My Top 10 Predictions for 2021

As we continue the unstoppable forces of digital transformation in almost every industry in the economy, here's what I predict for the new year.

Vadym Pastukh/ Shutterstock
Vadym Pastukh/ Shutterstock

Happy New Year!

First a little personal reflection on the year past…

About this time a year ago, I was preparing to get on a plane to go to the World Economic Forum, the annual pilgrimage of world business and political leaders at Davos. It was one more of those cold winter trips to Switzerland. There was a lurking talk about the virus, but no one seemed to be worried about it. The conference rooms were crowded. No one wore masks. The notion of social distancing didn’t exist, with around 5000 people packed into a small Swiss village in the mountains. COVID was probably spreading its way unbeknownst to us, through the village. That was the last time I was on a plane for an international flight!

Starting in Feb 2020, our lives were forever changed. My heart and condolences go out to everyone who lost a loved one in 2020 due to the pandemic. I attended funeral and memorial services over zoom. They were so tough and painful. We wished we could give that special someone in our lives, a hug. For those of us whose lives were heavily travel-bound, staying at home with family, was probably the best thing that ever happened. But, even with all that time at home, shelter in place often led to fatigue and depression for many. 2020 felt like some aberration of the Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” – it was more likely the worst of times, than it was the best of times – the challenges far outweighed the triumphs. Yet, one thing remains true of the human spirit. We will get through this crisis, even as we realize we need the support of our communities, like never before.

I try to make my New Year Resolutions, by asking my family what I can do better every Jan 1 – to be a better dad and be a better husband. And this year, my resolution continues to be the one I shared with many of you last year – to be less connected to social media than I have been in the past! And disconnect completely from all devices, between 6pm and 9pm on weekdays – so I can get quality time with my kids and family. Let’s see how I do! 

With that said, I wanted to share my Top 10 Predictions, of what 2021 will likely bring us, as we continue the unstoppable forces of digital transformation in almost every industry in the economy, and as software continues to take over the world.

1) Cloud Computing momentum continues, most exciting will be Edge Clouds. 

Cloud Infrastructure (IaaS + PaaS) will continue to be the biggest area of growth, predicted to rise to $120B in 2021, growing 35% . The Cloud Apps market (SaaS) will also be about the same size, $117B, growing a bit slower, 17%, this year. The Edge market is small, some estimates put it at around $6B this year, but growing to $25B by 2025. It is probably going to be one of the most exciting areas of innovations for logistics, retail, CPG, energy, manufacturing and related industries with distributed operations.

2) Cybersecurity spending will accelerate, with a focus on Cloud and AI/ML-tech. 

The SolarWinds breach should be a big wake-up call for all sectors to take security even more seriously, with the ever-increasing threat of nation-state actors. Fragmented point security solutions will evolve to platforms, from trusted vendors, increasingly moving to the Cloud. Just like healthcare will be revolutionized by Analytics and AI via life-sciences research to cure diseases – similarly, Security will increasingly become a Big Data, AI and ML tech play, in fighting the bad guys.

3) Work-From-Anywhere becomes mainstream across the world. 

Employees working remotely always felt like second-class citizens to their counterparts working at the corporate office. That has changed forever. Going forward, every meeting will have a zoom-meeting as a mandatory calendar option, with 25-minute meetings becoming the norm (i.e. 30-min meetings ending 5min early). The question will be, will Asian countries accept the remote working culture – especially China, India and Japan?

4) There will be continued exodus of tech companies out of California. 

As a corollary to the previous prediction, the exodus of people and companies out of California will continue – Oracle, HPE, Dropbox, Tesla and Palantir were just the beginning. The challenges of state taxes, affordable housing, and the willingness of companies to recognize remote working, will drive the trend faster. Yet, if there is a silver lining, it is seeing the success of new Silicon Valley IPOs like Airbnb and DoorDash.

5) The rise of the Local Economy. 

As much as I spend a lot of my customer-facing time, involved with some of the biggest companies in the world – at home, my family probably cares more about companies such as Nextdoor, DoorDash, Instacart, and other locally-focused companies. Never since Groupon, has the phenomenon of local-centric business models become a key part of innovation in the tech economy.

6) The rise of the $20-100B category market-cap tech companies. 

2020 saw an explosion of tech companies in the $20-100B market-cap segment. I could easily rattle off 25 of them that rocketed into that category last year. You may argue that their valuations are frothy, but if the stock market growth continues, the number of such companies could double in 2021! And they will become cumulatively as important as any single trillion market-cap mega player, as the bigger players face antitrust and other regulatory forces. Yet, barring antitrust concerns, there could be a $100B+ M&A tech deal in the next 5 years, as trillion+ market-cap players seek growth opportunities.

7) Tesla will spawn at least 5 successful ESG companies. 

Who would have predicted that in the year of little travel, Tesla would be one of the hottest stocks in 2020, growing almost 700%. With the Biden Administration in power, and climate change being one of their focus areas, there will be at least 5 other successful ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) companies that emerge in various parts of the value-chain – renewables, hydrogen, risk and analytics, other EVs, to name a few. Will one of them be Apple?

8) Distance Learning becomes a permanent feature of our education system. 

If a kid in school is sick with the flu, they should be required to stay at home, but not miss the classroom learning. Every classroom should have a camera, zoom and the internet, to allow the teacher to interact with the students at home. This will prevent the spread of the common influenza among school-age kids. Distance learning will go a step further in college. I predict, that the principles of Khan Academy will revolutionize (or commoditize), the value of an Ivy-League education, in the next 5 years!

9) Well-being – remote workouts, telemedicine, worship, concerts, sporting events. 

Telemedicine moved faster in a few weeks last year, than it had in years. Regulatory hurdles were shattered by necessity of the pandemic. This made virtual healthcare possible in many states in the US, and similarly for other parts of the world. The advent of Peloton and local trainers, made the need for the huge fitness-center virtually obsolete. Worship may never be the same – everything from virtual choirs, to smaller, local worship gatherings have become the norm – and these new approaches might stay after the pandemic eases. Finally, concerts and large sporting events may evolve into smaller hybrid, socially-distant events, post the vaccine.

10) Hollywood at home. 

2020 saw the explosion of streaming content, whether Disney+, Netflix, Comcast, Amazon Prime, AppleTV, or any number of death by subscription channels we binged on. But, we have also had to become amateur producers of digital content. I never had to care about audio/video quality of material I created until 2020. My microphone, my camera, the lighting, the background, monitors – made my home-office, a mini-ESPN/CNN studio. We got good at producing 2min or 15min video segments with something as simple as our phone on a tripod stand. In the era of Spotify, TikTok and iMovie, even kids are getting creative at amateur music and video. This will only continue and grow in 2021 and beyond.

There you have it. I could be wrong, but these are my predictions for 2021 and beyond! You are welcome to give me your feedback in the comments section below this blog.

I wish you all health and safety as we begin 2021, and a blessed and successful year ahead!

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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