Grok Trends or What I Learned in 2018

Grok is a word coined by American writer Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. ‘Grok’ means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed — to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.

There are a lot of tech predictions at the beginning of each year. Scientists, engineers, and industrialists trying to sum up results of the past year and identify trends for the new.

But as it happens, opinions even from famous experts worth nothing. So I think that we can trust only data for figuring out what is going on in the world. Not forecasts, not estimates, only proven stats from trusted sources.

Therefore I want to share with you the most incredible facts and numbers from 2018 which were helping me understand our sophisticated technologies. All of them was published in my Telegram channel “Groks” and this article is like the digest of them.


  • The 25% jump of object detection precision requires 3000% increase in the amount of data, according to Google Research & Carnegie Mellon chart. Also, we know that North American data center investment nearly tripled to $20 billion. So the rush of big data is just beginning.
  • In 2019 roughly 10% of U.S. jobs will be eliminated by automation, which will also be responsible for creating the equivalent of 3% of today’s jobs. But now the United States has a record number of job openings. People in vain are afraid of artificial intelligence and automation. Be afraid of own professional unsuitability.
  • American technology companies spend 5 times more money on R&D than Chinese companies. The conclusions can be different, whether the Chinese are coping with less money, or whether the Americans are looking farther into the future.
  • Smartphone vendors shipped a total of 355.2 million units during the third quarter of 2018, resulting in a year-over-year decline of 6.0%. This was the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines for the global smartphone market. For me, it’s a signal that soon we will see a wave of new devices because huge corporations badly live in the already settled market. Innovations and novelties are needed for them.
  • Time spent on Facebook reduced by roughly 50 million hours every day because of changing algorithms of the news feed. Do you remember? In the beginning was the Word…The word of George Soros at a forum in Davos that Facebook and Google have become “obstacles to innovation” and are a “menace” to society whose “days are numbered”.

Venture & Equity

  • Once-scarce unicorn has become a global herd with 376 companies on the roster and counting. There’s a new “unicorn” born every four days. The new normal is reshaping venture capital (TechCrunch).
  • More than 80% of U.S.-listed initial public offerings in this year’s first three quarters involve companies that lost money in the 12 months leading up to their debut (WSJ).
  • 80 or 1.2% of all VC deals have attracted close to 25% of all VC dollars so far in 2018. The VC unicorn obsession is creating an early-stage funding wasteland (VentureBeat).
  • Late stage deals make 64% of projected global venture dollar volume, it higher by 22% than a year ago (TechCrunch).
  • In the second quarter of 2018, Chinese startups raised 47% of all reported VC dollar volume whereas North American companies raised 35% of the whole pie. Market grow primarily because of China, although venture capital investment in US companies to hit $100 billion (Technode).
  • M&A activity was brisk in the enterprise market this year, with 10 high-profile deals totaling almost $88 billion. Also, you might be interested in the largest software acquisition ever (TechCrunch).

Voice Tech

Don’t allow to the declining line of Amazon’s market share confuse yourself, total shipments have increased
  • The smart speaker market reached critical mass in 2018. With around 41% of US consumers now owning a voice-activated speaker, up from 21.5% in 2017 (TechCrunch).
  • Alexa now works with 20,000 devices from 3500+ brands. Impressive 5x jump from 4,000 devices in last year. Also, there are more than 40 000 skills available for Alexa (TechCrunch).
  • Baidu’s DuerOS AI assistant is now installed on more than 100 million devices, double growth for half a year. But it’s not only smart speakers. For comparison, Google Assistant is available on more than 400 million devices (VentureBeat).
  • Average American Echo owner spends $1,700 on Amazon per year, compared $1,000 for a just Amazon customer (The Guardian).
  • 33% of Echo owners make purchases by smart speaker. They began 38% more often to order goods of CPG category and annual revenues from such users are almost twice more, according to InfoScout. But The Information claims that only about 2% of Echo owners have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018 (InfoScout).
  • Amazon has more than 10,000 employees working on Alexa and Echo and over 2,200 open positions. Apple is far behind with Siri (Voicebot).

