A new year means a fresh start and a whole new set of opportunities for the UK’s burgeoning technology sector.
Although we can’t predict the future, there’s no harm in thinking about how this year’s events may – or may not – impact the tech industry and what entrepreneurs in the space are excited by and concerned about.
We spoke to tech entrepreneurs from all over the country to find out what they think 2017 will bring for the industry.
With Theresa May planning to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March this year, it’s hardly surprising that the possibility of leaving the EU is playing heavily on tech entrepreneurs’ minds.
Paresh Davdra, CEO and co-founder of Xendpay and RationalFX, spoke about the uncertainty that followed the referendum result in June 2016.
“Very few in the tech industry wanted ‘out’ and the inflictors of disruption are themselves learning to cope with it,” he said, adding that the initial outlook towards a future outside of the EU was bleak.
Despite this, Davdra believes May has “ignited hope among markets, largely due to her optimism and promises of dedicated investment in R&D”.
Geoff Smith, managing director of Experis UK and Ireland, weighed in, commenting on how a future outside the EU would impact individual businesses.
Smith said he was anticipating a rise in demand for individuals that will act as the lead and coordinator for all Brexit-related activities within a company.
“This includes: monitoring negotiations, managing multiple relationships with external third parties and regulators and overseeing the resulting change programme. Those that also have expertise in risk and compliance will be sought after, along with M&A expertise to capitalise on any expansion opportunities that might arise from Brexit,” he added.
VR and AR
Joel Hughes, UK design, technology and hardware manager of Indiegogo, shared his predictions for the VR industry for the next 12 months.
“VR hardware is already becoming more accessible. In 2017 I’m looking forward to seeing how this will change how we consume entertainment in our homes, and I believe we’ll see many more crowdfunding campaigns exploring this industry,” he commented.
Last year saw the launch of Pokemon Go, a popular smartphone game which many industry insiders believe provided the tipping point for AR.
Caspar Thykier, CEO and co-founder of Zappar, agreed: “It woke a lot of brands and businesses up to the potential appeal of this technology at a mass market level.”
Thykier said this year will see the technology being embraced by more retailers within diverse sectors including consumer products, packaging, healthcare, architecture, media and entertainment.
He added: “With more powerful, cheaper mobile devices and new headsets hitting the market offering VR and now ‘mixed reality’, we’re also entering a new golden age of creative digital discovery. The next generation of digital developers will fuel experimentation in terms of new types of storytelling and use cases for this new canvas. It’s a truly exciting time to be in the industry.”
Threats and cybersecurity
With cyber attacks and security breaches making headlines on an almost weekly basis, cybersecurity is one topic that tech entrepreneurs cannot afford to ignore.
Peter Bauer, CEO and co-founder of Mimecast, said he believed things could only get worse in 2017.
“Attackers have been getting smarter, their data gathering techniques more sophisticated, and they’re becoming more organised,” he claimed.
Bauer, whose publicly-listed business specialises in cloud-based email management, thinks 2017 will bring growing groups of attackers as well as a network of shared stolen information.
These groups, he said, will likely clash, meaning they will end up going after each other. These virtual gangs, Bauer added, will grow, gain resources and fight over territories in the digital landscape.
Furthermore, Bauer warned against the increasing threat posed by ransomware, which he said would explode to become one of the biggest threats, fuelled by smaller opportunistic hackers using off-the-shelf kits to deploy malware.
“Few organisations have effective defences against this type of malware and now with bitcoins enabling the perpetrators to increase distance from their victims further, it has never been so easy to get away with it,” Bauer added.
FinTech and IoT
PayU CEO Laurent le Moal said payments innovation in 2016 was “driven by the push towards convenience”, and he believes this trend will continue throughout 2017.
“We will also see a growing level of payments innovation coming from all corners of the globe, challenging that of the most developed markets,” concluded le Moal.
Richard Laughton, the CEO of easyCar Club, believes the sharing economy will be boosted in 2017 by the integration of IoT.
Christian Lane, CEO of connected home appliances firm Smarter, said IoT will be more focused on reducing waste, in terms of energy, food, time and money, in 2017.
A VC’s perspective
Finally, what do venture capital investors think will happen in the next 12 months?
Seth Pierrepont, an investor at Accel Partners, continues to be excited by the AI research taking place across some of the UK’s top universities and the help being offered to startups to help them commercialise their research.
“We’re starting to see some success stories, like Twitter acquiring Magic Pony for $150m this year, and we look forward to more in 2017.”