As the New Year is now here there's an upbeat feeling in the business community bolstered by a feeling that 2017 will be a banner year for non-technology companies expanding their buying of technology startups. With 43 of those types of companies now under my belt, ranging from taking a company wire to wire, to being there at the start, middle and end of the process, there's some key trends I'm seeing, both in VoIP as well as also in the collaboration space.
For starters, Intellectual Property will be a key driver for which companies get acquired. That means patents as well as a brand image and actual customers, are the cachet that your company has as the company that is something more than just a PowerPoint and a slick talking CEO. Valuations will be based on those three factors.
M&A-M&A will be big again this year. So will the IPO. The IPO's will run the gamut from overhyped one trick ponies to really well run companies that have bench strength talent which can survive the departure of the early founding C Team.
While M&A's will be a combination of pure play purchases because the acquiring company lacks what the startup has, there will also be a steady stream of acquihires where companies funding in the low millions, but which have people and technology who are good at getting things done, acquiring customers, have some of their own software, not simply a wrapper around some open source stack, and have demonstrated how they change the game (i.e. put the hurt on big companies) will be the larger share of who gets bought. These low level gamble plays will return the investors in those companies usually half to 2x what they invested a few years ago but none of the acquihires will be homeruns except for those who get jobs in the acquiring company. For the former type, those pureplay powerhouses, they'll start to see 5-10x type of exits. Key there will be customers. Not only how many, but how long they have been able to retain, and how fast they are able to acquire new.
Content marketing will take a turn. Not only will it need to fill pages that drive leads, but the overabundance on SEO and keyword optimization will trigger the need for better content, and fresher content more often. This will be a boon to freelance writers, but will put the content farms to the test to deliver a better product, not just more placements. That idea, of selling pages by the pound will be like what PR has become. Commodity marketing, where everything is for sale, and none of it believed.
Online advertising evolve past programmatic to more dynamic. We're seeing an evolution in advertising. keywords are not just the only driver of what gets offered to you. With big data and machine learning, cloud and faster processing, the ads we see and watch will start to become highly personalized dynamically, on the fly. This means not only will the car commercial be more about the car we're searching for, it will be in the color we looked at, or of your current car. Content that's paid for will also become more dynamically personalized so the so-called "native" advertisers will need to be dynamic and very personalized especially with video.
Hardware-we've been going through a cycle of software this and that. Everything is now software run, operated or maintained. Time has come again to have better gear. So while the hype cycle begins again around the connected car, IoT, drones, newer, brighter and bigger monitors, earbuds without wires, there will be lots of new hardware out there. Expect to see Apple and Microsoft continue to be the market trendsetters, while Google finds ways to make their hardware relevant. The real powerhouse in hardware will be Amazon. They are likely going to be the next wave of innovation in gear.
VoIP and WebRTC collide. If you're in the VoIP business, you need to be working WebRTC into your stack. While those who run private networks may feel they have what they need with SIP, as more creativity comes into the calling and collaboration market, it's going to come from companies using WebRTC.
Privacy vs. Security. These are two big areas and often are as confusing to the general public as the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog. Privacy is your information and what you keep out of the realm of general knowledge. Security is how you do that. Too often the two are intermingled and transposed. You don't have a HIPAA security issue, you have a HIPAA privacy issue if the wrong people learn about your medical information. The security issue is when the data isn't protected and becomes private. We're going to see much greater use of newer security methods, starting with private key authentication as more of what we have needs to be kept private, not just secure.
Messaging apps like Telegram, Signal, Wire, Messenger from Facebook and WhatsApp are all taking the lead here but other even more deeply thought out solutions for the Enterprise will be the hot story this year. Check out SaltDNA as one example that has gone far deeper than even SilentPhone has.
For Many Global Travelers Roaming is Dead. If you look at Google Fi you realize that roaming can be forgotten. Along with T-Mobile, Google and T-Mobile have pretty much removed the barrier in the USA for the global traveler to need to buy local SIM cards when they go abroad in most places, with SE Asia and the Caribbean being some exceptions. Services for the casual traveler from GigSky and a few others make global data fairly easy to buy and use on an as needed basis. If you're still paying roaming costs, its time to rethink your approach to mobile or get off the road.
Collaboration Apps Will Get Better and Smarter. For the most part conferencing and collaboration apps are all pretty much just horses of a different color. A few call you when your call starts. Other make the connection for you, over the broadband pipe or do the dialing in for you. Those are expected today, and a far cry from when Iotum first introduced those features before everyone else. Given how mobile devices are better at audio and video these days than laptops, expect some smart company to develop a Mobile first conferencing and collaboration service. One that has all the hooks into your data the way you are using things.
This could come from FaceBook with WorkPlace. Already Facebook Messenger lets you have multi-party calls and WhatsApp does the group messaging thing really well. WorkPlace could end up being the business users best place to call. What's more if the call file stays in the group thread it becomes easy to watch or listen to. Add in simple, easy to share functionality with the most used services - Google Drive, DropBox, Box, Microsoft's One Drive and even your own desktop and Facebook could take collaboration to whole new level.
Email becomes your receipt box. As we move to a more app based service economy, your receipts all come by email. But the message, service or product will be elsewhere. Someone will make it easy for all your receipts that come into your inbox to tie back to your accounting system, extracting the data, balancing the charge off against the credit card, bank account or ATM card. This will be like having Evernote made smart, but will work within your inbox. Every month you'll be able to see who you paid what for, all reconciled on when the service was delivered, paid for and by which payment method drawing from which bank. Accountants will love this as it will save hours of bookkeeping. You'll love it because your receipts will also all be in one place.
Lastly, I move my business from what it became the last few years, way too tactical, back into the more strategic realm of building programs and properties that last for companies.