6) Rise of Angel Investors
The past few years of technology innovation and prosperity has led to many of the entrepreneurs of yesterday to become the investors of today. Additionally, tech investing has become dirt cheap. A typical seed or angel investment round is commonly under 50k and is quite often as low as 20k. Modern Web startups have nearly no hardware costs, marketing costs can be minimal as well, and so can the labor costs. That allows the small investment sums to go a long way in growing the company.
The past year has also been a confirming year for seed programs like Y-Combinator or TechStars. These seed-round incubators tend to invest around 20k, provide mentoring, office space, access to free PR, and often even housing. During 2010, a number of the early companies who have graduated from such incubators have become strong players in the start-up scene and the web industry overall. As an example of some of the success of the Y-Combinator companies, just 2 days prior to the day of me writing this article, Cloudkick (a Y-Combinator company) was ackuired by Rackspace.
7) The Startup Boom
It may sound like a broken record, but 2010 has further defined how much capital it should take to bring a product to market for a startup. It takes very little funding, which means more and more people who want to become entrepreneurs, can now do so. That low barrier has given rise to many new startups that seem to pop up daily from garages from across the country.
Additionally, startup education and access to information for sound practices for how to create and run companies has become widely distributed and is now accessible to anyone who wants to learn.
8) Complete Takeover of Social Web
If it wasn't clear before, it should by now be completely clear that, moving forward, just about everything that we'll engage with on the Web will have a social component to it. The social aspect of the Web has far more reaching affects than just Facebook. Companies realize that leveraging friend recommendations and referrals is the cheapest and best-converting type of traffic they can attract.
Personal interaction makes sites more interesting and engaging. Companies try to get people to do more while they're visiting the site by interacting with other site members.
Chess.com is a great example of leveraging the social component of their niche. Although they started by simply enabling people to play chess, their users can now join online chess clubs and teams, make friends with other chess players, and join personal or team tournaments. They even allow people to compete for their country in a world chess league, which has quickly become one of their most engaging features.
9) Mainstreaming of The Check-in and Badge Phenomenon
Does it seem like every site out there has started giving out virtual badges, stickers, trophies, points, and even virtual dollars? FourSquare was probably the first company to truly leverage the phenomenon of people willing to do seemingly anything to earn a virtual badge. Many companies followed the path laid out by FourSquare in creating their own versions of virtual currencies and rewards. Even Chess.com has virtual trophies that people can win or award to one another. Many people get very excited about earning badges and trophies.
In their quest to win the badges, some people can get to nearly obsessively use of the site. Site owners love this because higher usage levels usually translate to making more money earning more friend referrals.
Soon there will even be check-ins to TV shows. A company named GetGlue is becoming the main player in entertainment check-ins, so look forward to that in 2011 as their service becomes even more mainstream.
10) Uncertainty For the Future
While the tech industry has seen very good growth through 2010, there has been an underlying feeling of uncertainty in where the greater economy is going. Additionally, a number of technology, innovation, and entrepreneur-friendly political movements have not gotten any traction with the current administration. One particular example that alienated the tech world was the "Startup Visa" initiative which was a way to get potential entrepreneurs and founders of companies into the United States with the hope of creating thriving companies which
would in turn create jobs for Americans.
So with the great momentum in innovation, cautious outlook on the economy, and the current administration, we head into 2011. Lets make it a great year!