. We believe the most exciting of this crop will be coaching cloud companies."

--Gordon Ritter, founder and general partner of Emergence Capital, an enterprise cloud venture firm

2. Face-to-face interactions will increase.

"The internet has made it possible for people to communicate easily while slowly weakening personal connections. Technology has allowed companies to track productivity with monitoring software, at the same time weakening trust. Relationships have proven to be the way to increase sales and strengthen companies. Organizations will strive to build these relationships through face-to-face interactions that are personal, meaningful and fun."

3. More beauty consumers will move to indie brands.

"The trend continues toward natural, organic and non-toxic beauty products focusing on maintaining skin health as much as makeup. The educated consumer cares and is aggressively moving toward all natural, organic, non-GMO and eco-friendly brands such as those that are reef-friendly, cruelty-free and consider the safety of our environment. Additionally, the marketing of cosmetics has moved from high-profile celebrity to high-profile social media influencers and word of mouth. Consumers are waking up and becoming progressively more educated. They want authenticity and truth."

--Jacquelyn Quattro, CEO, Jersey Shore Cosmetics, a family owned and operated company which makes all-natural personal care and beauty products that are environmentally safe, non-toxic and cruelty-free

4. Mental health house calls will become more common.

"As the convenience of Amazon Prime and other on-demand online services continues to surge and become customary and expected, conventional methods of mental health treatment will soon be following suit. Most Americans experience highly stressful and busy lifestyles and have limited downtime. As a result, mental health practitioners will have to decide--keep up and offer convenient means of seeking mental health treatment, or become stale. It is expected that innovative and convenient means of accessing mental health treatment will become routine and acceptable. Rather than appointments taking place in the practitioner's office, appointments will be taking place via live video-conferencing, or at the client's preferred location. The client's needs and schedules will be put first, not the practitioners."

--Danielle Forshee, founder and CEO of Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, providing video-conference, concierge, and office-based appointments

5. The money will be in the 35-plus demographic.

"Millennials are seen as early adopters and trendsetters. Deep pockets? Nope. Brands need revenue and will learn to bridge the marketing gap to include the one demographic that controls 70 percent of the nation's disposable income and that continues to expand due to rapidly improving trends in health and wellness that increase lifespan and vitality. Ignoring the 35-plus buyer will be marketing suicide."

--Catherine Grace O'Connell, founder of Catherine Grace O, a blog dedicated to fashion, health and lifestyle

6. More people will strive for simplicity.

"Complications turn people off. As technology advances, it [affects] our need for simplicity and immediacy. This simplification in life is apparent in personal fitness, health, and wellness industries. If you keep things simple and easy to manage with the tried and true basics of nutrition and exercise, more people will venture into a healthy lifestyle. Short workouts will become all the rage, as people are constantly on the go and don't have a lot of time to commit to lengthy workouts. There will be an emphasis on at-home services that lend convenience, such as home workouts led through online programs and healthy home food delivery services.

--Michael Blauner, founder of Personal Fitness by Michael Blauner, celebrity personal trainer

7. "Big Data" will become "Big Fresh Data."

"Data is much, much more useful when it is fresh. Everyone will become focused on data freshness. SaaS companies will move away from publishing APIs (application program interfaces) and instead move to publishing data directly into your data warehouse, so it can be combined with other systems."

--Lloyd Tabb, founder and CTO of Looker, a comprehensive data platform offering data analytics and business insights

8. Trust will be tech's biggest hurdle.

"Next year, we're going to see companies from every sector doubling down on their most important asset: trust. And for good reason. From fake news and foreign ads on social media potentially impacting our election to the massive data breach at Equifax, trust in technology took a serious beating this year. So while some of the most transformative technology in decades, like autonomous cars or blockchain, is poised to go mainstream next year, companies, or at least the successful ones, are going to do everything in their power to put trust front and center. If your users don't trust your tech, it doesn't matter how cool or transformative it is. It's dead in the water."

