2016 Digital trends & death of the ‘unicornism’.

20162016 is here, as digital as ever. Because that is what happens in digital, we are never where we were before. But what about the ‘real’ world? how is that side of the ‘deal’ being affected or not by the constant of digital change?

VALUE is a key word here. So it is very likely that the unfathomably boring “UNICORN-ISM” will begin to fade or even die.

Digital offers to add value to the ‘real’ world, while the ‘real’ world, in most cases, will resist the digital ‘revolution’ (or barely an ‘enhancement’ to it) without a clear understanding of why it is resisting change in the first place.

NOW – bringing this discussion down to the level of the individual people behind what is digital by nature, and what is enhanced by it, we can consider who is behind the digital advancement before attempting to find any conclusions about what will happen in 2016:

1. Who is behind the digital revolution? and who is affected by it?

UnicornTo make it simple (over-simplified, actually), let’s think on the nature and interests of 4 groups:

a) Digital Companies & Startups

b) The “real world” businesses

c) Investors & “money men”

d) Government

GROUP A: Digital Companies & Startups

Digital CompanyDigital companies may resemble traditional companies in many ways, but they are really not. They cannot be. A company in the digital sector will need to consider elements that are far from the common business ‘mix’. The fast paced environment of the digital evolution will push these companies to a point of extreme acceleration, and constant innovation, where ‘changing the world’ is part of the core business. Their competitors are doing it, and at any time they can become obsolete, just like that.

The ‘clients’ of digital companies will most likely need to be ‘behind’ them, evolution-wise, for the business to work well. The digital company must be always predicting (or creating) the need of the ‘client’, and in many cases it is a ‘one-product-take-all’ kind of niche.

Digital-manThen, consider also the individuals inside a digital business. They are, one way or another, people with a very different attitude towards the world. From the greater disposition of taking risks, to very methodic ways of thinking about solutions, digital companies are home to very few of what most people think of as being ‘normal’ people. These people are mainly thinking about affecting the lives of other people and other businesses in ways they were never affected before. But when is it too much? when does a digital mind have to step back and enjoy the good old traditions of the non-digital world?

GROUP B: The “Real World” Businesses

Butcher BusinessThe foundation. Essence of human civilisation. Makes the world go round even before people knew the world went ’round’.

In this side of business, digital is capable of enhancements, but many companies work very well without any digital influence whatsoever, or at least their core business has nothing to do with digital at all. Excluding digital communications channels, many traditional businesses will thrive out of doing things precisely the same way as their ancestors did it. When you walk into an Italian restaurant and they tell you that “this recipe was created by their great-great-grandmother in Sicily”, it sounds like a very good thing.

In a world of tradition, how do you expect change to be welcome? It is not. At least not at first.

But when a local butcher starts seeing his sales rise because of an e-commerce app, and a restaurant can service 10% more clients because of smartphone payment, the apparently ‘petrified’ world of tradition becomes the engine for the digital expansion.

GROUP C: Investors & “Money Men”

Monopoly-ManWhen it is about money, things get messy. They just do. They got messy back in the wild west, they got messy back in ancient Greece, and they would have gotten messy if instead of a free apple on the tree, Eve had to spend a few bucks from her joint account with Adam to buy the apple off the snake.

It is not the root of all evil, but under the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of investment successes (to investors and to the world), there is a huge amount of failure, high risk contracts, and irresponsible valuations.

The world of ‘money for money’ is a double-edge knife that will help and destroy businesses and people. The financial products directly related to company profit push companies into doing, mostly, more of the same, and very small changes to their business, instead of being more bold. At the same time, for businesses in formation, such as startups, the investment world will push them into being perhaps too-bold-too-fast.

This money-making system, while being the beating heart of good old capitalism and, in fact, helping our world to move into a new reality faster, when not ‘well tuned’, will most likely become a disease to companies and, in consequence, to the people working inside these companies. This is why the investment and financial markets in general are moving, more and more, into a higher level of specialisation, and a higher amount of human interaction between parties involved.

GROUP D: Government

Government HelpTRANSPARENCY & COHERENCE is what I wish for governments in 2016. Problem is, this will never be a simple thing to happen. The reason being that the government is a group of people with very different interests, which only agree on a “move in the game” when they all can somehow benefit from it. This is not specific to a country. The general principle of people representing other people and all stuck together inside a same border is confusing at the least. But governments are understanding that technology is not just a trend, and that in 2016 it will bring them ‘more things to regulate’.

2. So What to Expect in Digital 2016?

For this list, I went out and asked many friends and contacts about their views, and attempted to consider all well backed visions as a possibility of a 2016 big time show.

I am also taking into consideration the participation of the 4 groups we looked at above (letters A-D):

  1. Wearables: Now that Apple is seriously in the game, expect the water here to become quite stirred.
    • A: many software & apps / not many new hardware
    • B: fitness/health & telecom most affected
    • C: not so much new investment
    • D: some regulation in health
  2. Virtual Reality: Have you tried a new VR headset? have you heard of someone who did? It is an explosion of excitement – and will be reverted into currency.
    • A: gold rush
    • B: gaming, travel/hospitality, health most affected
    • C: more than 35 megatons of new investment (is that a lot? it should be)
    • D: some regulation in health
  3. Drones: Are you already tired of hearing of them? they haven’t even started their show.
    • A: if you’re part of the gang, this can be good
    • B: entertainment, surveillance, geo-mapping most affected (delivery will not happen in 2016)
    • C: investment in software and network systems
    • D: regulation discussion begins
  4. 3D Printing: Somewhat less spoken these days, it will continue to break boundaries (and industries).
    • A: if you’re part of the gang, this can be good
    • B: health, arts&crafts, furniture, will be most affected
    • C: not much new
    • D: some regulation in health
  5. Smartphone Payment: It is bound to be huge, and is one of those things that if, as a client, you are resistant, after your first transaction you will adopt it.
    • A: only for the very cool kids to play – growth of systems to manage transactions on the seller side
    • B: shopping in general, banking, financial will be affected – early adoption stage for businesses
    • C: specialised investment available to any who qualify
    • D: nothing (unless it explodes); and maybe issues with lack of privacy from users
  6. Sharing Economy: Considering what Uber and AirBnB look like, the idea that “what is mine is ours for a fee” will grow.
    • A: besides the fat boys getting fatter, new kids will show up with all sorts of ideas
    • B: hospitality, transportation, real-estate, agriculture (small scale) will be affected
    • C: specialised investment available to any who qualify
    • D: much regulation (and ‘battles’ even)
  7. Software Integration, Cloud Computing & All-In-Ones
    • A: growth of CRMs, marketing & business management software, small new systems popping out and being acquired, and things getting cloudier than ever
    • B: “civil war” in the digital realms but traditional businesses will be only enhanced by making the best choice of partner
    • C: specialised investment available to any who qualify
    • D: some regulation if they are good monopoly players
  8. Free Wi-Fi Everywhere (NOPE, just kidding!) not in 2016.


Alex Gonçalves

Born some time ago, close to the sea and a huge statue of Christ upon a mountain, in explainable ways yours truly has built a love for the understanding of the world around us. This constant 'groove' of curiosity has branched in a love for all things business and marketing related, touching into the arts and a lot of what happens in between.