2019 was an extraordinary year for the Seattle tech ecosystem and broader global innovation economy. But with the growth of Amazon and Microsoft, a bubbling startup scene across the Pacific Northwest, and a pivotal election upcoming, 2020 could be even crazier.
As per GeekWire annual tradition, we caught up with five venture capitalists to get their predictions for the coming year. The investors are all closely watching tech trends, as they all plan to make several investments throughout 2020.
How will politics affect the tech industry? What will Amazon’s stock price be on Dec. 31, 2020? And what advice should startups follow as they build the next great company? Read on to find out.
Meredith Powell, venture partner at Voyager Capital
Number of IPOs in Washington state in 2020: We have our eyes on 4-to-5 IPOs out of Washington this year — eyes on Convoy, Icertis, and others. We’re also watching Clio, a Vancouver B.C.-based legal tech startup.
Number of new investments your firm plans to make in 2020: At Voyager Capital, we anticipate 4-to-5 new investments across Cascadia in 2020.
Google’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,358 now): $1,400
Amazon’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,876 now): $2,144
Apple stock close on 12/31/20 ($298 now): $320
Nasdaq final close on 12/31/20 ($9,042 now): $10,250
What will be the hottest technology of 2020: Personally, I’m captivated by video innovation in a myriad of forms, particularly B2B applications, with a nod to 5G, of course. Also the low-to-no code, low expertise trend: from Canva to Shopify to SquareSpace to low code dev tools, the democratizing of tech from graphic design to video editing to dev work — lack of deep expertise no longer means long hours or unsophisticated work product.
What will be the most overhyped technology of 2020: Blockchain still hasn’t delivered on its potential. I remain underwhelmed by the ventures and values I see in this space and anticipate the same for the new year. Also, pitching “AI for everything and everyone” is hype. True game-changers focus on specific solutions to create exponential value.
What will be the most pressing issue facing the tech industry in 2020? Lack of diversity across founders, tech teams, their boards, and investors. I dream of a future where all global citizens have equal access to and opportunities in tech, starting with early education and digital literacy.
How will the political climate affect the tech industry in 2020: Our current political climate, not only regionally but also globally, can be divisive, combative, and unpredictable. Sometimes it feels like only bullies or the loudest voices in the room (or on social media) are being heard. People are tired of the polarization, online and off. They’re hungry for authentic connection, collaboration, trust and respect.
Software tools that bring together leaders and their teams thrive exponentially in this climate. We see it in the likes of UpLevel (devops team facilitator), ThoughtExchange (crowdsourced wisdom for leaders) and SoundCommerce (empowering D2C teams to deliver better customer experiences).
Advice to startups for 2020: Bake inclusivity and impact into the foundations of your company from an early stage, regardless of your unique vertical, location, or value prop. Commit to offsetting your carbon emissions for travel undertaken by your team. Seek out VCs with diverse partners, recruit women leaders to your board, ensure your office policies and locations are suitable for people of all abilities, encourage paternal leave. There are so many ways startups can start implementing positive activity within their ventures right now.
Kellan Carter, partner at Ignition Partners
Number of IPOs in Washington state in 2020: 3 – Outreach, Auth0, maybe Rover. But we expect several of the unicorns IPOs will push past the election year making 2021 a monster year with 3-to-4 others in the hunt.
Google’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,358 now): $1,250. Amazon is and will continue to eat into their core ads business. Given their third place footing in cloud, and the lack of commerce foundation, we expect Google to be more aggressive in 2020 with acquisitions and growth outside of core ads.
Microsoft’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($159 now): $170. Microsoft continues to execute well, especially with their transition to cloud services, all while staying out of political crossfire.
Amazon’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,876 now): $2,001. What a remarkable company.
Apple stock close on 12/31/20 ($298 now): $300. U.S. cell phone addiction will continue to grow (teens spend ~9 hours in front of a screen a day). The stock will rise — but not much, due to smartphone saturation and limited feature differentiation with the newer models.
Nasdaq final close on 12/31/20 ($9,042 now): $9,100. Strong holiday commerce, and hopeful trade deal progress with China will continue to drive markets higher.