--Ajeet Singh, founder and CEO of ThoughtSpot, a provider of search-driven analytics in the enterprise

9. Artificial intelligence (AI) will drive smart video meetings.

"In 2018, AI features will play an integral role in virtual communications, and as a result, it will surpass in-person communications in terms of user experience and productivity. Artificial intelligence capabilities such as smart transcription, virtual personal assistants, and voice recognition will support smart video meetings that will become the communications standard."

--Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, a provider of modern enterprise video communications

10. The divide between machine learning (ML) haves and have nots will grow.

"In 2018 we'll see the beginnings of mainstream momentum for machine learning, an area that has been the province of a small number of very sophisticated technology companies to date. We'll see a continued separation in the market between the 'haves' that are successfully using it in production for things like predictive maintenance, fraud detection, or better customer targeting, and the 'have nots' that are simply tinkering with it. Those that succeed with ML will get significant business benefits that are meaningful, but more importantly, those that are successful in 2018 will be laying the foundation for a bigger transformation in 2019 that will go beyond having an edge to having significant market differentiation based on price, capabilities or customer service. 2018 will also be a break out year for self-service in data integration. The early adopter segment will expand and show widespread improvements in time-to-insight and time-to-market."

--Mike Tuchen, CEO of Talend, a provider of cloud and big data integration software

11. Cybersecurity will be table stakes for executive competency.

"In 2018, a lot of companies will begin building security into the cultures of their companies as a means to future-proof. Cybersecurity will start to become a required competency of every executive--part of the standard job description--to ensure that it's built into every aspect of what a company does and offers to its customers."

--Chris Young, CEO of cybersecurity company McAfee

12. Ownership will decrease.

"'You are what you own' the saying goes, but that simply doesn't ring true today, especially for millennials. The rise of the subscription economy and the 'as-a-service' business model is changing the way consumers interact with the world, to the point that we're fast reaching the time where ownership as we currently know it will die out. People no longer want stuff, just access to stuff, when they need it. From our cars to our phones, and the music and movies we stream on them, we increasingly own less. Of course, the original subscription model started long ago with renting our homes, and we're increasingly becoming a society of renters again. With the first of Generation Z hitting the workforce in 2018, we're going to see the start of a whole generation which simply haven't grown up with that expectation of ownership, and are far less emotionally wedded to it. This is the start of the bursting of the great homeownership bubble. By 2025 we'll no longer see owning a home as the norm and start seeing it for what it was, a blip in the much longer-term trend of renting."

--Rupert Hunt, CEO of SpareRoom, the UK roommate-matching site, now serving over 400,000 users in the US to create happier apartment shares

13. The subscription model will become standard for all industries.

"More than a decade ago, Salesforce used the subscription model to disrupt software. Netflix has done the same to disrupt TV and Spotify with music. In 2018, every company in the world will embark on the shift to subscriptions. Why? We now know that companies adopting the model are growing their revenue nine times faster than with traditional business models. Next year we'll see more and more companies making the shift to subscriptions, and also subscribing to the services they need, from building energy, and tractors, to flooring and even toilets."

--Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, a SaaS (software as a service) platform that automates all subscription order-to-cash operations in real-time for any business

14. Enterprises will think smaller.

"In 2018, technology companies are going to ditch the buzzword 'cloud' in favor of the next big trend in IT: microservices. This is where companies will increasingly look to scale by essentially breaking up their IT and thinking smaller and using more SDN (software defined networking) and NFV (network function virtualization) type approaches. By doing the exact opposite of what enterprises have historically been doing up until the disruption of digital technology, we're going to see the concept of microservices take on a whole new life form, as enterprise ecosystems continue to grow. Enterprises should also take note fast--moving to smaller applications makes it much easier to scale and decreases risk, while increasing efficiencies."

--Craig Walker, founder and CEO of Dialpad, a pure cloud communications provider that empowers today's anywhere worker

15. Corporate America will increase its role in our political, legal and social lives.

"Next year is the year we will start confronting, on a much deeper level, the role of business in our culture and society. Corporate influence on political, legal, and social environments will be front and center. We saw this in 2017 with tech companies advocating for a variety of social and political positions and often taking strong, vocal leadership roles in many cultural issues. In 2018, this will become more mainstream and pervasive across industries. In 2018, we will have to answer the question: what exactly is the role corporations play in molding our culture, as well as our political and legal systems?"