Leisure Economy

  • Fortnite reaches 200 million players. That is to say, Fortnite bests Russia and Japan to become world’s 8th most-populated place (TheNextWeb).
  • Tyler “Ninja” Blevins — a video gamer who became the №1 social “influencer” in sports — beating out Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Lionel Messi, and LeBron James — by playing Fortnite, earning on average $400,000 to $500,000 a month (Fortune).
  • Only one-third of players in Fortnite play a free game free of charge. For 37% of Fortnite spenders, this game is the first time they have made in-game purchases. Almost 70% of players spend more than 10 hours per week in Fortnite (Lendedu).
  • The average Fortnite player who coughs up money spends $84.67. For all players, spending and not spending, the average becomes $58.25. This is insane ARPU. Not surprisingly, that Epic Games banked a $3 billion profit in 2018 (Quartz).
  • WeChat mini games have now amassed nearly half a billion users. One of them—Tiao Yi Tiao accumulated 170 million daily active users within one month of its launch last December (Tech in Asia).

Leisure economy isn’t only about games

  • There are more than 400 million people monthly and 75 million people daily who spend at least one minute on Facebook Watch (Facebook).
  • Netflix is the highest grossing iOS app in 2018 with $790.2 million revenue, second — Tencent Video with $490.0 million revenue (Business Insider).
  • 80% of 800 million smartphone users in China streamed videos on their phones. TikTok’s video clips are now consuming about 9% of Chinese people’s time online. TikTok’s MAU is equal to 500M. That’s excluding the 100 million total users on, which ByteDance acquired in late 2017 (TechCrunch).


  • Amazon has ascended to the №3 spot in the U.S. digital ad market with 4% of the market. But advertising is Amazon’s fastest-growing segment with +139% YoY rate (Business Insider).
  • Over 90% of Facebook’s advertising revenue now comes from mobile. I want to remind that first mention of “mobile first” principle belongs to Eric Schmidt at Mobile World Congress 2010 (VentureBeat).
  • 23% of all ad impressions in mobile apps are in some way fraudulent. Overall, Juniper Research estimates $19 billion will be stolen this year by digital ad fraudsters (BuzzFeed).
  • 59% of consumers would rather go through additional channels to contact customer service than have to use their voice to communicate. Furthermore, 33% of all consumers and 52% of millennials would like to see all of their customer service needs serviced through automated channels (Business Insider).
  • Contact centers field 268 billion calls per year at a cost of $1.6 trillion. To put that in perspective, global advertising spend is $500 billion, meaning the cost of customer care — these billions of phone calls — is three times more than a company’s marketing expenses (TechCrunch).
  • Google pays Apple to be the default search engine on the iPhone. Goldman Sachs estimates these payments are now over $9 billion per year. In my previous digest, this number was equal to $3 billion (Business Insider).


  • Mobile commerce transactions in North America increased 13% YoY, Europe — 21%, in the Middle East and Africa — 33%. In Russia purchases from smartphones has increased an incredible 79% (but tablets falls 37%). All of these mean a paradigm shift. Just a few years ago people had used smartphones for studying the product but buying it from the desktop (Criteo).
  • Online retail sales in China soar past $1 trillion in 2017, an increase of 32% from 2016. While Internet Retailer estimates U.S. e-commerce growth of about 15% in 2017 to approximately $455 billion (Digital Commerce 360).
  • Roughly 92% of shoppers who start their search for a product on Amazon end up purchasing that product there. This is probably the main reason why Inc. handles nearly half of all online sales in the U.S (WSJ).
  • Amazon boasts about 5 million third-party sellers on its marketplace today, with an estimated 100,000 sellers hopping on-board every month. But 60% of merchants told Feedvisor in 2017 planned to diversify to other channels (TechCrunch).
  • Walmart has overtaken Apple to become the №3 online retailer in the U.S with 4% sales share, Amazon — 48%, eBay — 7.2% (TechCrunch).
  • Not only Whole Foods. For the last 5 year, Alibaba has invested almost $13 billion into its offline retail strategy (TechCrunch).
  • All segments of brick-and-mortar retail excluding Department Stores have a ratio >1.0 of companies opening vs closing. It means last year’s statements about retail apocalypse are fake news. By the way, if we look at Amazon’s stocks it becomes clear for whom it was favorable (IHL Group).


