We asked 11 amazing founders and investors to share a look back and predictions for the road ahead. Celebrity photographer Ashley Batz joined in to capture these trailblazers on the cusp between decades & author Alice Berman penned an essay about decade that was.
Often, at the close of a decade, we find ourselves straining our necks to look forward at what exciting things await us. The future, after all, is a more exciting prospect than the past: unknowns have a magnetic pull. But the past is what inevitably informs not only where we are today, but also where those distant, dim roads of the next ten years will take us, so as we close out the 2010s, we wanted to acknowledge everything that’s brought us here today, from technological breakthroughs to political shifts to cultural changes, for better and for worse.
Can you believe that ten years ago, we didn’t have Instagram? Or Uber, or Airbnb? Nor did we have wireless headphones, Bluetooth speakers, or iPads. Alexa was merely a girl’s name; people used to save the phone numbers of car services to their contacts or hail cabs on the street. The way that tech has exploded into our lives over the course of the past decade is astounding primarily in that it has changed the way daily tasks are undertaken: it has altered the actual fiber of our lives on an hour-to-hour basis. It shifted the way that we watch TV (remember Blockbuster?), the way that we travel, the way that we eat, the way that we monitor our physical fitness, the way that we communicate, the way that we learn, the way that we date. The 2010s gave rise to Direct to Consumer as a concept, to smash hits like Away and Glossier that now dominate the market. They brought us awareness and responsibility with our purchase power, focusing on things like sustainability and equality from the companies we support. Ads — at least for thoughtful businesses — became more inclusive of races, genders, and body types.
Overall, people came to have more understanding and awareness of the systemic biases that often refuse to give people of different genders and races a seat at the table. As issues like climate change came to the forefront of our lives, so too did the massive shifts wrought by the courageous people behind movements like #BlackLivesMatter & #MeToo. We’ve experienced ten years of growth and transformation, which was often painful, but has left us now with more knowledge, and, thus, more power, than ever before.
This decade brought us self-care and self driving cars and Adnan Syed’s case retried by podcast and social media influencers. We danced with Alexander Hamilton and a diverse cast rapping our nation’s history; we cheered as a record number of women were elected to the 116th Congress. Now you can donate money to a campaign through an Instagram link, pick your food or skincare products based on their organic ingredients, and personally repay the Bahamian woman whose life was ruined by Fyre Festival’s chaos and greed, all from the comfort of your iPhone screen, flying in a Blade, listening to the news on your Airpods. The world we live in is pushing us ever forward, into the tempting abyss of newness and excitement, but we walk towards our bright shining futures knowing that every choice we make has the ability to create and manifest real change.
Julia Collins, Founder & CEO — Planet FWD
Which trends do you think are most important for us to focus on in the next decade? Everything will be sustainable or regenerative. Food, fashion, transportation, 3PL… everything. Supply chains will have to become more transparent and carbon emissions will be accounted for across the value chain.
Read Julia Collins’ full interview here
Elizabeth Weil, Venture Capitalist
Where should we be looking for inspiration on “what’s next” in investing? Who are the people in your network that are super different from you and think about the things that you don’t think about? Look to them for inspiration and the opportunity to see around different corners.
Read Elizabeth Weil’s full interview here
Falon Fatemi, Founder & CEO — Node
Where should we be looking for inspiration on “what’s next” in investing? I would get inspiration from the happy accidents historically that have lead to the most meaningful innovations that we use on a daily basis. It’s crazy to believe that teflon was invented by a husband who worked at a rubber factory and a wife who was a prolific cook. Or that telephones had human switchboard operators. The most innovative ideas and inventions will continue come from unsuspecting scenarios and from diverse teams thinking about how to make our daily lives better at scale.
Read Falon Fatemi’s full interview here
Heidi Zak, Founder & Co-CEO — ThirdLove
Where should we be looking for inspiration on “what’s next” in investing? Spending time with teenagers to understand how they consume media, interact with each other, and the products/services that they can’t live without.
Read Heidi Zak’s full interview here
Ligaya Tichy, Founder — Wild Child
What are you personally invested in (on an emotional level) over the next decade? I’ve been thinking a lot about education and the role technology and media can play here. There’s been many attempts at integrating tech into learning, but a system-wide reset is in order and I’d like to be part of that.
Read Ligaya Tichy’s full interview here
Melody McCloskey, Founder & CEO — StyleSeat
Which trends do you think are most important for us to focus on in the next decade? Holistic beauty and well-being. People are exhausted trying to be desirable to a partner. They are not thrilled with the old models of working 9–5, or refreshing newsfeeds we want something more fulfilling. I think companies that can help people be more in tune with themselves and their loved ones will unlock something big that people want.
Also, there has also long been a culture of spend spend spend to grow which we don’t do. I think the handful of high profile businesses proving this is a high risk strategy will change the ecosystem in the next year.
Read Melody McCloskey’s full interview here
Paola Santana, Founder & CEO — Social Glass
What are you personally invested in (on an emotional level) over the next decade? In creating the world’s next political system after democracy, designing how it works, how is it shaped, how we allocate and distribute public resources, redefine the concept of public, and reimagine the function and operation of governments that work for the rest of us.
Read Paola Santana’s full interview here
Shruti Gandhi, Founder & General Partner — Array Ventures
Which trends do you think are most important for us to focus on in the next decade? Most software being used in companies is 15–20 years old so in the next decade there is an opportunity for enterprises to really revamp their software stack.
Read Shruti Gandhi’s full interview here
Steph Lampkin, Founder & CEO — Blendoor
Which trend for the coming year is your favorite: sustainability, personalization, or AI? AI.
Sterling Witzke, Partner — Winklevoss Capital
What are you personally invested in (on an emotional level) over the next decade? Startup culture shouldn’t be reserved for the coastal elites, yet over 75% of all venture dollars go to startups in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. As a native South Dakotan, I am personally invested in changing this. Intelligent people with world-changing ideas reside in every location, and democratizing their access to capital is something I am incredibly passionate about. I’ve recently joined a fund called Titletown Tech as their Chief Venture Advisor to help them in this exact mission. Titletown Tech is a joint partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft that invests in founders focused on improving technology in industries of great importance to the Midwest such as agriculture and manufacturing. I’m hopeful that within the next several years, more funds focused on investing in founders in secondary and tertiary markets will launch, and we will get closer to democratizing capital across geographies.
Read Sterling Witzke’s full interview here
Sarah Kunst, Founder & Managing Director — Cleo Capital
Where should we be looking for inspiration on “what’s next” in investing? There’s too much in our daily lives that we don’t question. Interrogating why the status quo exists and what it would take to change it in every area of our lives is what will drive the next wave of innovation and investment. Much like a 3 year old who responds to every piece of information with a simple ‘why?”, we must begin questioning the very fabric of our world. From climate change and ocean tech to birth control, education, the criminal justice system, housing, shopping, dating and our food supply, we owe it to ourselves to take a hard look at what is and imagine how it could be made more humane, inclusive and prosperous for all.
Read Sarah Kunst’s full interview here