As we look ahead to 2020, we’re keeping our eyes on innovative consumer enthusiast brands, as well as tech companies bringing the right skills and technology to enterprise, cloud, and IT infrastructure. In healthcare, we’ll continue to track new technologies that improve health outcomes and make care more personalized, efficient, and cost-effective.
We are optimistic that 2020 will usher in a new wave of startups and emerging technologies that will shake up the playing field and solve problems that consumers and enterprises face every day. We surveyed a few Norwest partners on what they expect to see in 2020. Here’s what they said:
Jeff Crowe, Managing Partner
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies are pulling out all the stops in a world where Facebook and Google are getting more expensive every year. Not only are the DTC companies looking for other acquisition channels, they are racing to offset CAC with higher gross margin products, higher average order values, and improved customer retention. At the same time, DTC companies are aggressively moving toward omnichannel distribution strategies beyond pure online.
Sonya Brown, General Partner
Amazon killed the Big Box, but can Amazon keep the Big Brands? With the departure of Nike, more consumer brands may feel emboldened to consider a similar departure, but I question how many brands have the consumer engagement and power the way a Nike, Disney or Apple do. 2020 may see the separation of the haves and the have nots.
Robert Mittendorff, Partner
2020 will be the year when new models of care, technology, and artificial intelligence will merge with the existing healthcare ecosystem. We will see the transformation before our eyes as Walgreens and CVS engage telemedicine, as AI becomes part of the front and back office of healthcare delivery, and as technology allows patients to self manage their conditions. Look for more IPOs, more big mergers, and more acquisitions by leading consumer and enterprise companies.
Priti Choksi, Partner
The success of alternative protein companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible in 2019 will lead to greater, more mainstream investments in alternative food companies in 2020. Our future food supply is at risk, and novel forms of protein – in plant, cell, or microbial alternatives – will be imperative to feeding our planet in a sustainable and humane fashion. There is, of course, a great deal of consumer education and adoption curve ahead, but the rising tide of investments into this category will lift all boats.
Rama Sekhar, Partner
2020 will usher in the year of ‘AI in the Enterprise.’ AI will get an upgrade from being an ingredient to a first-class citizen as CIOs will introduce AI-first initiatives, just as they adopted cloud-first initiatives five years ago. Companies will have to justify why they’re not using AI in their own software, processes, and workflows in 2020. To accomplish this, opportunities will emerge for startups to help enterprises scale, manage, secure, monitor and deploy machine learning models. The skills gap in the area of ‘DevOps for machine learning’ will be a headwind as enterprises take on this exciting challenge.
Lisa Wu, Partner
2019 was a dynamic year for unicorns and IPOs. In 2020, we’ll see more public market action, including Airbnb’s highly-anticipated IPO. There will be a couple more surprises from companies that are high-growth and cash efficient and that are able to attract a market premium as we saw with Zoom and Datadog in 2019 – and investor sentiment will continue to sour on high-growth, high-burn, low margin consumer companies with upside-down unit economics as the market pendulum swings from growth-at-all-costs towards cash efficiency and profitability in both public and private markets.