2018 predictions from insightful international investors


mark-bivens_portraitThis guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here.

Image credit: nk2549 / 123RF

Years ago I started publishing an annual list of technology predictions from global venture capitalists. By design, I deliberately chose VCs beyond the usual American household names, whose voices were not necessarily heard on the world stage.

Last year all of the tech prognostications came from women VCs. Even (especially?) by Silicon Valley standards, this felt quite unique and I’m proud of that.

For this season’s set of predictions, I am again pleased to be able to give the floor to an all-female cast of investors, this time a collection of insightful VCs from Asia. I’ve had the honour of interacting with each of these individuals and encourage all readers to take note of them. Their already noteworthy accomplishments will likely continue to grow.
May 2018 bring us further enlightenment. Happy holidays!

Kanako Honda – DCM Ventures, Japan

From a high-level perspective, data analytics combined with delivering value proposition that will ultimately result in monetization will become even more important in 2018. In the recent 1-2 years, startups were able to gather large funds from VCs and concentrated on growing the user base by putting short term economics aside. As these startups, such as Uber, LimeBike, Wework etc, successfully built sizable audience and became a platform, there will be companies that will utilize big startup’s network effect and deliver various values to each touchpoint and create monetization model that doesn’t require large funding.

From a geopolitical view, edtech in Japan will start to rise as education is becoming one of the hottest topic of national policy. Although edtech has been considered as a niche, slow and unprofitable market for startups to jump in for quite a while, companies are starting to learn from the past and coming up with ways to build sustainable business within this sector. I hope 2018 will be the dawn of edtech era in Japan.

Vorawan “Michelle” Wangpanitkul – Digital Ventures, Thailand

I recall 2016 being at the height of the blockchain buzz. Blockchain pretty much intercepted every use case in and out of fintech. While I am a big believer in blockchain, I believe there will only be a few blockchain-powered use cases that survive to commercialization, ones that require an immutable distributed ledger to tackle its pain point (and there aren’t many!).

Beyond payments & remittance, the next one should be KYC. Identity is at the foundation of banking, and getting it right is crucial and win-win for everyone. I personally think blockchain-powered KYC is an agenda that regulators need to push forward, and with Singapore and India’s regulators already testing this, 2018 might be the year blockchain-KYC gets adopted mainstream, and other regulators follow in.

Geographically speaking, I think there will be a lot of interesting things coming out of India. RBI has pushed forward e-KYC and successfully captured biometrics data in 99% of its adult population. With a 1.3billion population, fragmented market, huge engineering talent pool, and a lot of financial & infrastructural barriers being tackled at a state level, India is the country ripe for innovation and transformation. My 2018 prediction – lots of capital flooding into India.

Joanna Cheung – HBCC Investment and TUS International, China

The paradigm will continue to shift from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’. The giants of innovative technology that are emerging today are original Chinese innovations. Increasingly, we will see these original and successful companies expand abroad, notably to the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Innovations in deep tech, such as artificial intelligence, clean technology, robotics, RPA, are areas we’re particularly excited about.

Mayu Morishima – Beyond Next Ventures, Japan

In Japan, more attention is being paid to technology-centric startups originating from startups, centered on the biotechnology and medical sectors thanks to government-backed initiatives. Meanwhile, due to the global trend of personalized medicine, the mainstream of technology development is expected to shift to startups which can adapt quickly to new circumstances. In addition, we are seeing the trend that (non-healthcare) enterprises enter the healthcare sector to acquire innovation from the outside. In light of all these findings, we can expect technology-centric startups centered on biotechnology, healthcare and medical device sectors will remain hot in the future.

Particularly in Japan, trending sectors will include regenerative medicine such as iPS cell research, digital health where therapeutic apps based on medical evidence are emerging to the market while telemedicine businesses are more active prior to the planned revision of the Japanese medical payment system in FY2018. However, I believe that one of the best thrills of VC investments is to create the next trends by investing in heretic technologies which are too new for us to know how to call them. Therefore, I expect innovations that do not belong to any sector in 2018.