What Excites Me in Tech Today

I had a conversation recently about what excites me in the general tech space these days. While companies with a mission to eliminate inefficiencies always intrigue me independent of industry, I thought I’d add a few, more specific thoughts.

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising means many things, but in general its about some form of automation within the ad process. Whether that is ad buys, real time bidding systems, or even just more automated media planning.

A few years ago we saw a revolution in the way advertising was delivered to the consumer online. While digital video ads are served programattically 10% of the time, TV ads are still purchased long in advance, and based on viewer age ranges, sex, and a few other statistics that don’t do a great job in predicting the type of people engaging with content. I, along with many others, expect that to change in the very near future.

There should be better data surrounding who is watching what and what level of engagement there is for these viewers. SimulMedia is tackling part of that problem by providing a platform to enable programmatic advertising. Concurrently, Clypd announced an API to bring programmatic advertising to the forefront in a standardized interface while striking deals with major digital advertising platforms. On an engagement level, we also have companies like Canvs aiming to understand the more qualitative and emotional responses that different parts of TV create, and how they affect viewership, engagement, and overall experience.

While we may not see super bowl ads delivered in a real-time system anytime soon (or ever) lower-tier programming should have both the opportunity and positioning to move towards a data-driven mindset in its future advertising plans.

Regardless of use-cases, it is an exciting time to watch different upstart companies attempt to tackle the problem of gathering the right type of data, analyzing it, and allowing the main drivers of the television industry (advertisers) to deliver better, more relevant content to viewers; a key component in the next steps for TV.

New Media

Media is at an interesting point in its history right now. We have video platforms like Youtube allowing a community of talent to generate some real money and draw large audiences on a frequent basis. Startups have been successful creating networks within this youtube ecosystem and it looks to have staying power for the near future.

With the change in consumer behavior to curation, sharing, and quick content, we’ve seen platforms like Upworthy and Buzzfeed rise to essentially hack content, SEO, and marketing all at once. These sites  generate massive pageview figures (and thus impressions) sometimes using slideshows, have an inherent virality built in with very niche or eye-catching headlines, all while pushing low-impact, low-time consuming content that resonates with the shortened attention span of millennials.

On the other end of the spectrum, a variety of startups are trying to change the way we look at the relatively stale industry that is news. Platforms have risen both for data driven (FiveThirtyEight) and explanatory (Vox) journalism, while others have attempted to condense news into newsletter format (theSkimm).

Moving away from news, platforms like medium seem to encourage giving independent writers a voice while also recently catering towards curation in an effort to continue to walk the line of a publication and blogging service simultaneously. Writers are able to build brands better than ever before, and data surrounding readership statistics will allow smaller writers to make a living, whether that is through advertising, affiliate programs, or freelance, long-form content on sites like Narrative.ly.

Either way, writers are taking advantage of the networks that they can amass online within the blogosphere to either make a living, or to sell whatever they are selling through an increased form of content marketing.

I’ve written about the golden age for written content previously, but I think that we could be headed for a golden age for all types of media, ranging from television to written content to even radio/podcasts. While monetization of some of these platforms is difficult to project, investors certainly have noticed “fat content” and with any booming industry, there will be casualties and there will be survivors.

The Niche Consumer

I analyzed data and wrote about the drastic change that funding share has seen, with the majority of dollars moving from US to International startups over the past few years. While it is interesting to see technology-forward markets generate billion dollar companies, the rise of the niche consumer within this overall eCommerce space is even more interesting.

Both services and marketplaces have grown to cater to the niche consumer. There are startups targeting this consumer across all sorts of markets ranging from food (Postmates/Caviar/Kitchensurfing) to travel (AirBnB, onefinestay) to shopping (Etsy, ahalife, Bespoke Post, Birchbox). The niche consumer wants local and/or unique experiences. It’s why I wrote about being short Darden Restaurants in Public Investing in Long-Term Theses, and also why I believe we will see a larger trend with widespread brands seeing “brand equity” de-valued in the near future.

The interesting piece here isn’t just cool new startups sprouting up to service a small sector of an industry, but also how consumer behavior has adopted the service model across so many different purchasing decisions.

Just as some have cooled off over the “box” trend, it will be interesting to see how, with relatively low barriers to entry in some of these markets, and larger players (like Amazon with Subscribe & Save) looking to kill off competitors stealing percentages of potential revenue, these companies continue to grow, survive, evolve, and ultimately exit.

For further reading on this, check out Satya Patel’s post on Local Marketplaces

Small Business Lending

I ignored P2P Lending in this segment

I’ve researched the small business loan and merchant cash advance industries a bit previously and have found a large disconnect in legacy systems with future systems. The ability to increase velocity of capital is paramount, and services like OnDeck have allowed small business owners to receive the capital they need faster than those who do MCA’s, due to better algorithms, infrastructure, and a new look at data surrounding the company receiving the loan. While OnDeck was one of the first players, others have caught on quickly to the increased capital demands from small businesses both online (Kabbage, Amazon Lending, Paypal Working Capital) and within brick and mortar (OnDeck, Zazma)

With a variety of new metrics to generate a score or decision for a loan candidate moving forward, and a massive market to address, it is an exciting time to see competitors arise to service the very obvious needs within the lending landscape.

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