If only you knew what would blow up next on the tech scene. Psst… you can. Here’s a smart way to predict the next big trends.
If you’re looking for a formula to predict the next big tech trend, stop looking now. You won’t find a foolproof formula. The VCs behind the top firms prove again and again that they clearly have something going for them — although I’m not one to say whether that’s simply their incredibly intuitive gut or a complex equation locked in a vault behind a couple of large Rottweilers.
What I can tell you is that other than the big brains at VC firms, one of the best people to ask about the next big thing in tech is your friendly neighborhood tech recruiter. Specifically one who is privy to a broad portfolio of clients spanning a wide array of Tier 1 VCs.
The fact is, we have an advantage because we see across the whole range of their recent investments. This gives us unique visibility to the startups that will most likely be successful. We can spot the trends before anyone else.
Tech recruiters hold the keys to the next big thing
Some of the trends we’ve seen coming a long way out include Cloud, Big Data, “The Internet of Things” and mission-based technology such as crowd-funding platforms. The simple trick is that recruiters have access to a company’s back-end hiring database, so we can see exactly which positions are open and how openings there are.
For example, recently, there’s been a significant uptick in demand for data scientists and machine learning specialists for Big Data, and for cognitive scientists who are critical in helping companies understand how humans engage with technology — whether it be mobile social networks and online communities, or Google Glass and smart watches.
As recruiting firms increasingly invest in technology to make the search world more effective, they’ll become even better at spotting the next big thing. Imagine, for example, if we had access to a program that could follow who’s moving from one company to the next and where those people have been. Some companies — PayPal and Salesforce to name a couple — are known for churning out entrepreneurs, and these execs bring the crowd along with them.
If you could visualize who’s moving from a successful company to a new opportunity, you could probably state with considerable confidence what the next hot company would be. As the saying goes about A players: ”A’s attract A’s and B’s attract C’s!”
Follow the money
Of course, recruiters are pretty stealth. We don’t publish the jobs we’re working on and generally don’t announce placements we’ve made. But, it’s relatively easy to see where VCs are investing. If you want to infer the next big thing, it’s a good idea to follow the companies backed by top tier funds.
The firms to keep your eye on are Kleiner-Perkins, Sequoia, Benchmark, Accel, Greylock, Andreessen-Horowitz and Khosla. You can gather your own data by subscribing to free newsletters such as Pitchbook News and the CB Insights Funding Flash.
You can gain even more insight by looking to the younger set in your own family. Kids may be the best at spotting tech trends without even knowing they’re doing it. These days, teenagers are earliest adopters of apps like Snapchat and Whatsapp and practices such as media streaming. In my family, there’s no fight over the TV because our kids watch everything on laptops and portable devices.
There’s no magic crystal ball for spotting the next hot trend or startup. Whether a company will be successful depends on a variety of factors, but one of the chief indicators is people. The more access we have on the data surrounding those people, the better we’ll be at predicting the next big thing. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Iain Grant is a partner with Riviera Partners, a technical recruiting firm in Silicon Valley. Iain is responsible for managing executive-level searches for Riviera’s retained practice, where he focuses on helping companies meet the challenge of growing beyond the start-up phase by recruiting world class leaders.