Hot Tech Sectors for 2015 and Comments from the Rice Alliance IT and Web Venture Forum 2014


I had a great time serving on the first panel of the day, Accelerator Panel: Driving Early Stage Startups in Texas, at the 12th annual Information Technology and Web Venture Forum at Rice University on December 11th. My fellow panelists included a Who’s Who of the Texas startup scene:

  • Jason Seats, TechStars Austin
  • Molly Cain, Tech Wildcatters Dallas
  • David Matthews, VentureSpur Dallas
  • Kraettli Epperson, TractionTank Online (a Texas LLC)
  • Kirk Coburn, SURGE Houston

One of the highlights of the event for me was the opportunity to make an early announcement about the upcoming launch of TractionTank, my new online accelerator with Eric Morrow. Watch for details and a press release at the time of public launch in the first quarter for 2015.

In addition, we were asked to prepare responses for several questions about our accelerators and about hot sectors for new startups in 2015. Here are my responses:

What kinds of startups are we especially interested in at JumpPhase Ventures and TractionTank in 2015?

Nearly Big Data

There’s been a lot of focus on true “Big Data” solutions, especially using Apache Hadoop, to enable companies to manage very large data sets. But the reality is that most “Big Data” sets reside among a very small handful of very large companies doing millions of transactions or operational observations.

The vast majority of companies (like 95%) are smaller and are dealing with smaller, but still extremely important, data sets that are vital to the life of their business. Startups that address this other market, which doesn’t have a data center and doesn’t want to run Hadoop clusters, is very interesting. It includes a tremendous number of business buyers and they have immediate data collection, storage, analytics and intelligence needs.

Predictive Analytics

With the emergence of cloud-based tools for doing predictive analytics, startups can spend their time finding and refining applications, rather than pioneering the science and algorithms of predictive analytics. Applications in asset and facility maintenance, mean time to failure, market and demand prediction, production optimization, etc. all present tremendous opportunities for startups applying the new tools and models in predictive analytics.

Natural Language Processing and Automation

Natural language processing has come a long way in the last few years, especially with the popularity of products like Siri. The addition of spoken input with excellent speech recognition has made natural language processing a technology that can be ever-present. Now the question is, What we should do with it and where will it have the largest impact? Applications for the elderly, for hands-free industrial control in manufacturing, and for swift customer service are just the beginning.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is still an unfulfilled promise with a lot of potential and wide open horizons. I have many things that should be connected to the internet: My car, my lawn, my kids, etc. Entrepreneurs, get on it!

Anything with UAVs

One way or another, UAVs are going to escape from under the thumb of the FAA and take to the skies. With special certificates of authorization (COAs) slowly trickling out and the number and capabilities of UAVs on the market rapidly increasing, including especially cool new products being delivered by 3D Robotics and AirWare, the commercial UAV market is ready to explode. Smart entrepreneurs are looking for opportunities now.

Intelligent approaches to blended domestic and international markets and growth

Being a single-country, single-shore business is no longer enough. International markets can no longer be ignored, or left until later. For rapid growth into massive, dynamic markets, startups need to think about a blended domestic and international launch and growth strategy.

Online Education

Online education, including certifications, secondary and undergraduate education, remediation, and professional development, are all massively growing markets with big opportunities for smart entrepreneurs. This is the time and the claims are being staked on the ground.

What can startups do to improve their odds of admission to your accelerator?

A second set of questions that the panelists were asked to prepare for were about how startup founders could get admitted to our accelerators. Here’s a quick guide to some specific things that we’re looking for at TractionTank:

  • Talk to us about product-market fit, first and foremost. Do you understand it? What have you done to validate your product-market fit?
  • You need to understand market testing. You need to know how to do it, how to evaluate and present the results, and how to adjust your product based on what you learn.
  •  Ultimately, to raise money, you need to have traction. This includes mailing lists, early sales, and a community under development.
  • Finally, you need to understand how to use your market traction to make your investment pitch.

These are all things we can help with if you’re admitted to TractionTank, and our free materials will get you started, but knowing what we’re looking for up front will give your startup a big advantage!

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This blog is dedicated to providing advice, tools and encouragement from one entrepreneur to another. I want to keep this practical and accessible for the new entrepreneur while also providing enough sophistication and depth to prove useful to the successful serial entrepreneur. My target rests somewhere between the garage and the board room, where the work gets done and the hockey stick emerges.