Five VCs Predict 2018 Top 10 Tech Trends at Churchill Club’s 20th Annual Event

The Churchill Club’s 20th annual Top 10 Tech Trends event was a stunner this year! As in previous years, the panel was moderated by Forbes’ publisher and Churchill Club co-founder Rich Karlgaard and featured five venture capitalists: Bessemer Venture Partners’ David Cowan; Greylock Partners’ Sarah Guo; Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Nicole Quinn; Redpoint Ventures’ Tomasz Tunguz; and Sequoia Capital’s Mike Vernal. Each VC develops two trends and gives a brief explanation. Using a ping-pong paddle, the other panelists flag agreement (green side) or disagreement (red side) and each have a minute to share their reasoning. The proponent of the trend can then offer a defense or clarification before it is turned over to the audience to vote by electronic poll.

Photo by BOCA Communications. L-R: David Cowan, Sarah Guo, Nicole Quinn, Tomasz Tunguz, Mike Vernal.

This year’s trends ranged from extraterrestrial commerce to round-the-clock surveillance:

  1. The New Space Stack Will Enable Extraterrestrial Commerce (David Cowan)
    After holding back Moore’s Law for 50 years, the space industry is being turned upside down by a new ecosystem of startups developing microsat constellations that replace mainframe-like systems at 1 percent of the cost, with planetary coverage and higher resilience. Companies will buy the tech and services they need off-the-shelf to operate extraterrestrial fleets.
    Score: 40 percent of the audience agrees
  2. Move Fast & Change Everything (Sarah Guo)
    From self-driving trucks to electric scooters, every segment of the multi-trillion-dollar transportation industry is being invented or reinvented, and the unexpected impact on our infrastructure and our lives will be massive.
    Score: 61 percent of the audience agrees
  3. “Voice First” Will Open Up the Internet to the World (Nicole Quinn)
    We are trying to bring the world online. However, 25 percent of the adult population are illiterate, so the way to bring them online will be voice-first.
    Score: 56 percent of the audience agrees
  4. The Hunt for Authenticity (Tomasz Tunguz)
    Deep learning enables computers to synthesize voice indistinguishable from humans and generate photographs that look real. Plus, computers enable disinformation at a greater scale than ever (U.S. elections, the net neutrality debate). Determining authenticity will be an important growth area.
    Score: 79 percent of the audience agrees
  5. China Accelerates Past the U.S. in Key Technology Areas (Mike Vernal)
    If you want to have an MRI read today, you might want to fly to China. Deep learning can help radiologists better diagnose cancers, but it’ll be years before that technology is widespread in the U.S. It’s already deployed and scaling in China. The strong alignment between the Chinese government and technology ecosystem, combined with a national focus on key technologies like AI and autonomous vehicles, means China will become the global leader in these core technologies.
    Score: 72 percent of the audience agrees
  6. High-density AI Promises Conversational Bots Smart Enough to Disrupt Mobile Commerce (David Cowan)
    High-density AI will break up natural language processing into narrow domains that neural networks can master, enabling a generation of conversational bots who can reliably satisfy consumer needs without human intervention. With intuitiveness and immediacy, these bots will displace mobile apps as the dominant user interface for computing, disrupting the entire consumer internet society.
    Score: 40 percent of the audience agrees
  7. The All-Seeing Eye (Sarah Guo)
    Cheap and smart cameras with computer vision algorithms are blanketing the world. New smart camera apps, from your face unlocking your phone to Amazon Go stores, will delight consumers. But this tracking of our every move will also remake expectations and regulations around surveillance.
    Score: 70 percent of the audience agrees
  8. People Will No Longer Distinguish Between Online and Offline Worlds (Nicole Quinn)
    We’ve seen e-commerce and retail come together into omnichannel and experiential retail. We’ll see the same for social, dating, media, fitness and everything else.
    Score: 20 percent of the audience agrees
  9. Decentralization of Data (Tomasz Tunguz)
    Today, all of our data is centralized in clouds controlled by a handful of data oligarchs. In the future, users will exert more control over their personal data and use a technology like the blockchain to do it.
    Score: 43 percent of the audience agrees
  10. Robotics Goes Mainstream Because of AV Gold Rush (Mike Vernal)
    Thousands of engineers and billions of dollars are being poured into the race for an autonomous passenger vehicle. That investment will:
    1. Massively drive down the price of key sensors and actuators
    2. Multiply by 100 the pool of engineers trained in perception and planning
    3. Inspire tons of entrepreneurs in adjacent industries (trucking, construction, warehouse management, etc.)
    We will see a surge in autonomous robots replacing dangerous or laborious jobs across industries.
    Score: 72 percent of the audience agrees

In the age of fake news and Cambridge Analytica, Tunguz’ prediction about the importance of authenticity won the evening for the audience.

But it didn’t steal the show. That happened at the beginning, when the Churchill Club showed the trailer for TechCrunch’s mockumentary “Bubbleproof.”

The video features panelists David Cowan and BOCA Communications client Michael Fertik, co-founder of Reputation.com, who “play fictionalized (?) versions of themselves — the successful entrepreneur who becomes even more insufferable when he takes charge of a $200 million fund, and the venture capitalist who’s eager to share in the spotlight.” Not to be outdone by Cowan’s appearance on the panel, Fertik surprised everyone by taking the stage to share a few of his fictional character’s aphorisms for success, such as “It’s not that there’s no PLAN B; there is no PLAN!