5 Predictions For The World Of Tech & Startups In 2016


This is a guest article by Ben Little, the co-founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank.

It’s that time of year again – the evenings are drawing in, Christmas window displays are going up, mulled wine is bubbling away on the stove and predictions for the year ahead are coming thick and fast. Here are five of mine, drawn from my experiences working with both startups and big brands in 2015…

1. Get comfortable with the ‘push’ web

The Google search box may not be going anywhere soon, but we are witnessing a shift from the ‘pull’ web to the ‘push’ web. What this means in practice is that the web is going to be a lot more forward (and relevant) as digital services try to anticipate your needs rather than await your query. Picture this scenario: you’ve missed the last train home. Instead of having to Google minicab firms, you receive a notification with the current waiting time for a cab or rates at the nearest hotel.

Instead of us going to the web to find things, we are going to be pushed relevant, personalised content and data as and when we need it, and the more we use these services, the smarter they’re going to get.

2. Consumer data finally becomes meaningful (for the consumer)

You can’t escape the D word. There are endless conferences devoted to how to understand it, to make decisions based on it, or how to protect it.

Up until now, it’s brands and media owners that have been getting all the benefits, as they harvest our data to “tailor their services to us”. 2016 is going to be the year that the consumer starts to see real benefits, as forward-thinking companies increasingly offer rewards and incentives based on personalised data. Whether that’s a health insurance provider offering reduced premiums in exchange for sharing real-time exercise data, or a retailer nudging you towards a new mattress based on a run of poor sleep (signalled by your sleep tracker app). Embrace this or kick against it, this kind of personalised data is here to stay.

3. The death of the MVP

The tech world loves its jargon and acronyms: sprints, daily standups, huddles, acceptance criteria, triage and MVPs…

Of these, MVP (minimum viable product) is the one that has expanded beyond the tech world. Nowhere has this theory — to get a product to market quickly and iterate based on feedback from real users, instead of trying to perfect a product in isolation and risk obsolescence by the time it launches — taken firmer hold than in the world of apps. At Fearlessly Frank, we’ve been developing apps since the early days of the App Store, and the launch and learn MVP approach was fine when apps were a novelty (anyone remember Carling’s iPint?) but with hundreds of thousands of apps out there and the challenges of keeping pace (let alone exceeding) consumer expectations, we’re seeing more and more clients ditch conventional wisdom and launch with a Maximum Viable Product.

4. One size fits none

The first generation social networks are getting a bit long in the tooth (by digital standards anyway). Facebook is twelve years old, the first tweet was sent way back in 2006, and even relative newcomer Instagram has blown out five candles on its #glutenfree cake.

2016 is going to see two fundamental shifts in social media. At one end of the spectrum we’re going to see new messaging apps that will resemble Snapchat on speed. Integrating the best functionality from existing social platforms in imaginative ways, they will be energetic, turbo-charged and highly public. At the other end, we’re going to see the rise of more closed, personalised social platforms that place a greater emphasis on privacy and more closely resemble real life relationships. With 20% of the world’s population on Facebook, how can one size possibly fit all?

5. The unstoppable rise of Citizen Science

Your smartphone is capable of so much more than doing the weekly shop or hailing a minicab – things like monitoring and reducing air pollution in our cities. One of the projects I’m most proud of this year is helping former science minister Lord Drayson launch CleanSpace – a movement to improve the air we breathe. CleanSpace has developed a personal air pollution sensor that can tell you what you’re breathing in.

CleanSpace Tags never need to be recharged and as people begin to use them in large numbers, they will build a crowd-sourced map of air pollution across the UK and beyond, giving us the most accurate ever picture of a pressing public health problem. What will the result be, I wonder? The death of diesel? A ban on using internal combustion engines in city centres? We’ll have to wait and see, but the possibilities of using crowdsourced data to solve some of humanity’s most urgent problems is one of the most exciting developments in years, and I expect — and hope — to see a lot more initiatives like this in 2016.

By Ben Little

Ben Little is a co-founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank. The company has expertise in brand strategy, design, technology and content. The company partners with global businesses, private equity firms and start-ups to create competitive advantage and drive growth. Find out more here.