SingularityHub is a website that explores future trends and technology breakthroughs, with an underlying nod to the idea of ‘the Singularity’ – the view that technological progress is exponential and heading to a moment that will radically transform society and even what it is to be human.
In an interesting article it covers an interview with a former CFO of Paypal – Roelof Botha – and explores with him the key emerging technologies of the next few years.
Botha said they’ve been in early on and followed the biggest trends in tech over the decades. In the 1980s, it was semiconductors. In the 1990s, the internet hit its stride with companies like Google and Yahoo. Since then, of course, mobile has been a big theme. So, what’s next?
“I’d say right now we’re at a very interesting time because it’s not obvious what the next platform is,” Botha said. “The phrase we’ve come up with is interregnum.”
Interregnum is the time a throne is vacant in between reigns, he explained. The “formidable five” of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook are dominant and hoovering up resources. So, Sequoia is looking for pockets of opportunity that “unfairly favor” the startup.
“Space is an interesting one…[and] there are some interesting things around genomics, epigenetics, CRISPR and gene editing, cryptocurrencies, augmented reality, and virtual reality,” Botha said. “There are a bunch of emerging areas, and we’re exploring all of those. Even quantum computing these days looks like it might finally be something to our life.”
Interest and even investment in a particular area or technology is no guarantee they’ll succeed. He said typically only three or four companies drive the returns of a fund with 35 or 40 companies in it. Making sure you find those three or four companies is both art and science.
“Well, the key question we always ask is why now? If a company can’t answer that question, there’s usually a reason not to invest. But sometimes something hasn’t worked for 20 years for a reason, and now truly is the time where it does make sense.”
Forecasting the cycles of hope and hype in technology is still incredibly difficult, and no one gets it just right. Some exciting technologies seem to be just around the corner, only to die out or hit unexpected roadblocks and get kicked ever further down the road.
Still, we live in a pretty amazing time in history, and over the decades, some emerging technologies will rise up and affect our lives profoundly. What is Botha most excited about in the next few years? What “strikes his heart” as Diamandis put it?
“I’d love to see us innovate in augmented reality,” Botha said.