Trends For 2012: Ten Innovators Share Their Thoughts

PSFK taps the top entrepreneurs of 2011 for their insights into what trends we should look out for in 2012.

To support a new initiative from Intel aimed at uncovering and supporting young Innovators, PSFK has tapped some of the world’s established innovators to share some insights into what young entrepreneurs should be on the lookout for in 2012. Below is a summary of their thoughts.

JAMES GROSS, PERCOLATE

It seems to be celebrated in our tech and startup culture that in order to win you need to be as busy as possible. Doing a million little things and running fast is what will get your startup on a Bloomberg show and praised on VC blogs. I’m not sure this model is sustainable. We all have dreams of creating companies that last and aren’t built to be a plugin for Google or a talent acquisition for Facebook. To build a long lasting company requires a tremendous amount of thought. We all know this, but we don’t practice it if we spend our day optimizing for being frantic.

JOE FERNANDEZ, KLOUT

Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. Mark Zuckerburg has a movie about him and founders from Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and other companies are involved in major advertising campaigns for national brands. People like Jack, Pincus and Reid are known by just one word. In 2012, I believe entrepreneurs should look for the opportunity to build their personal brand. This is a huge help in recruiting, fund raising and building buzz for your company.
The one caution here is that if there isn’t substance behind your hype, the world will turn on you and you will look like a total fool.

ALEXANDRA WILKIS WILSON, GILT GROUPE

An obvious trend on everyone’s mind right now is the importance of social media and understanding and developing its role in a business. Entrepreneurs entrenched in start-ups should embrace the social media to help spread the word about their businesses for a number of reasons.

1) Using marketing enablers like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Quora etc. is FREE. When it comes to online communications, social media allows start ups to operate on an equal playing field with larger, more established businesses with massive marketing budgets.

2) I believe that figuring out social for a large, publicly-traded, established corporation is more challenging than for a start up. Large companies are likely to get bogged down by bureaucratic communication policies and marketers will be hindered by what they can and can’t say via social channels. On the other hand, a start up can develop a personality through social media and can connect freely, naturally and authentically with fans and followers. Consumers today value authenticity more than ever.

3) Social media can really help the right type of company go viral which is very important and helpful for entrepreneurs. I say right type of company, because certain industries are more naturally disposed to benefiting from word of mouth, such as fashion, sports, games and entertainment. There are some industries that in my mind don’t naturally lend themselves to word of mouth marketing, like financial services, health and medicine.

RACHEL STERNE, CITY OF NEW YORK

Open government data and APIs present a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs. We’ve seen open commercial APIs, like those of Twitter and Google, result in numerous forms of innovation ranging from the creation of new ecosystems to new features and services for users — all while making the original platform even more critical. Now, as more governments recognize this potential, they are developing similar technologies that invite innovation, collaboration and crucially, more efficient, personalized service to the public.
For entrepreneurs, this translates into a unique chance to leverage the powerful resources and data of New York City government and create value for individuals. We’ve been thrilled with the success of NYC OpenData-powered apps.  The apps developed using this data do everything from helping people find parking spaces to finding out if a restaurant passed health inspections or spontaneously organizing a pick-up basketball game.

GRAHAM HILL, TREEHUGGER

1. Video Chat. The “we gotta get everyone around the table” approach just doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. Video chat can be extremely effective in making for good communication through the combination of seeing the other person, screensharing and simultaneous instant messaging. Why? Save a lot of money, lower your footprint (a single flight will generally emit 5-20% of your yearly carbon emissions) and avoid travel exhaustion by incorporating more Skype video into your life.

2. Sharing Systems. Leverage them for your business or start one! In 15 years, in many categories, ownership will be for suckers. Zipcar, Netflix, Airbnb, Toygaroo, Rent the Runway…these are just the beginning. Why? Access, as opposed to ownership will save you money, give you more options and space as well as reduce your carbon footprint.

3. Short+Sexy. Figure out the core of what you are trying to say and do it in an extremely short and compelling manner. Why? If we can learn one thing from twitter and viral videos, it’s that in a world of distraction and short attention spans, you need to keep it tight and make it memorable.

JEFF STAPLE, STAPLE DESIGN

Go: Go Local.

Sure, with the technology you have in the palm of your hand now, you can connect with anyone across the planet. It’s the beauty of making this planet smaller. But don’t only use it to spread your business wings across the globe.

Remember that as the planet gets smaller, your neighborhood gets smaller also. Use that same technology to dig deep locally. I love connecting with my local fan base and community. For example, with the recent Japan disaster, we mainly used Twitter to quickly rally a fundraiser together and raised over $20,000 in one night for the Red Cross. Even though we were affecting a global cause, our local community came together to support.

PETER ROJAS, GDGT

Entrepreneurs should leverage the trend of obscurity: Obscurity is good. Seriously. Everyone focuses a lot on trying to blow up overnight and using social media to drive as much attention as possible to whatever you’re doing, but I think one of the best assets you have when starting out is that no one knows who you are and no one cares what you’re doing. This lack of attention gives you the space and time to experiment—and to make mistakes before too many eyes are on you. The smartest entrepreneurs I’m meeting with these days are just building, getting feedback from early users, and then seeing what works and iterating from there. They’re focusing on improving their product and getting it right, and then trying to attract more attention after they’ve figured things out.

BRE PETTIS, MAKERBOT

The Age of Sharing has begun. How will your entrepreneurial business leverage the power of sharing? At MakerBot, we make machines that make things for you on your desktop. We’ve created our sister site Thingiverse where users can share their digital designs for real things and our users have created a powerful community based on sharing and amazing new designs show up on the site every day that you can download and make for free.
MakerBot is open source and we share our design files for our machine so that our users can understand how a MakerBot works and customize it. As 2012 approaches, I challenge all entrepreneurs to explore new ways of sharing with your users and customers. You’ll know you’re on to something special when your users and customers share with each other.

BEN LERER, THRILLIST

In 2012, entrepreneurs should continue to take advantage of 3rd party technology companies that are building robust feature sets that previously took years for startups to build on their own. There are companies out there creating tools for companies with limited tech resources to move fast to push great products to market. Examples are Launchrock, Sailthru, Group Commerce, Ordergroove, RJ Metrics, Optimizely and Onswipe are creating tools for companies with limited tech resources to move fast to push great products to market.

This means that it takes less time and money for a startup to know when its hit a nerve and that its product is being well received by its target audience.

NOAH KERNER, NOISE

The entire model for raising capital has been turned on its head by companies like Facebook and investors like Yuri Milner. This same kind of shift is happening for startups. They can raise money from funds like GE’s 200MM Ecoimagination Challenge or programs like Intel Innovators, which we created in part to give young entrepreneurs access to funding that they might not otherwise have. In the future, there will be an increasing number of opportunities like this so young entrepreneurs can get more creative about how they raise money and smarter about how much equity they give up. Zuckerberg proved that a young kid can retain control of his company even as it goes big. That’s a new phenomenon. Now it’s going to get interesting.

Sponsor note: PSFK has partnered with Intel to bring you insights and trend predictions from some of the world’s established innovators. But 2012 is a new year, and Intel is on the lookout for the next great Innovator. Intel’s expert panel will award one Innovator $50,000 and one Fan will win the right to determine which Innovator gets another $50,000, the proceeds of which will be used by the Innovators to bring to their great idea to life. If you think you are the next big thing, PSFK encourages you to submit your thoughts on Intel’s Facebook page.

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