What will be the hottest technology of 2020: Automation of the Modern Economy. Data and AI will continue to permeate through use cases we hadn’t previously imaged. Software will continue to help us augment and reinvent every business process. Companies with access to unique or proprietary data sets, combined with a data-forward product strategy, will see elevated valuations.
What will be the most overhyped technology of 2020: AR/VR. As it has been for the last 40 years, it’s still too intrusive and clunky for practical use cases outside of content (movies and games) consumption. From AR/VR companies, we expect to see more layoffs, product delays, and pressure to get costs down to where they can reach the consumer at a palatable price.
What will be the most pressing issue facing the tech industry in 2020? How does technology continue to integrate and assimilate with geographies and industries in the U.S. that haven’t reaped the benefits? We expect to see industries such as agriculture/supply chain/transportation to accelerate and modernize their technology adoption. Also: theft of intellectual property by foreign governments. Huge problem.
How will the political climate affect the tech industry in 2020: Both parties will start to understand the amount of influence a more narrow set of companies have on the end consumer. Whether it’s information, or the digital buying and then physical delivery of products, fewer and fewer large companies have the eyes and ears of the consumer.
Other countries will continue to make attempts to reduce reliance on U.S. companies — in both the consumer and business-to-business markets — and will attempt to nationalize around digital products and services (and will struggle).
Advice to startups for 2020: There will be a more focused microscope on business model efficiency as burn and growth sobriety are enforced on more stages throughout the capital spectrum. With the volume of companies and amount of capital to fund, finding unfair go-to-market channels will be ever important.
Other bold predictions for 2020 in tech, politics, sports or anything else: Record number of growth-stage financings in Seattle, seeding the next phase of software unicorns. Tom Brady will retire after beating the Niners in the Super Bowl.
Maria Karaivanova, principal at Madrona Venture Group
Number of IPOs in Washington state in 2020: Two. There are many strong candidates in our region but some may hold back due to election uncertainty and/or to gain more time to focus on profitability.
Number of new investments your firm plans to make in 2020: 10-to-15 in new companies which will be a mixture of early stage venture (seed in all its permutations and A) and B+ rounds out of our new Acceleration Fund.
Google’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,358 now): $1,500
Microsoft’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($159 now): $195
Amazon’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,876 now): $2,100
Apple stock close on 12/31/20 ($298 now): $350
Nasdaq final close on 12/31/20 ($9,042 now): $10,000
What will be the hottest technology of 2020: AI. AI will be at the core of enterprise applications, and user interactions will be powered by AI-enabled speech, computer vision and NLP. It will be embedded at the edge and employees will grow increasingly more comfortable working alongside technologies such as robotic process automation. Seattle is primed to lead this future with our research and industry powerhouses in UW, AI2, Microsoft, and Amazon, as well as startups and satellite offices from companies like Apple and Google.
What will be the most overhyped technology of 2020: AI! Even though it will be the hottest technology, it takes time to effectively integrate data with AI systems, train models and create a secure loop. And companies are being careful as they integrate AI-driven technology to avoid a ‘black box’ scenario – where systems provide answers without clearly explaining the factors that contributed to these answers.
What will be the most pressing issue facing the tech industry in 2020? The first half of the year, it will continue to be the fallout from the WeWork debacle. Many companies that are taking on financing without a clear path to profitability will take a pause to focus on building sustainable business models.
The second half will be about privacy and security, especially around the election. Twitter’s decision to ban political tweets is just the beginning of a big debate that will involve the first amendment, privacy and security and may also result in legislative changes.
How will the political climate affect the tech industry in 2020: We will see more federal and state investigations into privacy practices and corresponding forward looking action on the part of all members of the tech community as they think about security, privacy, responsibility, and protecting their customers’ data.
