Top Tech Trends 2009 and Beyond

Posted by on May 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm.

tech trendsRafe’s coverage of the Churchill Club Top Tech Trends is worth sharing.

Jurvetson’s observations about distributed search are very similar to some I’ve been investigating. For every explicit action people take on the web (e.g. creating a link that GOOG indexes), there are 10X+ implicit actions (e.g. browsing, scrolling, video abandons) that are not being indexed for intelligence today. There are distinct efforts happening within content indexing, social feeds and webmaster analytics (largely implicit action data) that, when combined, will deliver maximum search intelligence. Much of the “Real-time web” excitement around Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and others still focuses on explicit actions (e.g. status updates), but the best value will come from the real-time, socially-curated, implicitly-indexed web.

What are your thoughts on the 12 trends highlighted below?

Silicon Valley VCs don’t want Obama’s money, think Google is passe
by Rafe Needleman (via cnet)

I always enjoy wild hand-wavey prognostications about the future, so I was pleased to attend the 11th annual Churchill Club Top Tech Trends event last night, moderated by my former co-workers from Red Herring, Tony Perkins (now running Always On) and Jason Pontin (publisher of MIT Technology Review). Of the 12 trends, two really made me take notice. Most of the rest, which you can see at the end of this story, were pretty standard projections from existing market circumstances.

Trend prognosticators, left to right: Tony Perkins, Vinod Khosla, Steve Jurvetson, Ann Winblad, Ram Shriram, Joe Schoendorf, Jason Pontin.
(Credit: Rafe Needleman/CNET)
Interesting trend #1: Centralized search will fall
Venture capital whiz-kid Steve Jurvetson gave an impassioned pitch for this trend, which he called, “The triumph of the distributed Web.” He said the aggregate power of distributed human activity will trump centralized control. His main point was that Google, and other search engines that analyze the Web and links, are much less useful than a (theoretical) search engine that knows not what people have linked to (as Google does), but rather what pages are open on people’s browsers at the moment that people are searching. “All the problems of search would be solved if search relevance was ranked by what browsers were displaying,” he said.
Jurvetson believes that the future is “federated search,” in which the Web’s users don’t just execute search queries, they participate in building the index by the very act of searching, immediately and directly.
What I find most interesting about this concept is that we can see it already happening, although via a different technological vector. Twitter Search is real-time search. It tells you what people are saying right now, and on popular topics, it gives you far more current information than Google. I think Twitter Search also shows us that Jurvetson’s vision of search, while compelling, is incomplete. To get the real-time wisdom of the crowds for the purpose of search, you have to know not just what Web pages people are displaying, but exactly what is on those pages, and you probably also want to know what’s showing up on users’ computers in apps other than the Web browser.
I am not sure the Web’s users will want to participate in the creation of this search engine, nor am I convinced that there’s a lot of value in the concept for obscure or “long tail” search queries. But the idea is interesting, and I certainly agree that the value of real-time searching, as well as social-network-aware searching, will increase dramatically and quickly.
Interesting trend #2: Washington D.C. will prove to be a poor VC
Moderator Jason Pontin, a self-described liberal who “finds our president as dreamy as the next man,” broke party rank and echoed a popular sentiment in the room of wealthy (and traditionally mostly Republican) venture capitalists, to say that the Obama administration’s plan to invest in new technologies is doomed to fail. While acknowledging that the administration’s heart is in the right place, he pointed out that traditionally, direct investment in technology by governments doesn’t work out well. He said the United State’s subsidies on ethanol, France’s decision to skip the Internet in favor of the state-sponsored Minitel, and Japan’s direct investment in supercomputers as it tried to spend its way out of a recession were examples of poor investments. “Government is a particularly poor judge of new technology,” he said.
Other panelists agreed, including the strongly Republican co-moderator Tony Perkins. Panelist Joe Schoendorf of Accel said, “The VC model works. Tech doesn’t need more capital.” (Of course, nobody wants the government moving into their turf; Accel is a venture firm.)
While I agree that best role of government, when it comes to new technology, is to encourage ends and not directly fund means (you can encourage energy independence in general without paying for particular technologies), it’s not always the case that government can’t play well in this field. The CIA’s venture firm, In-Q-Tel, for example, actively fosters the growth of start-ups, and many of the technologies developed on those dollars have national security as well as economic benefits. In-Q-Tel portfolio company Ember, for example, has contributed to the development of the ZigBee wireless standard that will end up in the next generation of smart appliances.
Panelist Vinod Khosla’s earlier trend, “Maintech not Cleantech,” was in the same vein. Khosla doesn’t think government subsidies will drive down carbon emissions. (He also thinks that “fringe” environmentalists don’t make much of a dent. “Five percent of Californians will buy anything,” he said, referring to the Prius.) Khosla’s money is where his mouth is: His “renewable portfolio” has funded companies working on fuel technology, engines, building materials, and plastics. “Nobody wins betting against Vinod,” panelist Ram Shriram said.
All the trends
1. The millennials are here. Everything changes. The current generation of graduating college students won’t remember a life offline.
2. Advanced batteries will be most popular energy investment in ’09 and ’10 and will provide best returns in the medium term.
3. A deluge of unstructured data creates the next great information leaders. (“The dark matter of the enterprise is unstructured data,” said panelist Ann Winblad.)
4. Wireless broadband will be one of the only IT sectors to see increased funding this year and in the future.
5. Maintech, not Cleantech
6. Power and efficiency management services will see a flowering through investment and innovation.
7. The triumph of the distributed Web. (This is Interesting trend #1.)
8. Health care administration will be the fastest-growing sector. (The panelists were so bored by this trend they didn’t even discuss it.)
9. Consumption of digital goods on mobile devices is the growth story of the coming decade.
10. Electronic displays will prove the hottest investment in hardware this year and next.
11. Washington D.C. will prove to be a poor VC. (This is Interesting trend #2.)
12. The rumors of the demise of the reporter have been exaggerated.


