The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
This week Tech Cocktail asked the YEC the following, “What game-changing tech trend should startup founders be on the lookout for in 2013, and why?” Their responses are below.
1. Growth Hacking
Every entrepreneur and business has two challenges: they have to build their product, and then they have to get people to use it. Growing traffic, sales and brand awareness is becoming more and more of a challenge. Growth hacking is the latest tech trend that will revolutionize how technology businesses grow. Growth hacking is leveraging metrics, testing and engineering to drive growth of sales and traffic in a lean, creative way. Growth hackers are swarming the industry, turning start-ups upside down by breaking apart and redesigning everything from customer funnels to email subscriber forms to banner ads. I think we will be seeing most major start-ups, consultants and online businesses playing in the growth hacking world in 2013.
2. APIs Everywhere
APIs use to be only for the big guys, but now you’re seeing MVPs include APIs and almost every tech startup that doesn’t have an API yet has one on the road map. Even the government is catching onto the the API wave.
With improved technologies hitting the marketplace, it is becoming easier and more important every year to build a presence across the “World Wide Web.” If you offer something that can appeal to many different cultures, why limit your sales to just one country? While the biggest companies in the world have already translated their websites and penetrated new markets, I foresee more small businesses taking this leap through less expensive and effortless solutions in order to increase their online sales.
4. Mobile-Friendly Websites
I predict a big Google rankings shakedown in the next couple years due to the increase in mobile internet usage. In India, more people surf the web on mobile devices vs. desktops and the US is not too far behind that trend. As more people use mobile devices, businesses must create mobile-friendly websites or else visitors will not be able to easily navigate to find what they want. Early adopters will have an opportunity to move up in Google and displace businesses that ignore this game-changing trend.
5. Facial Recognition
I'm all about platforms that enable a new wave of technology. 5 years ago the iPhone came out and the app industry was born. 10 years ago Google became the dominant method to search online and the reputation management industry was born. Google Glasses is set to launch sometime in 2013, which will enable a whole new industry of augmented reality and facial recognition technologies. I'm very excited about the ability to view strangers at a conference and quickly view their LinkedIn profiles so that I know who I want to spend time with building a relationship.
6. User Reviews…of Anything and Everything
User generated reviews will be taken to another level in 2013. Sure, Amazon is “old” in the tech world, but did you know that you can find detailed reviews of toilet paper on there? No longer will we just have restaurants getting ranked by foodies and hotels getting ranked by jetsetters, but we will have employees ranking firms and moms ranking baby food. This trend will only continue as Yelp, Tripadvisor and other user generated sites fight for prominence in their respective worlds.
7. Taking Online to Offline
If you look at the evolution of the Internet/Web, I like to frame it in a simple three-part evolution: Web 1.0: Simple Websites; Web 2.0: Social Web; Web 3.0: Mobile. And the reality of mobile is that it turns your phone into a remote control for real life — with apps and technologies that turn your phone into a tool to hail a cab, shop on the go, order food, find a date, hire a house cleaner or book a room for the night. Literally you can now control the offline world from your mobile smart phone. In 2013, look for that trend to continue as online to offline companies leverage mobile to go mainstream — watch for companies from Uber, Airbnb, Fab, Foursquare, Etsy, Zaarly, Hotel Tonight and dozens more to make your phone a remote control for the real world.
8. Data-Driven Personalization
Personalization technology is one of the most exciting frontiers of the Web. Personalization technologies empower consumers to weed out products and content that don't apply to their unique needs, allow brands and retailers to better target offers to consumers that want them, and enable publishers to get the right content to the right people. Personalization, in a truly data-driven approach, is going to unlock immense potential and drive out inefficiencies in advertising and content delivery in 2013. Not only does it promise better ROI on ad spends, but it also ensures that consumers will get more unique experiences as they're shopping or surfing the web. It is an incredibly exciting concept just coming to fruition that each individual can and will have a unique experience online.
Near Field Communication (NFC) allows people to identify themselves wirelessly via their cellular devices. The technology is starting to become more mainstream, and widespread consumer adoption will help bridge the gap between the offline and online worlds. This will lead to major opportunities in the areas of commerce, advertising, and social networking.
10. Marketing Alliances Going Mainstream
Marketing Alliances are a long-held secret of many popular bloggers and content marketers. How do you consistent generate backlinks and get lots of traffic for each new piece of content you create? You form a mutually beneficial base of relationships with other bloggers, social media users, and peers who agree to help you promote your content regularly to their audiences in exchange for you helping them to promote their content to your audience. The end result is that all marketing alliance members see an burst in traffic, search rankings, get more subscribers to their email or social channels. This less talked about social media marketing tactic will be going mainstream in 2013 with various web tools and sites incorporating this into their features sets.