CB Insights’ Anand Sanwal kicked off proceedings at The Cantech Investment Conference 2017 with his presentation, “Is the age of the unicorn over?” which ran through the booms and busts in the technology space.
According to Sanwal, 2016 was a tougher year for venture funding and venture-backed deals. He said there were “multiple unicorn casualties and a slower rate of births.” In the same year, in the US, there was a poor showing for tech IPOs. Brexit and Trump were tech headwinds that scared people off investing, merging and acquiring.
Why 2017 will be a good year
Sandwal is optimistic for the year ahead, and for good reason — or in this case, good data behind his claims. He says 2017 will be a good year and here’s why: there is a healthy IPO pipeline and when exit activity remains in fine health, it is a good sign for the startup and tech ecosystem. He also enumerated that competitive lines are being redrawn, and that corporations are outsourcing research and development to startups.
Sanwal highlighted the broad-based innovation across many areas, such as:
- Fintech – technology is moving into the fintech space, specifically in the mortgage market and quantum computing with “lots of money now going into there,” according to Sanwal.
- The Industrial Internet of Things – According to CB Insights, startup equity funding since 2012 is $6.2 billion across 919 deals, with $2 billion invested privately in 2016. Sanwal mentioned that there has been big interest in voice and ambient computing, as well as corporations building bots as the new user interface.
- Media – “Media as an industry is still trying to figure out how they are going to survive,” said Sanwal. Mergers and acquisitions picked up in the face of a changing landscape, and social media dominated the mobile web scene.
- Mobility – Mobility is causing major disruption in tech; startups working in mobility secured $13.8 billion across 212 deals in 2016. Sanwal shared that, “the autonomous ecosystem continues to take off.”
- Artificial intelligence – Healthcare and AI is heating up, “attacking lots of different areas– everything from diagnostics to discovery to genomics” he said. He also highlighted the growth in cybersecurity as a result of data breaches.
The future of competition
In the near future, competition between industries will crisscross. Sandwal cited the existing Amazon patent for an airborne warehouse which has the potential to compete against delivery businesses like FedEx and UPS, aside from competing against other e-commerce companies.
Is the age of the unicorn over?
The speed that technology is being adopted is astonishingly fast, with its pace accelerating even more. Going forward, the main need for companies is to continue innovating. Maintaining relevance, especially for legacy industries, is crucial, and subsequently cementing their position in this continually shifting marketplace.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Emma Harwood, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.