The next big thing in 2021 is...

50 of technology's top thinkers finish the sentence.

Welcome to issue #28 of next big thing.

2020 has been such a tough year for so many people. My heart goes out to all those affected by the pandemic – the families who’ve lost loved ones, lost their jobs, and closed their businesses – as well as those affected by the other crises we found ourselves in, such as racial injustice and the climate crisis.

It’s hard to predict what 2021 will have in store, but I hope that it’s a better year. There’s hope on the horizon, especially given the covid-19 vaccines. And there are so many opportunities to improve how people live and work as we emerge from the pandemic.

To look forward, and to wrap the year with something that felt appropriate given the name of this newsletter, I asked fifty of the best thinkers in technology to finish the sentence: “The next big thing in 2021 is…”

Below are the answers, which I’ve tried to group loosely into themes. I’d love to hear your responses, too, in the comments.

… addressing the climate crisis.

The next big thing in 2021 is high growth, high impact businesses meaningfully making a difference in the trajectory of the climate crisis while creating massive equity value along the way (and an increasing number of investors and dollars chasing them).

-Rebecca Kaden, General Partner at USV

The next big thing in 2021 is predictive models that help mitigate climate risk.

-Lauren Kolodny, Founding Partner at Acrew Capital

The next big thing in 2021 is sustainable travel/hospitality. Everyone’s got all this pent up travel and experience demand, obviously, but a bright spot has been how much lower my carbon footprint has been this year. I think there’ll be (or should be) a wave of new travel and hospitality-oriented companies using sustainability as a wedge. 

-Laura Yao, General Partner at EQT Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is the secular trend towards sustainability. This will accelerate and the best founders and investors will see the business opportunity (and more importantly, the moral imperative) of saving our planet. 

-Katie Jacobs Stanton, Founder & General Partner at Moxxie Ventures

… in healthcare.

The next big thing in 2021 is the healthcare industry’s continued rapid adoption of technology, driven by the pandemic.

-Iman Abuzeid, Co-founder & CEO at Incredible Health

The next big thing in 2021 is everyone over the age of 45 getting an annual blood test for early cancer detection. 

-Blake Byers, General Partner at GV

The next big thing in 2021 is community-based healthcare. This year broke down the physical requirements of healthcare being geographically located near you, and I think we’ll see more companies like Folx that are building healthcare platforms for specialized communities, from LGBTQ to elderly.

-Biz Carson, Reporter at Protocol

The next big thing in 2021 is the explosion of continuous monitoring – particularly in drug dosing. Rather than assigning the same dose to every disease state, doctors will be able to personalize therapies based on an *individual’s* symptoms, reactions, levels, etc. over time.

-Deepika Bodapati, Co-founder at Athelas

… in media.

The next big thing in 2021 is voice replacing mobile as the remote control for the real world.

-Talia Goldberg, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners

The next big thing in 2021 is that we'll pay significantly more attention to the content we consume. I think what we put in our brains will become just as important as what we put in our bodies.

-Polina Marinova Pompliano, Founder and Author at The Profile

The next big thing in 2021 is VTubers (Virtual YouTubers) going mainstream.

-Chris Paik, Co-founder & General Partner at Pace Capital

The next big thing in 2021 is media consolidation.

-Nathan Baschez, Co-founder at Everything and Author at Divinations

… in space.

The next big thing in 2021 is dropping launch costs to space enabling a Cambrian explosion of commercial space companies.

-Delian Asparouhov, Principal at Founders Fund

… in food.

The next big thing in 2021 is restaurants that survive the year emerging with better, more resilient, and more sustainable business models. Survivors will be well-positioned to improve margins, expand TAM, and diversify revenue streams — think CPG products, subscriptions, and experience-based offerings. What it means to be a restaurant will be totally different after 2020.

-Sam Bernstein, Founder & CEO at Table22

The next big thing in 2021 is online grocery breaking into the mainstream. Everyone in tech knew it was coming, but the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 gave it sudden mass consumer adoption. Groceries are a lower margin, but recurring purchase that we'll likely see some interesting digital eCommerce businesses built around over the next decade.

-Turner Novak, General Partner at Gelt Venture Capital

… in financial technology infrastructure.

The next big thing in 2021 is fintech infrastructure, as every company wants to drive a significant portion of its revenue from financial services. 

-Lisa Wu, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners

The next big thing in 2021 is a war for pilots, talent, dollars and mindshare for all the fintech infra startups that have raised sky-high rounds in the past 18 months. The most under-discussed aspects like GTM & strategic positioning will become the forefront of the public discourse and private conversations as the over-enthusiasm starts to fade and players across categories struggle to move beyond pilots aggressively. The discourse will shift from market pontification memes to tactical memes.

-Sar Haribhakti, General Manager at Slice

… in enterprise software.

The next big thing in 2021 is seeing how big and sticky open source companies like Confluent and HashiCorp are.

-Jaren Glover, Early Engineer at Robinhood

The next big thing in 2021 is employees continuing to pick the software that increases their productivity, and ARR going viral.

