I have spent the past two days mingling at Arctic 15, one of the many startup events they organize in Helsinki. As always, the best part of such gatherings is talking with a lot of people, hearing their ideas and sniffing out new trends. Here are a few interesting signals that I think are worth keeping an eye on:
1) Mobile services that solve real problems. Personally, I am a heavy user of mobile apps. Going for a run – I use an app. Listening to music – I use an app. Reading the news – I use an app. Waking up in the morning – I use an app. Taking the bus – I use an app. Shopping for food – I use an app. You get the picture.
As an investor and incurable do-gooder I sometimes find it frustrating, how much of this world’s creative potential is used on making apps for purely entertainment purposes or solving first world problems. Sure, all of the apps I mentioned make my life at least a bit easier, but only two really help me make more sustainable life choices – in this case, not needing a car.
So, I was happy to notice that at Arctic 15 there were several startups presenting smart tools that help people reduce their energy use and make smarter transport choices. The sharing economy is of course already a big thing, and I hope this too will become a major trend, because when sustainable lifestyle choices are fun and easy and actually improve your quality of life, people are more likely to make them.
2) Portal or mash-up apps. I mentioned that I am an app glutton. They do make things easier and more fun, BUT, quite often I find myself having to surf between several apps to get things done. For example, looking for holiday options the other day, I switched between OnTheFly, Airbnb and Hotels.com several times over.
Not surprisingly, companies are picking up on this, and lately I have come across several apps that are either already on the market or being developed that provide a single-stop service for the consumer who wants to compare different options or control several things from a single user interface.
3) Utilities as lifestyle choices. I have already written about this in Finnish: there is a new breed of wealthy, environmentally aware consumers, who like to parade their lifestyle choices much in the same way as fashion-conscious people like to show off their latest Mulberry bag or pair of Manolos.
The Tesla Powerwall is riding high on the crest of this wave. Essentially it is just a battery (and its eco-friendliness is open to criticism), but at the same time it represents so much more: a cool brand, sleek design, a chance to make a statement. The Nest thermostat, famously bought by Google, is another example.
At Arctic 15 I saw more of this, for example a home control system that allows the consumer to optimize energy use in lighting, appliances and heating. It was designed to be easy to use and it came with a very sleek-look. What’s not to love: you save the environment, save money AND get cool gadgets to boot.