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Climate tech, the “Planet of the Apes” revolution and the future of party
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep01 - 2020.01.14
As a famous quip states, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. (A quote alternatively attributed to Peter Drucker and to Abraham Lincoln, which, by the way, points to the dual nature of startups, economic but also political through the visions they hold.) But we can just as much affirm that the best way to create the future is to predict it. That is why, in this month of January that marks both the dawn of a new year and of a new decade, it is at least twice as important as usual to take time to peek into the future.
Building on predictions from venture capitalists (who in their highly-networked roles on the innovation frontier tend to sense before many what is coming in our society) but also on our very own assumptions and analyses, we offer you a special, Forward-only edition of Stéréo.
Happy 2020s everyone!
Stéphane Distinguin (S) & Tom Morisse (T)
Acclaimed investor and blogger Fred Wilson gives 10 predictions for the 2020s, a list that proves tech insiders are more and more concerned with much more than…tech:
“The looming climate crisis will be to this century what the two world wars were to the previous one.”
“Automation will continue to take costs out of operating many of the services and systems that we rely on to live and be productive.”
“China will emerge as the world’s dominant global superpower.”
“Countries will create and promote digital/crypto versions of their fiat currencies.”
“A decentralized internet will emerge, led initially by decentralized infrastructure services like storage, bandwidth, compute, etc.”
“Plant based diets will dominate the world by the end of the decade.”
“The exploration and commercialization of space will be dominated by private companies.”
“Mass surveillance by governments and corporations will become normal and expected this decade.”
“We will finally move on from the Baby Boomers dominating the conversation in the US and around the world and Millennials and Gen-Z will be running many institutions by the end of the decade.” (can’t wait!)
“Continued advancements in genetics will produce massive wins.” Link (T)
One of my strongest intuitions is that, just like Chinese paramount leaders are selected not by their immediate predecessors but by the ones before them, you have to look 2 decades prior to understand ongoing developments. For instance, the unicorn craze and trillion-dollar-cap obsession of the 2010s were reminiscent of the dot-com boom of the 90s.
In this light, what could happen in the 2020s based on the 2000s, and in particular the Web 2.0 saga? I think that the next wave of social heavyweights (aka Facebook replacements) will be born at the beginning of this decade, with a return to decentralization and possibilities of personalization more akin to MySpace than Facebook and its standardized interface. And also that the idea of P2P will make a comeback, to share connectivity and content between the billions of smartphone owners - the density of users, compared to where we were in the 2000s, is what will take P2P to new heights. (T)
In 2020, one of the use cases of the blockchain technology will make a breakthrough: Decentralized Finance (or DeFi for the connoisseurs). For centuries there has been continuous progress in the democratization of financial services (i.e. lower costs for a given service and opening of new ones to broader parts of the population); DeFi projects are the best ones to carry this torch into the 2020s: disaggregating assets, helping supply and demand meet, facilitating the closing of transactions are all things that blockchain projects are well-suited to achieve… and natively on a global scale. Link (T)
There is a surprising gap between the non-stop public conversations we had about climate change in 2019 (from Greta Thunberg to fires in Australia) and the evolution of the startup landscape. I assume it is just a lag, thus in 2020 we will see the emergence of a new category of players tackling this survival challenge through the use of IT.
“Clean tech” was way more than software and ended badly in the early 2010s, “impact tech” is broader than ecology, so maybe “climate tech” or “Earth tech” will take hold. (T)
In the 2020’s, don’t believe the hype! And stop telling your nephew he should learn data science or be afraid of algorithm and automation if he wants to find a job. The worker shortage is something way more complex and there will be many ways to express your vocations. As a good example, fast food chains, which for decades has been seen as the quintessential low-wage job, are now offering 6-figure salary. (S)
One last set of predictions from another great VC, this time focused on the tech industry and the narrow timeframe of 2020:
”Fundraising environment remains strong.“
“Public software [valuation] multiples remain at elevated levels.”
“Distributed [companies] becomes the norm.”
“The M&A market continues to surge.”
“The direct listing becomes the standard way for startups to go public.” Link (T)
At some stage, as we, human beings, hurt the Earth so much, there should be a “Planet of the Apes” revolution where animals will strike back to protect their land. In Germany, weasels vandalize the country’s most precious matter of pride, eating (literally) car engines. Is this a first warning? Beware of cute koalas and funny kangaroos. Link (S)
One of my strongest “wow moments” ever was back in 2007, at my second stay in San Francisco. I was talking with a women’s rights activist and blogger about her undertakings. I was happily telling her my beliefs and commitment to gender parity and discriminations abolishment. I remember how speechless I was when she answered there was an even more important cause for her: the protection of animal welfare. Last week, a UK judge ruled vegans deserve the same legal protection as religious people. I am sure we can’t imagine - especially as a Frenchman - how much what we eat will change in the coming years. And there is a totally new industry to invent. (S)
But, I will make the same point a journalist at The New York Times made a couple of years ago: what will happen when, for religious, diet, allergies, etc. reasons, we will never eat the same thing together again? You know, that old humane custom called “friends’ dinner”.
This brings me to my next point. What is the future of party? Guess what, in a world passionate about the “future of anything”, if you search for “future of party” in Google you only get answers related to politics. Is this that we are not so interested in parties or that is no subject of innovation there? January is Dry-January now, and there are more and more sober curious people. Cannabis should be legalized more broadly in the coming years, offering new products and habits. Health may gain what the fun may lose… But at the end of the day, I will be happy if the algorithms and chemistry leave the parties alone. A good “future of party” will always be a matter of the right people at the right place at the right moment with the right mood. Please please please let me make a wish for 2020 and let me know next time Bill Murray shows up or Kaytranada is around. (S)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
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