As we move into the third week of January, I figured it was “now or never” in terms of getting a set of predictions out for 2015. Before jumping into that, let’s take a quick review of how I did with my 2014 predictions and do some self-grading.
- 2014 to be a good year in Silicon Valley. Correct.
- Cloud computing will continue to explode. Correct.
- Big data hype will peak. Gartner seems to agree, placing it in August midway past peak on the way to trough of disillusionment. Correct.
- The market will be unable to supply enough data science talent. Mashable is now calling data scientist 2015’s hottest profession. Per McKinsey, this is a problem that’s going to continue for the next several years. Correct.
- Privacy will remain center stage. Correct.
- Mobile will continue to drive both consumer and (select) enterprise. I got the spirit correct on this one, but I think the core problem is probably better thought of as multi-device access to cloud data than mobile per se. That is, it’s not about using Evernote on my phone, but instead about uniform access to my cloud-based notes from all my mobile (and non-mobile) devices. Basically, correct.
- Social becomes a feature, not an app. Correct again. The struggles of companies like Jive only validate that (enterprise) social should be a feature of virtually all apps, and not a category unto itself.
- SAP’s HANA strategy actually works. Well SAP didn’t seem to agree with this one, when Hasso Plattner wrote a post blasting customers for not understanding its business benefits. But my angle was more – the merits of the strategy aside – when a company the size of SAP shows total commitment to a strategy it’s going to get results. And it has. And SAP continues to drive it. Mostly correct.
- Good Data goes public. While this didn’t happen, I continue to believe that Good Data has a smart strategy and a solid product. They raised $25M in September. Maybe this year they will make me an honest man.
- Adaptive Planning (now, Adaptive Insights) gets acquired by NetSuite. This didn’t happen, either. The prediction was based on the fairly well known play of OEM-ing something before acquiring it. Time may well prove me right on this one, but a swing-and-a-miss for 2014.
Our “bonus” prediction last year was that my company, Host Analytics, would have a great year and indeed we did. We grew new subscriptions well in excess of 100%, making us, I believe, the fastest growing company in the category. We launched a new sales planning solution as part of our vision to unite financial and operational planning. We hired scores of great new people to join us on our mission to create a great EPM company, one that transforms how enterprises manage their financial performance. And we raised $25M in venture capital to boot.
So, all in all, for the 2014 predictions, let’s call it 8.5 out of 11.
Here are my predictions for 2015.
- The good times continue to roll in Silicon Valley. If you feel “bubble,” remember that unlike in the dot-com days that most companies experiencing great success today have real, often recurring, revenue and real customers. From a cycle perspective, to the extent there is a bubble coming, I’d say we’re in 1999 not 2001.
- The IPO as a down-round trend continues. One of the odder things about this time period is that I’m repeatedly hearing that successful IPO companies are pricing at down-rounds relative to their last private financings. This doesn’t spell danger in general – because the public market valuations are both healthy and supportable – it just suggests a highly competitive later-stage private financing market is overbidding prices. I suspect that will calm down in 2015 but down-round IPOs will continue in 2015.
- The curse of the megaround will strike many companies and CEOs. As part of the prior bullet companies are now often able to raise unprecedented amounts of capital at high valuations. While those companies today may celebrate their $100M, $150M or $200M+ financing rounds, tomorrow they will wake up with a hangover that looks like: huge pressure to invest that money for growth, even in dubious growth opportunities; anxious board members who need a 3x return in three years atop already stratospheric valuations; companies missing plan when the dubious growth opportunities don’t deliver; and CEOs who get replaced for missing plans that were unrealistic in the first place. Before you take a megaround, be careful what you wish for — you sometimes get it.
- Cloud disruption continues. Megavendors will continue to wrestle cloud disruption and their cloud strategies. They will continue to talk about success and high growth in the 10% or less of their business that is cloud, while asking investors to ignore the lack of health in the 90% that is non-cloud. As part of a general Innovator’s Dilemma problem, they will be forced to explain and defend cloud strategies that will hopefully help them long term but depress results in the short term (as SAP had to do last week.)
- Privacy becomes a huge issue. People who were once too busy to care when Facebook changed their security setting are now asking who can access what and how. The Internet of Things will only exacerbate this focus as more data than ever will be available. In the past, you could see my pictures and status updates. Now you can know where I am, when, how many hours I sleep at night, when I exercised, what temperature I set my thermostat to, and when I’m home. The more data that becomes available, and the more readily you can be de-anonymized, the more you will start monitoring your privacy settings and previously unread site terms and conditions.
- Next-generation apps continue to explode. Apps like Slack and Zenefits will continue to redefine enterprise software. While Slack is a technology, design, and integration play in the collaboration space, Zenefits is more of a business-model disruption play (i.e., give us the rather large commissions you rather invisibly paid your health insurance broker and we’ll give you free, high-quality HR software). Either way, consumerization, design, and the search for new business models / revenue opportunities will continue.
- IBM software rebounds. IBM used to be a stronger player in software than it is today (e.g., recall that they invented the relational database). Watson aside, things have been pretty quiet on the IBM software front. Cloud-wise, while they claim to have a $7B business, it’s pretty invisible to me, and it does seem that Amazon has beaten them in low-level categories like IaaS. While I’m not sure what happened – I don’t track them that closely – they do seem to have just faded away. Once thing’s for sure – it can’t continue. While there are contradicting stories in recent press, IBM does appear to be in the midst of a large re-organization, and I’m going to bet that, as a result, they come to market with a stronger software and cloud story.
- Angel investing slows. Much has been written about the financing chokepoint where tens of thousands of angels are funding companies that then need to get in line to get funded by the approximately 100 or so VCs who do A rounds. The first-order result is that many companies think “wow this is easy” on raising a angel round only to die 12-18 month later when they fail to raise VC. The second-order result, which I think will start kicking in this year, is that angel money will be harder to come by as the system corrects back to a balanced state.
- The data scientist shortage continues. With more “big data” and a huge supply of analytic tools and computing power, the limiting factor on analysis-driven business is neither data nor technology. It’s our ability to find people who can correctly leverage it. Tell every college kid you know to take lots of stats, analytics, and computing classes. Or better yet, to go get a degree in data science.
- The unification of planning becomes the top meme in enterprise performance management (EPM). EPM has a long history of helping finance departments prepare annual operating budgets and financial reports, but increasingly—in recent years – planning has quietly decentralized to the various departments and divisions within the enterprise. For example, sales ops increasingly builds the sales plan, marketing ops the marketing plan, and services ops the consulting and professional services plan. (This is why I sometimes call this trend the “rise of the ops person” as they are increasingly acting as stealth FP&A.) What’s needed is to unite all these plans and put them on a common planning framework so the CFO and CEO can do what-if analysis and scenario planning holistically across the organization.