A review of 2012 and a look into the future
Happy New Year! I've done the traditional review and predictions thing here for the past few years, and it's that time again. This time around, it's really difficult for me to see the big trends, having been heads-down in start-up building for most of the year. On one hand, that's of course a problem; if I can't describe what's going on around us, how can I know where to head? Yet, most startup decisions really have very little to do with this level of thinking -- once a rough vision is in place, it's more about finding the right people to execute that vision with and not a lot about what are other people doing. So, I haven't really spent enough time putting these thoughts in order, but it'd be a shame to skip this chance.
On the recap side: I predicted that the Euro crisis would continue to play out, that governments would try to regulate Internet, that Facebook would continue to dominate but the "gatekeep net content" stuff would fail, that we'd see a lot of rise in enterpreneurship (would it be safe to call 2012 the year of Kickstarter?) and that we'd see a completely new class of social games, and I'm very happy to see good friends at Supercell emerge as the early leader there. Well, I was pretty vague a year ago, so it's easy to claim I'm a good prognosticator :). I can't make a call on the data-driven medical stuff, not having really followed developments there, though I suppose at least 23andme's massive new funding counts. From earlier stuff, motion controls are now on high-end televisions, though the applications are still pretty raw.
Then there's the personal recap that's far too close for me to summarize it well. 2012 has been a year of change, learning and growth. The chronological highlights: ending a good period at Sulake, using all that I learned there to help several very cool startup teams accelerate on their path to success, helping my spouse get her own startup moving, founding another startup with a great team and most importantly, witnessing and guiding our daughter learn new stuff every day over her second year.
What's in the future? I remain especially bullish on two very large, very disruptive trends - the custom healthcare I already wrote about earlier as well as custom manufacturing (whether 3D printed or otherwise). For sure, 3D printing is advancing really fast right now, and it's reasonable to expect some devices come out of hobbyist-tinkerer labs and prototype studios to regular homes and offices. However, it's not just 3D printing but all kinds of digitally driven manufacturing from custom shoes and jeans to customer-specified patterns or designs on everything. With laptop vinyl skins, tableware and lampshades done, what's next?.
While these deliver value in different ways, they're driven by the same trends powered by digital technology and data. Computing is no longer just computing. Ultimately, we're only a few short years away from Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. Okay, perhaps not the nanotech, but most other stuff for sure.
Looking at my past predictions, I've been far more focused on the pure computing stuff before. On that note, we're still in the middle of the platform disruption. Though touch computing has clearly taken a leading position in application development, we're still missing a capable standard platform. iOS is capable but proprietary, HTML5 is still not fully here, Android is grabbing market share but at a massive fragmentation cost, and so on. I haven't seen this many new languages and frameworks pop up all over the place since the early 90's. What's going to be the Windows 95 and Visual Basic of this era?