As I flip the calendar over to a new year it always causes me to pause and reflect on the opportunities and challenges this last year has brought and what is on the horizon. What stands out to me is what I call the Bellevue and Eastside marketplace convergence zone. An entrepreneurial energy that comes from our startup communities as well as our established companies has us in all respects leading the nation in terms of job creation, ideation and top talent. Add to that, an amazing environment where crowdfunding provides startup capital for great business ideas.
This convergence zone fosters the strong influence that technology has on local companies who need to be connected to what the customers of the future are demanding. Ideas that seemed farfetched a few years ago are becoming more main stream. As I see it, the opportunities in 2015 will continue to be centered around this tech revolution highlighted by these driving factors.
- The Internet of things. We are in the center of the digital economy. Opportunities of the future will be tied to the Internet even if it is accessing data to grow your customer base or store information.
- The cloud will continue to be a part of the way business is done. Smaller companies and individuals will access the cloud to provide economies of scale and efficiencies for their company and also to allow for employee mobility.
- Mobile-powered apps and connectivity will continue to grow. Online purchasing is a $312 Billion industry.
- Wearables and smartphones will continue to be “hot” and the opportunities are endless from health and fitness to rewards “currencies of change” programs (discounts or perks for being healthy).
- Increased usage of 3D printers and robots to not only decrease business costs but to also increase customer satisfaction.
- Customers will continue to be in the driver’s seat demanding brands to align with their needs. You will see a focus on more “Fast Lane Solutions” to allow loyal customers to have accelerated service and be rewarded for their loyalty. Examples will be hotel loyalty programs where customers can check into their rooms via their phones or fast-food ordering programs with retina detection that can tell by how long you view an item, what you are going to order and have it ready for you.
- Consumers in both the millennial and GenerationZ (born after 1993) believe that business brands should share their same values. They are also more focused on sharing and giving back to the community instead of owning a product or service. Hence we’ve seen the rise of car, bicycle, vacation home, and equipment sharing opportunities as well as apps that make it easy to share fares or split costs. The demand for these opportunities will continue.
Economic success also brings challenges, and to me these are the most pressing issues.
- Transportation and mobility. Getting people to work, kids to school and consumers to their destination is a critical component that will increase the economic impact of our region as improvements to our infrastructure are made.
- Access to Talent. Continuing to be the place of choice for talented people to want to live and work. There is global competition and a talent shortage. These are the individuals that will propel our companies as well as generate ideas and products of the future.
- With all the opportunities available a big challenge (that also creates opportunities) is how do companies navigate in a digital world that is very customized to reach customers. The days of 50% market penetration are long gone. Businesses today have to be strategic to navigate the changing marketplace to find the best ways to connect with their perfect customer.
My hopes and dreams for 2015 are that the really smart people that make our area a place of choice to live and work, continue to innovate. Their success provides an environment that is the envy of communities around the globe. From my perspective, this entrepreneurial energy makes the positives far outweigh the challenges and I look forward to a very prosperous 2015!