--Billy Bosworth, CEO of DataStax, a provider of data management for geo-distributed, real-time applications that power the right-now enterprise

16. Consumers will expect more voice controls.

"Rapid adoption of voice as a human interface moves worldwide and mainstream as buyers shift from early adopters to consumers that demand and expect voice on everything from home appliances to personal digital assistants."

--Rick Bergman, CEO of human interface technology company Synaptics

17. Reach and scalability will continue to remain vexing problems.

"It will become harder and harder to gain attention and engagement of consumers who expect less interaction yet more personalization across an exploding number of marketing channels and technology devices."

--Collin Holmes, founder and CEO of local search and review management platform Chatmeter

18. Data will take the gossip out of the real estate industry.

"Like the technology that has revolutionized financial markets, we will see AI analyze the largest data asset class in the world, real estate. No more subjective opinions or guesswork--decisions will be based on artificial intelligence (AI) working with massive data sets for a truly competitive industry regardless of whether we are talking about a single block or an entire nation, removing the constant gossip that attempts to inform the biggest decisions consumers, investors and real estate stakeholders will make."

--Jeremy Sicklick, cofounder and CEO of HouseCanary, a real estate data analytics company

19. Machine learning will begin to transform business at every scale.

"While full, generalized artificial intelligence (AI) may be still the province of university labs, the capability to utilize developments in both specialized AI and machine learning is something that is going to be far more widely available, especially through cloud services. More and more raw information is available to businesses as they continue to march toward a fully digital world, and making sense of that information will be essential to staying ahead of the competition in designing, delivering, and selling new products and services to global markets. Machine learning-based services will provide the ability to turn data into information, and information into actionable intelligence that underpins predictive analytics to operate faster, smarter and more competitively. It'll be a brave new world, and the keys to the kingdom will be shaped by AIs."

--Geoff Webb, VP of strategy for software solutions company Micro Focus

20. Expect to see even more data-driven hires and acquisitions.

"Amazon buying Whole Foods may have caught some by surprise, but it's now clear that the tech giants can and will gobble up compelling companies from seemingly adjacent industries to gain access to their data and customers (just consider Microsoft and Salesforce's bloody battle over LinkedIn). The value of data continues to increase--so much so that the salary of a data scientist will outpace that of developers before we know it. Increasingly we're seeing developer skills becoming commoditized, while data scientists who understand new tools to execute real time decision making and machine learning are few and far between. With this, the old-school R&D universities will take on a whole new level of relevance to the tech industry."

--Florian Leibert, CEO of Mesosphere, which provides elastically run containers and data services at scale, with complete hybrid cloud portability

21. The tech industry will continue its transformation into an experience business.

"In 2018 the technology industry will increasingly realize that to be a leader you can't just offer your customers products, software or services anymore. You have to offer them simple, frictionless, flexible and -- most importantly -- delightful experiences. The tech market leaders already realize this. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are leaders because they transform and improve the way their customers communicate, listen, watch, shop, work, play and live. They deliver unique, unequalled experiences to their customers. Consumer and business technology companies who understand this, and have the velocity, innovation and ecosystems needed to continuously create new, captivating experiences for their customers will thrive in 2018. And those that do not will eventually fall by the wayside."

--Dheeraj Pandey, Chairman, founder and CEO of Nutanix, an enterprise cloud computing company

22. Wellness will play an even larger role across all industries.

"The importance of the body, mind and spirit connection will be a huge focus for corporate wellness programs in 2018. Corporations will be investing more and focusing on their employees and launching new programs to support their mental energy as well as physical energy and optimum resilience. Whether it be supporting employees by incorporating wellness design in their offices or creating opportunities through wellness programs within their companies, wellness is the new gold standard in business today. All employees will benefit from these new programs; however, we will see companies launching exciting new wellness programs that will specifically resonate with women."

--Dee Kelly, founder and CEO of Wellness Dcor, an online resource for wellness in design and corporate power energy training

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