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What the World will look like 5 Years from Now (Cédric)

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Every five years or so, we see a major shift in the world. These shifts happen when a new technology meets a change in our society's mindset. A few examples:

  • 1995: The Internet becomes the #1 place for information as as society wants more transparency
  • 2000: The Internet becomes an economic driver as companies adopt it at their core
  • 2005: Social Networks need the meet of a global, traveling society to be connected
  • 2010: The iPhone enables the ‘App Era’ as ubiquitous computing becomes a need
  • 2015: AI finds applications in lots of areas and starts to not just support but replace certain jobs
  • 2020: Remote collaboration becomes the new normal as in-person meetings and travel become significantly restricted due to COVID-19

It's very important to realize that it's not just technology - but technology accelerated and integrated by a real-world change.

Typically, these changes aren't linear but step functions and thus by their nature very difficult to foresee. This is important and has a number of consequences:

  • It's inevitable to follow not just one thesis but a few since it's unlikely that every one of them will come to fruition
  • While certain technologies might be very exciting, without the external event, they will not take off

There are many exciting technologies but some examples that have not yet met with a societal need are:

  • Virtual & Augmented Reality - huge leaps in the last few years on the technology side but very little adoption
  • Blockchain - Infrastructure is improving and Technology is advancing but no applications that have an impact in our daily lives just yet

What is the right time horizon to look at?

We invest in early stage ventures. These companies are by definition ahead of the curve and will take 2-5 years to complete their product. In addition to that we want to be early influencers and opinion leaders in the areas we believe in. Therefore it's important to look at the shifts that will take place in the next five years.

My 5 predictions for the next 5 years

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🌏 Ecosystem: Decentralization and Portugal

As remote collaboration becomes the new default, it becomes easier for employees to optimize for quality of life instead of being bound to a single work place. The tier 1 hubs (Bay Area, New York, London, Berlin) will remain strong but tier 2 hubs (Zurich, Stockholm, Los Angeles) will have less importance.

Instead, we will see a surge of 'remote-first' and 'global-first' teams that successfully build big, successful companies. Some tier 3/4 hubs will become tier 2 hubs due to their great ROI on living costs.

Portugal is one place that is uniquely positioned to profit from this shift due to three factors:

  • Wave of '2nd generation' entrepreneurs as first wave of startups matures/exits
  • Strong governmental programs that fuel the growth of the startup ecosystem
  • Universities produce a growing stream of capable technical talent
  • Unbeatable value proposition of low cost of living

Our take-aways:

  • Products that help with remote collaboration will thrive (legal, productivity, compliance, talent marketplaces)
  • Have someone on the ground in Portugal (we already have a venture partner and a strong network)

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👛 Consumers: A shift form Purchases to Rent

As consumers become more flexible from their geographic location, they will move more frequently. As a consequence, they get less attached to things and focus on experiences instead. Instead of buying things, they will increasingly rent the things they need - from cars and furniture to every-day items like computers and mobile phones.

We've already seen first models with Carvolution, Koj and others. But there hasn't been a successful platform venture.

Our take-aways:

  • There will be 'X as a Service' model for many things in our lives
  • Creating all these services will need infrastructure - financing, logistics, insurance, etc. - these are the b2b ventures we want to support

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🗳 Politics: Our binary Voting Systems leads to unbalance

Our current system leads to more and more extreme positions. In most big democracies, if you are not more extreme, your chances of being elected are lower. That's why it's important that we build new voting systems.

A better voting system gives more choices and potentially more stages. In order to make that happen, it's important to have a reliable electronic system - only then can we have draft votes and final votes on 5+ options per vote.

Blockchain is the only technology that can achieve a necessarily high ratio of security and trust through transparency. It further enables voting delegation and other modern voting mechanisms.

While blockchain-based mechanisms will take decades to replace our existing ways in large developed countries, they might soon supplement or replace systems in a few places:

  • Developing countries with lots of unbanked citizens (see below)
  • Non-Profits, NGOs, Assocations
  • Private companies

In order to being able to vote, one needs to have an identity on the chain. I believe that one way of acquiring an identity will be to build financial history and therefore DeFi is very important.

Our Take-aways:

  • We watch and contribute the space, collaborate with academic and private partners
  • We invest in DeFi projects that will enable this transition

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🚴 Efficiency: Areas become AIreas

The lines between who's a developer and who's not will blur as interfaces to programming become more intuitive. In addition, AI increasingly becomes part of our every day tasks and helps us scale ourselves.

No-Code tools will become much more powerful than Zapier, IFTTT and similar tools we have access to today.

Using tools to scale one self will become implicit for any white collar job description.

Recent examples of areas that have turn into aireas:

  • Video and photography - using tools like remove.bg, unscreen or descript
  • Marketing and pricing - using tools like Buynomics, (list marketing tools using AI)
  • And most notably: Development itself. Tools like Deep Code make it easier for developers to create well-tested code.

Our take-aways:

  • A wide range of areas will turn into AIreas - we want to invest into the tools that make it possible
  • AI and machine learning unlock huge potential - we want to partner with those that make it possible, e.g. the AI research center at ETH
  • We want to invest in tools that allow non-developers to scale themselves in a similar fashion to how developers have been able to - investing in no-code tools and productivity infrastructure

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🕶 New Interfaces become more relevant

It has been a decade since smartphones went mainstream and it will take another few years for a new interface to go mainstream. I believe that a combination of Audio and small screens will be the winning combination.

What leads me to this conclusion:

  • AR Glasses becoming smaller and less distracting
  • Audio interfaces becoming better - both at speech2text as well as understanding and providing context

It would be challenging for us to support hardware projects (especially if they're still early) due to the enormous amounts of capital they need to succeed. Some ways in which we can invest in this change:

  • Frameworks - new platforms always require a new set of dev tools
  • Content - app incubators for this specific new platform
  • Audio - a lot of the world's information has yet to move to audio and there's still room for big catalysators

Our take-aways

  • We invest in the software that enables new hardware platforms
  • We invest in frameworks that shorten the time span and reduce the effort to enter a new platform

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My outlook for the next five years

I thrive on change. I believe that every major change comes with a plethora of opportunities. I'm excited to see how the world will change over the coming five years.

I'll do my share to accelerate change in the right direction by supporting projects that are inline with our thesis.

Left-out: Education shift - I believe it will happen later