It might be a bit late for 2023 prophecies, since the year has already started. Nevertheless I wanted to share a few thoughts about what interesting things, I think – and to a large extend hope – we will see starting to materialize in the year ahead as part of growing trends, and what the potential of these movements could be. I should of course add the disclaimer that this is just what I think, and that the opinions expressed below are entirely my own. So if I end of completely missing the mark, feel free to cast all blame on me.
From speculative to useful. It has probably not escaped anyones attention that 2022 saw a spectacular collapse of the cryptomarket. Several cryptocurrencies were completely wiped out, and Bitcoin lost over 60 % of its value during the year. With the losses came bankruptcies – some more spectacular than others – and extreme losses in the portfolios of cryptoinvestors – or speculants, as we should probably call them.
It is so easy to say now that what we witnessed was the classic burst of a bubble, because everything becomes abundantly clear in hindsight. But it was the burst of a speculative bubble, and maybe this is the fact that we should all take some comfort from moving forward?
Because now maybe blockchain – the underlying technology behind all things crypto – can move on from the speculative phase and into the one, where it gets truly useful. Where hype doesn’t cloud reasoning in decisionmaking on what to use crypto for and how. Where we can actually start seeing blockchain-built solutions, where we talk more about what the solution does and the real problems, it solves than the fact that it’s built on blockchain.
I think there is significant appetite in the market and among investors to support founders who utilize all the battlescars and learnings that the cryptocrash of 2022 brought with it to build something truly meaningful and with significantly higher longterm value as an investment asset that many of the crypto currencies ever were.
Add some of the learnings we already have from playing around with AI, and we could have something really meaningful on our hands.
Opening up healthcare. One of the sectors where hyped technologies could play a meaningful and very valuable role is within healthcare services. The needs and challenges in this sector are so huge and becoming even greater day by day that there simply is no way around having to look at innovative use of technology to keep the entire system functioning.
There are two key differentiators in place here in order to help healthcare going forward:
The first one is the need to focus more on out-of-hospital care using digital technologies. This goes both for prevention and post-hospital care. Here a big emphasis will be on some of the big chronic disease areas that affect a lot of people, the system doesn’t really want to deal with because it is not ‘professionally interesting’, and the system actually can’t deal with due to lack of capacity.
The second differentiator is the healthcare system itself starting to open more up. We are starting to see digital therapheutics become more of a real thing in several major markets and become part of the overall reimbursement structure, which is still crucial towards any kind of real traction. This development will only increase. Simply because everything that can be done digitally will both have a quickler time to market and be significantly less expensive to develop and implement that traditional hardware and of course lifescience solutions. And the healthcare sector can not justify – downright afford – to let this opportunity founder for much longer.
Having said this it is important to note that these changes are not going to happen all in 2023. It is a long and cumbersome process. But the trend will bear in the right direction, and startups looking to capitalize on this movement need to get into a position to take advantage as soon as possible.
Great time for consolidation. Some startups, irrespective of sector, will not have the funding and thus time to wait on market trends turning in their direction. They will need to come up with solutions to ensure success on a much shorter timeframe than that, and for many it will be a question of looking to merge with bigger, stronger and/or better positioned players than themselves.
For founders this will not be a total failure. Quite on the contrary: It could be an opportunity to get closer to that breakthrough, and in the end it could be the real difference between no value at all and some value and – not least – an opportunity to fulfill the mission, the startup originally set out to try and achieve. An opportunity, albeit taking a different shape and form than originally imagined. The same goes for investors; it is an opportunity to get some sort of return rather than running the risk of a total writeoff.
For scaleups with significant drypowder left, this will be an opportunity to identify, acquire and implement new product features and teams into an already promising product. It may prove to be a both smarter and quicker way towards continued growth than what could otherwise be achieved. It will not be a complete buyers market, because the other side will be aware of the dynamics at play as well (and you don’t want to alienate those very same people, who you need to succeed with after the transaction), but there should be an opportunity to do some pretty interesting consolidation deals that – in the end – will leave most stakeholders better off than the alternative.
Real need for leadership. In order for the above things to work out to the advantage of all, leadership is more needed than ever. So the final thing we’re going to see in 2023 is the emergence of a new kind of startup leadership that we perhaps haven’t been to acquited with before.
Where before everything was about the initial idea, blitzscaling and fundraising to take on the world, the new leadership dogma will be about what it takes to build real resilient businesses that do not only deliver on the vision but do so in ways that are sustainable, viable and don’t require endless cash injections from investors.
Building real business the old conservative way could be seen as a somewhat lost art, if you look back a couple of years. But it will be coming back in a big way, and ultimately those who are able to take on a problem, get the team to work towards fixing it in focused, dedicated way while at the same time building a healthy business around it, will be the superstars. And they will help prove to us all that despite the challenging times and all the ‘doom and gloom’ everywhere you look, there is exactly as much opportunity now to make a big difference and ‘a dent in the universe’ to quote Apple icon Steve Jobs, as there ever has been. Likely a lot more.
And that’s the really good story about the potential of 2023 and beyond.