'Ambient' Computing, Disruptive Banking Startups Top VC Predictions

Leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists make some provocative predictions as to what new technology will emerge in the next five years at the Churchill Club's annual Top 10 Tech Trends session.

Tech Predictions 2

SAN JOSE, Calif. —Ambient computing, robotic cars and tough times for traditional banks were some of the controversial predictions made here at the Churchill Club’s 17th annual Top Ten Tech Trends event.

Five leading venture capitalists were on hand to prognosticate while following a few simple ground rules—each prediction has to be a breakthrough trend that isn't obvious and will hit the mainstream in the next five years.

Rebecca Lynn, General Partner of Canvas Venture Fund, predicts startups are going to “disintermediate” traditional banks with a raft of personalized services for lending, insurance and real estate transactions that banks won’t be able to match. She sees banks becoming a platform for financial services startups that will need their infrastructure backend. But she doesn’t see Bitcoin being a big player in this new age of banking services.

“I don’t have high hopes for bitcoin over the next five years,” as an alternative currency, said Lynn. Fellow panelist Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), cited a Goldman Sachs study that predicts a massive shift by millennials to peer-based lending.

“They see a new generation that doesn’t want to deal with old banks,” he said. As for Bitcoin, Jurvetson says he isn’t excited about it as a currency, but thinks it could be very useful facilitating a new era of automated, machine to machine contracts.

Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director of Sherpa Ventures, sees “ambient computing” services that will anticipate our needs. In the next five years he sees artificial intelligence advances leading to services that anticipate what you need based on patterns of past behavior. Instead of going to a search box, these “invisible computer” services will be proactive so that, for example, when you’re flight is delayed the Uber service reschedules your pickup automatically.

Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, made two somewhat connected predictions. The Virtual Me is the idea that advances in sensors and wearable technology will lead to an unprecedented accumulation of data about one’s health, travel and spending that is aggregated into personal digital profiles that “know more about you than you do.”

Lee predicted that this could lead to things like a kind of proactive Siri digital assistant that reminds you to exercise more, or to stick to a diet. Other panelists weren’t as upbeat.

“If a machine is going to learn how lazy we really are and tell us we eat too much, that might not be something people want to hear,” said Pishevar.

The Economy of Me is a prediction that by 2020 there will be twice as many mobile Internet-connected devices (44billion) as there are today and consumers will be able to shop for goods and services on a worldwide basis far more easily than they can now.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...