There is a Google Trends chart at the left side with dates: 4 September 2017–22 April 2018
  • Global cryptocurrency market capitalization has fallen from $835 to $126 billion (CoinMarketCap).
  • 81% of ICO’s were Scams, 6% were classified as Failed, 5% had Gone Dead, and 8% went on to trade on an exchange (BleepingComputer).
  • More than 30,000 people have fallen prey to ethereum-related cyber crime, losing an average of $7,500 each, total $225 million (Bloomberg).
  • Almost 20% of all bitcoins belong to less than 0.001% of bitcoin addresses. About 3% of cryptocurrency owners own almost 96% of bitcoins. Nice distribution of coin wealth for Satoshi and his friends (Medium).
  • One year ago Nvidia’s cryptocurrency chips sales amounted to $289 million. Now the company reported actual revenue of only $18 million (Reuters).
  • Cryptocurrency transaction volume has fallen by 7 times from $1,4 billion in Q1 to $200 million in Q3 (Juniper Research).
  • In November 2017 annualized global mining revenues were $7.211B with $1.452B of annualized estimated global mining costs, profitability was equal to 400%. But in November 2018 expenses exceeded incomes. Do you remember my antinomy? (Digiconomist).


  • Weekly social media use for news in the US has fallen to 45% (-6%). We continue to see a rise in the use of messaging apps for news as consumers look for more private spaces to communicate. For example, WhatsApp use for news has almost tripled since 2014 and has overtaken Twitter in importance in many countries (Reuters).
  • U.S. podcast ad revenues reached landmark $314 million, marking 86% growth year-over-year (iAB & PWC).
  • Apple Podcasts now hosts more than 550,000 active shows. 50 billion episodes have been streamed/downloaded since launch, 13.7 billion in 2017. Stuff You Should Know has officially become the first podcast to cross the fairly staggering 500 million download/stream mark (TechCrunch).
  • Roughly 50,000 audiobooks are recorded annually in the U.S, with sales across the sector growing by 20% last year (The Village Voice).


  • WeChat mini program accumulated users from Jan (2 million) to Dec (400 million) last year. But app downloads from Google Play and the iOS App Store in China surpassed 80 billion (Jisu App).
  • WeChat now boasts over 1 million mini programs, growing 72% from 580,000 in January 2018. For context, the App Store offered just 500,000 iOS apps from 2008 to 2012 (Business Insider).
  • WeChat-driven information consumption reached $33 billion. Messenger accounted for 34% of the total data traffic of Chinese users and contributed the employment of 20.3 million persons (WalkTheChat).
  • $15.4 trillion — transaction volume in Alipay and WeChat Pay. For perspective, credit-card giants Visa and Mastercard processed a combined $12.5 trillion in transactions last year — globally (WSJ).
  • There are more than 300 Android app stores in China. Also, there are 565 million players who spent $27.5 billion in games. 67% of these people are mobile players (Unilead).
  • China had a massive 58% increase in industrial robots purchased year-over-year, coming in at 138,000 installed in 2017. Over one-third of industrial robots purchased last year were installed in China (MIT).


  • By more than 400 million hours weekly internet consumption has increased in the US. Internet use at home soars to more than 17 hours per week (UCS).
  • Facebook’s $120 billion stock hit was the biggest single-day loss in US history (Business Insider).
  • 31% of consumers pay with cash, 27% use debit cards, and 18% use credit cards (Business Insider).
  • $23 billion — the price of sexism in the US. With Travis Kalanick Uber valuation was around $68 billion, without him — $45 billion (Recode).
  • $46 billion worth or 37% of all software on PCs is unlicensed, according to a study by BSA, the software alliance (Business Insider).
  • The App Store has quietly gotten as big as the global box office (Slate).
  • Worldwide PC shipments totaled 62.1 million units and grew for the first time in six years (Gartner).
  • Since launch in 2011 the number of rides in Yandex.Taxi exceeded one billion in October 2018. It’s 200% YoY growth. For perspective, Uber reached a point of one billion rides after 5 years in 2015, Lyft — after 6 years in September 2018 (Yandex).
  • More than 430 million users world-wide use UC Browser, which also becomes the first browser in India with 51% market share (WSJ).
  • WordPress is used by 32.5% of all the websites, that is a content management system market share of 59.6% (W3Techs).

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