Trends & Innovation in 2011

Posted by on Jan 3, 2011

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Rock star VC Fred Wilson recently put up a post entitled “Predictions and Prognostications” which nicely outlines some of the predicted technology trends for 2011. I’ve taken the liberty of reposting the deck via SlideShare below because it’s a fantastic read:

One of the trends it mentions is 3D printers – it reminded me of the forward looking 2009 presentation made by MakerBot at Chris Pirillo’s Gnomedex conference in Seattle (you can watch the video here on YouTube). Gnomedex 10 featured Larry Wu talking about Consumer Macro Trends (video available here) – another video worth watching. In the video, Larry identifies the following 2010 “megatrends”:

  • Artisan – emergence of popularity for handcrafted goods (for example, Etsy). The 2011 JWT deck mentions related trends such as 3D printing, entrepreneurial journalism, nanobrewers and micro-business.
  • Cultural fusion – Emergence of multi-cultural foods and products in the mass consumer market. JWT has references to 2011 trends like Matcha, New Nordic Cuisine, Brigadeiro,  and Heirloom apples.
  • Fingerprinting – Assertion of uniqueness. JWT mentions Electronic Profiling and Personal Taste Graphs in 2011.
  • Health monitor – Interest in enhancing and self-monitoring health. JWT has numerous examples of trends including the Digital Downtime, Digital Interventions, Food PHD, mHealth, and Home Energy monitors.
  • Hyperlife – Interest in multi-tasking and speeding up consumption of information. JWT points to Auto Apps and Automatic Check-ins.
  • Memory marketing – Interest in retro and generational interests. 2011 examples from JWT include Tech Enabled Throwbacks and Storied Products.
  • Merit badges – The value of collecting experiences rather than things. JWT examples – In The Flesh, London Tourism, Social Objects, Space Travel Goes Private and Odyssey Trackers.
  • Ready, set, go – Innovating convenience. Voice Activated Apps, Apps Beyond Mobile, Banks Branch Out, and Digital Indoor Maps round out the trends for 2011.
  • Celebri-Me – Consumers as creators. Some of the 2011 trends identified by JWT include Entrepreneurial Journalism, Facebook Alternatives, Long-Form Content, and  Nano-Brewers.

Some key personal takeaways:

  • The JWT report contains a number of trends & observations which can be further distilled into megatrends.
  • The longer something remains in the consumer’s mind, the more stable and marketable it becomes. This is really the idea of resonance – one of the reasons EBay became successful is because it represents the auction process which has been around since 500 B.C. By now, people naturally & intuitively understand how auctions work. Another example is Craigslist – newspapers have been around since the 17th century, classified ads have existed since 15th century England as handwritten notices nailed to public posts and walls. Recently, Art.sy brings the art gallery to the Web. Consistency is another facet of this idea – Coca Cola has been around since 1886 and has become one of the most universal and popular consumer brands on the planet. My application FlushFinder won HackDays Montreal in part because it addressed a universal physiological need within Maslow’s hierarchy of needsThe products & technologies that will resonate with consumers in 2011 will be the ones that take well established processes IRL and create  innovative solutions through new web/mobile/tablet applications.
  • Understand the underlying consumer shifts in behavior, then tap into it. If you consistently track technology news, some of the most innovative products have common threads (touch computing on iOS/Android & Microsoft Surface, motion sensing with Nintendo Wii & Microsoft Kinect, and location based services such as Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare). The common thread (or “MetaTrend”) running through all of these examples is the closing of the gap between humans and technology. Consumers are now more attracted to technologies that they can naturally interact with, or reflect the real world (as opposed to the keyboard and mouse which has ostensibly been around since 1963).  Applications that innovate in natural user interfaces (and combine them) will rule in 2011.
  • If you combine “resonant” trends, consumers are more likely to be attracted to your offerings. Self explanatory – for example, an application to monitor the energy output of your home using a touch mobile interface (Green ecology trend + Natural Human Interface trend).
  • There is a natural tension between app developers who want to “torque” up innovation & excitement, and the broad consumer market that seeks stability and consistency. I believe success in this area lies in execution – either the ability to plot out the market and plan accordingly (anticipate consumer needs via surveys and focus groups), or the opposite approach ala Apple to deterministically shape the consumer’s behavior.