  • Healy Jones says:

    Number 10? Displays will be the number one hardware sector? Wow, really? They must have had something particular in mind, can you elaborate?

  • Donna Brewington White says:

    This is a great, tightly packed summary of what seemed to be a fascinating and enlightening discussion (of course). I am particularly intrigued by the assessment that Washington D.C. will not make a good VC (and humbly agree). Crazy times we are in, but with the type of re-invention our economy is facing, there are bound to be some strange and interesting developments (and mistakes?) as we find our way.

  • VC Dan says:

    @Healy: I'm guessing the "displays" HW prediction is influenced by the fact that so many investors have abandoned semiconductor & networking investments — traditional sources of big hardware wins. Also, plasma & LCDs were baby steps into significant disruption remaining in displays.

    @Donna: There are ways DC can impact innovation and company-building with dollars, but I'm not sure direct investment post-research is that path. There could be a model that leverages private funds/managers that know how to build companies that drive innovation and create valuable jobs, but unfortunately the category "fund manager" has been painted with a pretty broad brush as greedy capitalists. DC will need to take off those blinders to maximize sustainable innovation.

  • Steven Weed says:


    The below is a bit off the above topic. Tried to join your blog through your link but it routed me to Yahoo.

    Went to a seminar last night given by the MIT Group at the Huiszinga (SP?) Bus. School about Crowdfunding. It is part of the JOBS Act signed into law in April. Cutting through the static and mouthy and impolite members of the group the deal appears to be as follows:

    1. Can raise up to $1 million with a max of 2000 UNACCREDITED investors. Can apparently put the 2000 shares into an LLC thus making the LLC one share of common in your venture. There is a 3 letter acronymn for this but I did not hear it clearly…hard to get full information with this group.

    2. Has to be done with a broker dealer and only a broker dealer can do advertising through their own portals.

    3. Can be used as a pure seed vehicle. The entrepreneur, at the minumum can get going with zero cash except for the payment of about $1000 for an independent valuation and about another $1000 for having a background check done.

    4. Apparently the SEC will only alow a few B/D’s to play thus making oversight much easier.

    5. Word is that Glodman Sacks is looking at this as well. Could suck all of the air out of the room for other

    The Crowdfunding concept is a good one, but can you imagine what would happen with our sputtering economy and crappy jobs situation if the “non accredited” or even accredited investors who participate were able to take a tax credit for the amount they invest for 20 to 30% of the investment amount.

    I will be sending you an executive summary in the next day or two for Worldwide Interpretation Network. We hope you get a chance to review it and comment.

    All the best,


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