Advice to startups for 2020: Stay focused on fundamentals such as cash and customers, but don’t forget community. Using cash efficiently and never running out of it is key. Experienced CFO and Madrona Managing Director, Hope Cochran, has been known to say “the ultimate financial metric for a company is cash.” Customers are the key to a company’s future (and cash flows) so work to retain them in a sustainable way by delighting them with your products and making them successful. And one thing not to forget is to build and contribute to a community – the community of your employees and the community in which your company operates. (I am a huge fan of the work that organizations like sea.citi are doing in that regard).
Other bold predictions for 2020 in tech, politics, sports or anything else: Seattle will be the cloud, AI and logistics capital in 2020 and the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl.
Jason Stoffer, partner at Maveron
Number of IPOs in Washington state in 2020: 3
Number of new investments your firm plans to make in 2020: 5-to-8 Series A Investments and 20 seed investments
Google’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,358 now): $1,100
Microsoft’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($159 now): $130
Amazon’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,876 now): $1,500
Apple stock close on 12/31/20 ($298 now): $230
Nasdaq final close on 12/31/20 ($9,042 now): $7,500
What will be the hottest technology of 2020: We will see several breakout augmented reality games.
What will be the most overhyped technology of 2020: This is the year scooter and bike share services have to scale back significantly as their unit economics continue to be challenging.
What will be the most pressing issue facing the tech industry in 2020? We’ll suffer a painful hangover from the overfunding of companies — the “SoftBank effect.” This will lead to more unicorns that will either be bought or recapitalized at valuations far lower than their last private round.
How will the political climate affect the tech industry in 2020: Public regulatory pressure on big tech from Washington will ramp up to unprecedented levels in the height of the campaign, especially as it pertains to privacy and the dominance of Amazon in commerce.
Advice to startups for 2020: Political uncertainty has a good chance of impacting the capital markets. Raise early in the year and budget in a way where you have the option but not obligation to raise again.
Other bold predictions for 2020 in tech, politics, sports or anything else: Russell Wilson hands the ball off on 4th down to Marshawn Lynch for a game-winning Super Bowl touchdown.
Ben Gilbert, co-founder at Pioneer Square Labs
Number of IPOs in Washington state in 2020: Washington has a lot of companies that are close (and I *think* more private companies valued over a billion dollars than we’ve ever had at once), but given the public market’s reactions to several 2019 IPOs, I expect companies to be very careful about picking their timing, and only going out when they think the story they have to tell is a slam dunk. I think we’ll see 2-to-3 IPOs this year, with great companies like Rover and Remitly as leading candidates. I also think there will be at least one biotech IPO, but I’m out of my element to speculate there.
Number of new investments your firm plans to make in 2020: PSL Ventures plans to make 10-to-15 new investments, including both companies from PSL Studio, and PNW-based companies started independently of PSL.
Google’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,358 now): $1,450
Microsoft’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($159 now): $140. They’ve had an unbelievable recent run, and while the company is performing extremely well, it is worth noting that investors are currently valuing the stock 50 percent higher than one year ago.
Amazon’s stock close on 12/31/20 ($1,876 now): $2,200. Amazon’s stock has been flat the last eight months, but I don’t expect it to stay that way for long. They continue to be the most successful company in history to consistently innovate at scale.
Apple stock close on 12/31/20 ($298 now): $330
Nasdaq final close on 12/31/20 ($9,042 now): $7,000
What will be the hottest technology of 2020: Electric cars going mainstream, and productization of generative adversarial networks (machine learning). And while not a hot technology, I expect there to be a lot of funding going toward companies using existing technology to build deep vertical B2B software.
What will be the most overhyped technology of 2020: AR and wearable devices for personal data, sleep, and audio/vision.
What will be the most pressing issue facing the tech industry in 2020? Anticompetitive regulation. More and more of our time, attention, and personal data are going to fewer and fewer companies.
How will the political climate affect the tech industry in 2020: The tech industry, and specifically social media companies, will be blamed (rightly or wrongly) for a lot of people being upset with the results of the 2020 election.
Advice to startups for 2020: Have near-term visibility on how to be profitable.
Other bold predictions for 2020 in tech, politics, sports or anything else: AR is the next computing wave, but won’t happen in 2020. Multiple companies will make their public market debut with direct listings instead of traditional IPOs.