Everyone in Silicon Valley wants to know what’s coming next, and every year for the past 13 years, a panel of the most forward-thinking minds in technology and tech finance convenes here to provide a look at what innovations are likely to emerge in the next few years.
Tonight it’s time again for the Top 10 Tech Trends dinner, hosted by the Churchill Club, which puts on a bunch of Valley events with top tech folks every year. It will be interesting to see how the predictions at this 14th annual version will differ from last year’s.
This year, the panel is especially venture capital-heavy, but these folks are also, to a person, heavyweights in the Valley, so their opinions carry special weight. On the panel: Kevin Efrusy, general partner at Accel Partners; Bing Gordon, investment partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers; Reid Hoffman, partner at Greylock and executive chairman and cofounder of LinkedIn; panel regular Steve Jurvetson, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson; and Peter Thiel, president of Clarium Capital. Moderating the festivities in place of longtime emcee Tony Perkins, Churchill Club cofounder with Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard, are Forbes’ own Eric Savitz, San Francisco bureau chief for the magazine, and Managing Editor Bruce Upbin.
The panel portion of the dinner, which attracts several hundred people (you can watch it live here for a fee), starts at 7 p.m. Pacific at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. The audience gets to vote–in past years, with red and green cards as well as electronic voting devices. This year, they’ll be using a Twitter-based polling system. Panel members have similar red-green paddles they hold up. I’ll post the highlights as they happen.
And we’re underway. Eric and Bruce will describe each trend and then the owner of that trend, one of the panel members, will explain it.
1) Radical Globalization of Social Commerce: Efrusy explains that companies today will be instantly global, or they will fall behind those that aren’t. For the previous Web generation, international was a distinct minority. Groupon, for example, was half international when it went public last year. If you want to be the leading global player, just leading the U.S. might not be enough. You can’t wait to win the U.S. and then open an office.
The other panel members wave half-red, half-green panels. Gordon, who waved a red, says that’s going to take awhile. Hoffman, also red, said the U.S. is still the most important. Thiel’s in-between, I think, but because he thinks it’s not very interesting. Jurvetson says it’s true, but 12 years old. It’s what every consumer Internet startup has been doing for 12 years. Thiel on second thought thinks it’s a worthwhile rule to go international early to avoid local copycats.
The audience shows mostly greens, matched by about 70% supporting the trend on TwitPolls.
2) Zero Marginal Cost Education: Public education faces massive disruption. Gordon (not Thiel, who has been flogging the excessive cost of college) says public schools are not very productive. Moore’s Law improves better than we’re growing great teachers. Anytime you see an industry propped up by monopolist unions and deferred investment, you know it’s tired. At Stanford University, great professors can get 150,000 students, not 150. We just can’t do it in ballrooms. People who grew up digital don’t like sitting around and listening to experts talk. “Technology can enable better education” seems to be Gordon’s message.
The panel is all greens. Hoffman agrees, but the point is the amplification of what people do. Khan Academy is an example. Enabling networks of people to communicate–EdModo, K-12 social network. They do reduce the cost, but it’s also reaching more people and making them powerful. Efrusy says he has three boys in Palo Alto schools, so he has seen the problem. (I’ve got one daughter and she’s thriving there. So there.) This needs to be reinvented and in a hurry. Thiel agrees with the trend but wonders if it will happen very fast. People in the middle class don’t know what else to do, so they teach. (Oh please.) Schools function as a babysitter. (Oh please again–will have to do a separate post on tech folks who think they know how to teach and what education is all about.) Jurvetson says his 12-year-old boy taught himself programming on the Internet. I share Peter’s despair with the existing system.
Audience is mostly green, same with the Twitpolls.
3) Massive Sensors and Data: Nearly free sensors mean they will be everywhere, gathering massive data. Hoffman, whose trend this is, says this combines with mobile computing devices, social media, and the cloud to create new applications that can tap into and make sense of all this data, from entertainment to medicine to traffic control.