The six software themes I’ll explore the next six months

The past month I took the time to step back and think about the tech themes that I wanted to explore during the second half of 2019. I conducted my research through two lenses:

  • Societal shifts: what are some of the big changes that will impact our society now/in the near future? How will these shifts reverberate in terms of tech/software startups?
  • Emerging technology enablers: what are the technologies that will enable new interesting software products to emerge in the next few years?

In the rest of the post, I share the six tech themes that I’ve picked and that I’ll explore by sharing industry landscapes, market analysis, and startup memos during the next six months.

B2B Sustainability Software

The societal Shift. Since the beginning of the industrial era, our economy is built on the assumption that the resources provided by our planet are unlimited and the environmental cost of each product or service produced doesn’t need to be taken into account/priced.

As we’re now starting to concretely feel the effects of climate change and as people are more aware of its consequences, both of these assumptions will reverse. And it will impact tremendously how businesses run their operations, creating plenty of opportunities for startups to help them transition to an economy where these “constraints” are taken into account.

What I find interesting / what I will look for. If “sustainability tech” was a category a bit mocked until a couple of years ago, I think that it will become table stakes in many industries. For instance, I’ve covered the “food waste management” software category here, and I cannot believe that in 10 years from now, not every restaurant or food distribution chain will pay for such software to monitor and act on the food waste they generate. For these businesses, it will be like having a CRM software.

I just gave the example of food waste, but you can find such example of “sustainability tech” in plenty of industries for plenty of different needs (like container ship operators which currently have to spend billions of dollars upgrading their fleets to make them compliant with new gas emissions regulation). On the topic of pricing the environmental impact of businesses, you can check my short coverage of carbon offset startups.

The traditional software categories (CRM, marketing, productivity) might feel saturated, but it’s not the end of B2B software. Quite the opposite.

Elder & Senior Tech

The societal shift. The shift in terms of population age is best visualized with the evolution of population pyramids:

The trend is clear: the population is aging and it will impact every aspect of our society from the job market to the workplace, the healthcare systems and even the entertainment & lifestyle industries.

What I find interesting / what I will look for. What interests me here is not so much the senior care category (it’s already well covered), but the new products and services in the work, entertainment and lifestyle categories for people over 50.

Elder & Senior tech is not synonym with “care” only. As the proportion of people over 50 is growing, and as this generation of “elders & seniors” has spent a significant part of their life using smartphones and the internet, I believe there are real opportunities for new services and products tailored for this segment.

Work. The workplace will change with a share of workers over 50 growing in many companies. I believe we’ll see new products tackle a range of problems from recruiting to productivity, inclusivity or company culture.

Entertainment & lifestyle. In tech, there’s a common narrative around younger people leaving popular products once their parents start to use them (e.g: young people leaving Facebook for Snapchat). As the coming generation of people over 50 is familiar with the internet, I think the opposite will also happen. We’ll see a growing number of innovative products dedicated to this segment only. It’s already the case offline as the elder/senior segment enjoy many holidays, sports and other entertainment services specifically made for them. I believe that it will also happen to online products and communities (from travel to video games, sex, social media or online communities).

Privacy Tech

The societal shift. As Shoshana Zuboff explains in her book, we’ve entered the third iteration of capitalism: after a capitalist model based on the accumulation of production power (industrialization era), it evolved to the accumulation of financial power (financial market era), and finally now to the accumulation of data (internet era). What she calls “Surveillance Capitalism” is a capitalism based on the accumulation of user data in order to predict and influence their behavior (basically to make you buy stuff or consume more services).

As with every new iteration of capitalism, we generally go through a stage of “abuses” which is later addressed by regulation: at the beginning of the industrial era workers had few rights and many were exploited by corporations, which resulted in many backslashes and later regulations to protect them (unions, minimum wage…). Same with the financial era which went through many crises due to various abuses (like in 2008) and is now more regulated (to a certain extent, I agree).

Similarly, I believe that the surveillance capitalism era, started with the internet almost 30 years ago, is going through the same process. After many cases of abuse made by companies such as Facebook or Google around user privacy, we’re seeing more scrutiny from governments with new regulations such as GDPR or CCPA. But also from the consumers themselves who are more aware of these issues.

What I find interesting / what I will look for. I’ve elaborated in more details my views in my B2B Privacy Tech landscape, but to make it short, I believe there are many opportunities for SaaS companies to provide the infrastructure that will help businesses become more privacy-friendly and compliant (I’ve covered some of them on my MemoHub profile).

Geospatial Tech

The technology enabler. This tech trend is not driven by a societal change, but a technology enabler. It’s getting cheaper to produce and launch microsatellites (CubeSats) which can take better pictures from space (with incredible resolutions), refreshed more frequently. As a consequence, we’re seeing an increasing number of startups providing high-quality satellite imagery for cheaper than before (like Planet), which creates plenty of new opportunities for startups to offer new products based leveraging satellite imagery (from Insuretech to marketing and sales, there are plenty of innovative use cases coming).

I’ve also already started to cover some of these companies on my MemoHub profile.

The unbundling of healthcare

The societal shift & tech enabler. In most countries, it takes longer and longer to get an appointment with any doctor (dentists, eye, skin doctors or even psychologists) because there’s not enough of them to support demand. And this problem will only grow.

At the same time, I believe that the overall process is inefficient: why do we go to a doctor’s office, most of the time to get checked, without him/her getting data points about our current health? I’ve seen an increasing number of companies trying to “unbundle” the diagnosis aspect of this process: people take pictures of their skin, teeth or conduct a myopia test at home with their smartphone, and the app tells them whether they should go see a doctor or not (they sometimes close the loop with an online consultation). 

Since more and more doctors are now using platforms such as Doctolib or Docplanner, why not connect these mobile apps to them? That way your doctor could receives the first diagnosis coming from these apps before requesting you to come for a double-check.

Drugs & Neurotech 

Society change & tech enabler: I bundle drugs & Neurotech together because both are altering how the human brain works. We’re already seeing a lot of innovation happening driven by:

  • Societal change: as a society we are coming to the realisation that substances such as sugar or alcohol are more dangerous than banned substances such as THC, CDB or Psilocybin.
  • Technology enabler: whether it’s Neurotech or drugs, technologies are getting cheaper and better.