MAVA’s annual kick-off event, Crystal Ball, offers guests the rare opportunity to go deeper than what’s in the headlines. The series gives industry investors and leaders a chance to share their thoughts on the important trends they see for the coming year and share invaluable insights with audiences throughout the Mid-Atlantic and across the East Coast. Hosted in both Tysons and Baltimore, attendees heard from investors and subject matter experts addressing some of the most pressing issues of the year to watch for economic impact – both challenges and opportunities.
MAVA’s 2018 Crystal Ball Series highlights included:
Special Guest Speaker Tom Wheeler (Brookings; Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission) outlining the case for a ‘Public Interest API’ to ensure the future of an open internet, in an early public appearance following net neutrality’s repeal. Wheeler also spent time addressing key concerns surrounding ‘Web 3.0’ and its importance to business growth and US economic competitiveness and global leadership.
EY’s Jennifer Rewis sharing key insights on some of the unusual steps companies are taking in response to the biggest tax reform to hit the US tax code in more than 30 years. One illustrative example of this as not being ‘tax reform as usual’ was how companies are putting together steering committees that focus on fundamental structures and both short and long-term business strategies for changing up even basic business operations, as a way to take advantage of and address the new tax structure.
Fulcrum’s James Douglass diving into the next leg of transformative retention rate for companies, citing that companies today have to clear an 85% retention rate to be considered investible. Douglass identifies five pain points where companies can boost their top line: contact data systems, customer success, migration of quality assurance from an Agile to an Agile-Waterfall hybrid model deemed “Agilefall,” subscription management, and billing.
Harbert Growth Partners’ Tom Roberts focusing on the rise of investing in on-demand businesses, and how it comes down to “identifying companies that can make a transient, decentralized workforce succeed.” Citing companies that go beyond the well-known (Uber, Lyft), Roberts’ talk highlighted what current portfolio companies are doing today to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges.
JMI’s Ryan Russell speaking to the consumerization of enterprise IT, identified three key trends driving sector growth: for the first time the buyer and user is the same individual, growing familiarity with technology due to smartphone apps, and the reduced “switching costs” afforded by the cloud. Russell predicted that companies will continue to expand the breadth and depth of their customer feedback channels to survive, and that opportunities will continue for new entrants (and existing player willing to retool themselves) who embrace this shift.
NEA’s Justin Klein discussing the challenges of investing in medical technology companies, specifically how key fundamentals – market opportunity, exit opportunities, competitive advantages (including partnerships), strong capital base, and strength of the management team’s bench – are more important than ever before.
Updata’s Dan Moss explaining saturation of marketing automation, and how this is requiring companies to identify their top prospects, determine what channels to reach them through, and then sell to them using different data points than are used in the traditional funnel. Moss predicts that by 2021, 25% of all software will be sold without touching a sales representative, making account-based marketing critical to ensuring competitive advantage.
Core Capital’s Mark Levine focusing on what will happen next in the red-hot payments industry, which has seen 60+ venture-funded deals, countless acquisitions and significant capital entering the sector, just in the past 90 days. With the industry undergoing the largest transformative shift since PayPal, one area he recommended closing watching is tokenization of payments in geographic areas.