In some ways, January 2021 has been no different than any other January in technology.
At the start of the new year, we read about new technologies and innovations that will shape the year ahead, which often come from the world’s investors and technologists.
In other ways, the gains in innovation seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have vastly accelerated the “digitization” and/or “glocalization” of the world’s economies, and has changed many aspects of what we call “work” in a traditional sense, resulting in a list of trends and technology predictions for 2021 that few would have predicted six months ago.
With that in mind, we asked the VC community and our clients about the technologies and categories they’re watching in 2021. Here’s what they’re most excited about:
Food, Food, Food (and sustainability!): New proteins, sugars and foods are being created by emerging start-ups around the world that will change what we eat and drink not only in 2021, but forever. But it’s more than that! Investors are backing startups from those that are changing farming to new companies that are addressing the impact that “fast fashion”, animal-derived (leather, wool, silk, down, silk) and petroleum-derived (pleather, polyester, etc.) fibres have on the environment.
CleanTech: VCs backing emerging cleantech products is not a new trend, but historically they have not been able to invest in new promising technologies if they cannot see immediate returns. That is beginning to change, as some investors now believe that faster exits are possible if CleanTech companies use Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) to go public. As a result, you can expect not only more IPOs in 2021, but investments in promising CleanTech companies should increase.
Cyber Intelligence: Investors have been backing cybersecurity startups whose products protect our laptops, networks and mobile devices for decades. But today’s cybersecurity threats are also carried out online, in private forums, and across social media, which if left undetected can cause significant reputational and financial harm. In 2021, you’ll start to see the rise of a new generation of Cyber Intelligence startups (and subsequent investments in these companies) whose missions will be to defend individuals, brands, and intellectual property.
Electric Vehicles in the Mainstream: Despite the success of Tesla, electric vehicles have not reached that ‘tipping point’ in the global auto market, which is critical for gaining huge momentum. This will drastically change in 2021, as a new slate of high-torque, high-power electric trucks and SUVs are expected to be released from automakers around the world. As a result, consumers will no longer view electric vehicles as a compromise, changing public perception rapidly.
The Rise of “Quick Commerce”: The next-generation of commerce will be laser-focused on speed, enabling a better consumer experience that can provide not just next day or “several hours later” delivery or even in hours, but delivery in a matter of minutes. Though the sector is still in its infancy, 2021 will be the year “quick commerce” begins its rise.
InsurTech as its Own Category: Traditionally, InsurTech has been thrown under the “FinTech” umbrella. However, thanks to innovations in technologies like AI and no code/low platforms, the core systems of the insurance industry are finally being “modernized.” As a result, this opens up a broader opportunity for non-insurance services and apps to bundle insurance offerings into their own environments.
As we look to the year ahead, a universal lesson from last year remains central to our expectations: companies, individuals and industries have proven themselves to be incredibly innovative and resilient in the face of massive systemic change – and at great speed and scale. With that collective mindset buoying us as we enter 2021, we’re sure to be in for some incredibly exciting progress across many sectors this year.