-David Sacks, Co-founder & GP at Craft Ventures

… decentralization.

The next big thing in 2021 is the notion of “decentralized” spreading to unexpected places, like how teams work together and meet, and how labor marketplaces function without a central owner taking a percent of everything. And, no doubt, you’ll find more experienced founders and operators with capital and expertise funding (and in some cases leading) the capitalization of these companies.

-Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer at Adobe

The next big thing in 2021 is DeFi (decentralized finance).

-Matt Huang, Co-Founder at Paradigm

… individuality.

The next big thing in 2021 is fully embracing the value of personal brands and individuality. This decade will be defined by arming individuals with the tools to succeed.

-Blake Robbins, Partner at Ludlow Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is “the personal business OS.” You’ll see an emergence of things that are Shopify-esque to bundle all the tools needed to power a business that is really associated with an individual’s brand. (Substack will lead the charge). Stuff like Niki Minaj making $8M on OnlyFans, that’s the kind of potential. This stuff will be across finance, marketing, community CRM, content aggregation, etc.

-Kyle Harrison, Principal at Index Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is many more people joining private member-based communities. In the most uncertain time of some people’s lives, people are scrambling for leaders who can give them a sense of what reality is or should be. What we call "content creators" are really seed-stage reality entrepreneurs, & what we call their "fans" are consumers of—and investors in—the entrepreneur's model of reality.

-Erik Torenberg, Co-Founder & Partner at Village Global

… in venture capital.

The next big thing in 2021 is TikTok eats VC. In December, Charli D’Amelio announced her first venture investment into teen banking startup, Step. That might prove to be the start of a broader trend as TikTokers — and creators more broadly — begin to play take allocation from traditional VC firms. As capital has become increasingly commoditized and portfolio services have converged, the most explicit value-add an investor can provide is, in many cases, distribution. Creators, meanwhile, are increasingly realizing there are more ways to monetize and that an engaged audience is good for more than just advertising. With both social and real capital to be made in the private markets, expect more YouTubers, podcasters, streamers, and writers to show up on cap-tables.

-Mario Gabriele, Founder and Author at The Generalist

The next big thing in 2021 will be the re-emergence of the first time/emerging manager. After a monster year of established funds capturing the gross majority of LP dollars and making 2020 one of the hardest years for first time venture funds to raise, we believe 2021 will start to see a reversal of this dynamic. We predict LP appetite for venture returns will remain high (if not higher than in 2020) and given the liquidity coming back into the ecosystem from the recent run of IPOs, as well as the low interest rate environment, they’ll look for alternative means to invest that capital. We believe that this will create opportunities for new venture funds to emerge established by range of new entrants - experienced GPs spinning out of large established platform funds, newly minted tech millionaires creating their own investment vehicles, the institutionalizing of rolling funds or existing microfunds whose portfolios have developed over the course of the last year.

-Beezer Clarkson, Managing Director at Sapphire Partners

The next big thing in 2021 is a rise in pre-seed as seed rounds have become more institutionalized and a lot like Series A rounds in terms of size and traction. 

-Lisa Wu, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners

… bundling.

The next big thing in 2021 is further entering a world of bundling. Whether it be the bundling of fintech (Chime, Revolut clear winners), or the bundling of communication and collaboration, or the bundling of data software providers. I am thinking a lot about meta layer bundling products or infrastructure that either facilitate or allow for this bundling more efficiently.

-Harry Stebbings, Founder at Stride.VC and The Twenty Minute VC

… chaos?

The next big thing in 2021 is utter chaos in the technology world as we see some trends from 2020 that were short-lived and others that continue to accelerate even after the pandemic draws to an end.

-Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder & CEO at New Company

… normality?

The next big thing in 2021 is...a reversion to the mean in most parts of life and business.

-Lenny Rachitsky, Author at Lenny’s Newsletter

The next big thing in 2021 is some normalization in technology valuations as the government shifts to fiscal spending instead of relying so heavily on money printing for stimulus.

-Laura Yao, General Partner at EQT Ventures

… a bounce back?

The next big thing in 2021 is the YOLO economy. Consumers will be more open to trying new products/services and spending on novel experiences, particularly with friends, as we emerge from the pandemic with pent up demand and few routines.

-Tal Shachar, Former Chief Digital Officer at Immortals

The next big thing in 2021 is IRL office culture barreling back in a massive way in H2.

-Nicole Johnson, Partner at Forerunner Ventures

… all about geography.

The next big thing in 2021 is San Francisco starting a new cycle, almost 20 years after the dot-com bust, and 10 years after the housing crisis. It's a tale as old as time, and each boom looks as different as the busts do. As rents reset, old VCs and large companies clear out, perhaps some space will emerge for fresh, non-consensus thinking once again.

-Kanyi Maqubela, Co-Founder & General Partner at Kindred Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is Miami as the new Bitcoin.

