Last year on Dec 31, I wrote a post: Favorite Companies to Watch in 2011
I had fun doing it so decided I’d give it a go again this year. But first, a quick recap of last year’s selections before the 2012 predictions.
foursquare - I’m biased, but I think we have had a fantastic year. 15+MM users now, well over 1 billion checkins, and over 600k merchants (with no salesforce), many thousands of brands leveraging the platform, our American Express partnership showing folks there’s another way to think about local / commerce. It was a good year.
square - Yup. Still love this company. Square is processing over $11mm/day vs $4mm in July vs less than $1mm late last year. Damn!
path - I have been a fan of Path’s since Day 1 of launch. For the majority of the year, their progress was slower moving than I would have hoped, but they turned it around in a big big way…and to rave reviews. The team there is stellar. The only challenge I see for them is how they’ll get the newer users to think of it as a more intimate, private network vs. accepting friend requests from their friends / followers on other social services.
quora + fitbit - It’s hard to know how I did here since there aren’t any public stats from each company. Both are really great services and the quality of both products has improved over time and getting great mainstream attention / love. For FitBit, the entry into the market from folks like Jawbone and others is validating the market opportunity. There’s still a long way to go to before there’s a winner in the space but they’re on the right track.
Now for the 2012 predictions:
Stripe - will have a big year this year. Stipe makes it dead simple for any developer to start accepting payments online. Accepting payments is a pain (compliance / risk / etc). Also, Stripe’s timing is perfect. E-Commerce is a huge growing opportunity and Stripe will be able to put online merchants to work quickly much like Square is able to for brick and mortar merchants. Paypal isn’t doing much here and Stripe can be super nimble. Lastly, John and Patrick Collison (founders) are the real deal and incredibly bright.
Asana - I’ve been using the Action Method (web / mobile / books) for quite some time now, but each day I have been using Asana more and more. Asana still has a few kinks to work out (better iphone app, ability to sort tasks by date!) but when they do, it will be awesome. Making employees more productive is probably one of the biggest opportunities in business. What I really like about the potential for Asana stems from a b-school case I read about McAfee’s (antivirus software) start. John McAfee distributing his product (far and away superior to other products in the market) for free as shareware on his bulletin board. He was able to hook individual users on the software. Those superfan users would use that software at work and the companies liked the result so much that they paid the enterprise licensing fee for the software. Asana is poised to do the same but in a more powerful way (effects on execution very visible to all employees)
Codecademy - the world is changing and everyone needs to develop the skills necessary to really participate in the new high tech / high value economy. If America is to remain competitive, its citizens need to be prepared to stay competitive in this new world that is becoming less and less analog and more and more digital. Companies like Codecademy can really help lead the way here.
Votizen - 2012 = election year. Politicians are in disarray. Citizens are untrusting. So, shit really needs to change. I think Votizen has a wide open opportunity to get folks excited again about the potential for this country. There are a bunch of issues I’m starting to care a great deal about: Jobs, China, Immigration. I’ve never had any great outlets to find folks (particularly peers) who care about the same issues and want to do something about it (SOCIAL). I’ve also never had any real great / effective outlets to, with my peers, communicate directly with politicians who can effect real change (TRANSPARENCY). Votizen will be that opportunity. Now, as a business guy, the market size / opportunity in politics is so very significant
Palantir - will get the mainstream credit it deserves. Palantir is the the best Silicon Valley startup you’ve never heard of. If you’re not familiar with Palantir, stop what you’re doing and read this article from Businessweek: Palantir, the War on Terror’s Secret Weapon. They have some of THE best technical talent in the world and they’re solving very big problems. From what I know they’ve made major inroads with government and finance, but opportunities in other verticals, like retail / manufacturing etc could prove to be very very large opportunities for them. And frankly, they have close to zero competition.
My wish for 2012 (more likely for 2013 though….) - Someone will start to figure out sensors. Whoever nails it (be it with the mobile phone or wearable devices) and takes advantage of ALL the low cost sensors out there (accelerometer, gyroscope, etc etc) will not only make everyone’s lives better and more interesting (from health to retail to finance) but also make a great deal of money in the process. I’ve been getting more and more excited about the potential here. Anyway, we’ll see….someone will build a great business with this in mind.
(note: After writing both of the posts, I realized Keith Rabois was a shareholder in a bunch of the companies. Amazing leading indicator. But that’s for another post…)