-Jeff Morris Jr., Founder & Managing Partner at Chapter One

The next big thing in 2021 is remote work. Thanks to the vaccine, we’ll see a lot more itinerant workers who are traveling during the year. It will feel different than the last year of folks working from home remotely when people are in new time zones and clearly in a vacation destination, rather than just on their couch.

-Biz Carson, Reporter at Protocol

… all about how we work.

The next big thing in 2021 is figuring out hybrid office/work-from-home models.

-Jack Altman, Co-founder & CEO at Lattice

The next big thing in 2021 will be employer-funded. Childcare, meditation, staycations or your very own podcast will be covered by your company. Calm, Outschool, Cameo & a whole wave of new experiences will sit at the intersection of work and life.  

-Brianne Kimmel, Founder & Managing Partner at Worklife Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is a broader focus on asynchronous collaboration that works, and isn’t just another inbox to check. Mandatory WFH for tech may end, but distributed organizations are here to stay, and the tools will increasingly reflect that working environment.

-David Ulevitch, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

The next big thing in 2021 is a reorganization of work to be more digital-first, distributed, global and flexible. The end of the pandemic is hopefully in sight, but we’re not going back, and world is getting flatter. The second order effects are just beginning to ripple through into career choices, real estate, education and how we connect with one another.

-Sarah Guo, General Partner at Greylock Partners

… connection.

The next big thing in 2021 is Social Health — dedicated new platforms and tools to help us form and foster meaningful relationships with each other.

-Peter Boyce II, Partner at General Catalyst

The next big thing in 2021 is a revival of Renaissance humanism underpinned by our deep desire for in person  interactions, events, and relationship-building, with a continued preference for distributed work and work-life balance.

-Anarghya Vardhana, Partner at Maveron

The next big thing in 2021 is people realizing that serendipity happens more in our digital worlds (Twitter, Clubhouse, etc.) than in the analog one.

-Chris Paik, Co-founder & General Partner at Pace Capital

The next big thing in 2021 is an intense appreciation for deeper *human* relationships. In social distancing, relationships became more transactional & “efficient” — after months apart, we crave the raw, unstructured, holistic experiences that bring us closer, and will see this reflected across brands, technology, and communities alike.

-Mike Duboe, General Partner at Greylock Partners

The next big thing in 2021 is vertical social networks with built-in commerce! We expect to see new apps emerge as the best place for various "niche" communities to gather, enabling users to have deeper conversations and build more meaningful relationships than on other social platforms.

-Justine and Olivia Moore, Investors at CRV

The next big thing in 2021 is EQ. The Future of Work up until this point has basically been focused on "IQ" - collecting, managing and transferring data. Assumption of an authoritative source (a schedule, a manager, a CRM) that needs to be prioritized, distributed, acted upon. But if 2020 has shown us anything it's that the Future of Work is as much about EQ as it is IQ. How to collaborate in ways that promote creativity, not just process execution. Online meetings that don't leave you feeling drained and voiceless. Equity and fairness when we're moving away from an in-office culture to hybrid working styles. D&I as more than just statistics. Already I'm seeing new startups built around these ideas as the anti-Zoom, the anti-Slack, the anti-Asana. Not that those tools will disappear, but that there'll be parallel experiences which individuals and teams select into based upon the type of work being done. 

-Hunter Walk, Co-Founder & Partner at Homebrew

… authenticity.

The next big thing in is 2021 is authenticity. We've all been forced to get real and walls of abstraction have come crashing down. I see us rebuilding our lives in a much more candid and authentic way. 

-Jessica Ewing, Founder & CEO at Literati

… progress.

The next big thing in 2021 is technology helping individuals, businesses and society adapt to a post-COVID reality.

-Gokul Rajaram, Product & Business Helper at DoorDash

The next big thing in 2021 is real progress on equity, by companies sharing more granular metrics of where compensation and wealth is being created by level, gender and race. Gone are the days of just showing how many women and black people work at the company in total. It will be measured by impact, power and wealth (creation and gaps).

-Mike Smith, President, COO & Board Member at Stitch Fix

… more opportunity.

The next big thing in 2021 is lowering the barriers to entrepreneurship.

-Li Jin, Founder & GP at Atelier Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is companies that are built to last, meaning working on problems that matter, serving customers well beyond the Silicon Valley bubble, operating at a sustainable pace, and doing so with intention and in harmony with people and planet.

-Jason Jacobs, Founder at My Climate Journey

The next big thing in 2021 is more of the same trends from 2020, i.e. more e-commerce, more on-demand services, more digitization of the economy and the unlocking of human talent and creativity and capability, all over the world.

-Ram Parameswaran, Founder at Octahedron Capital

The next big thing in 2021 is agency - where people can construct their lives, regardless of location, and find a way to build the career and lifestyle they want.

-Shripriya Mahesh, Founding Partner at Spero Ventures

The next big thing in 2021 is… that the internet is still bigger than anyone realizes. :)

-David Rosenthal, Co-Founder at Acquired.FM

Happy holidays, and all my very best wishes for the new year. I’ll be back to writing in January.

I started next big thing to share unfiltered thoughts. I’d love your feedback, questions, and comments!

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