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Heading into 2010, the country was in the depths of a great recession. A year later, the triumphs of technology have begun to pave the way for a new wave of optimism; and now, entrepreneurs and investors alike are using the momentum of this past year to springboard the community into the new, and potentially, more exciting year.

Before we get lost, however, in the new and exciting innovations that are bound to arise in the new year, I wanted to take this chance to reflect on the past year to not only highlight the successes, but also, to recognize the patterns that will carry us into the new year. Below is my recap of the key accomplishments from 2010:

  1. Boom of group deals and flash sales. No doubt, the emergence of these deals tops the list with the runaway success of Groupon and Gilt Groupe. Within a year, these sites went from intriguing (but not popular) sites, to billion-dollar, cash-flow generating machines. Furthermore, each of the companies, within their respective niche, have spawned a new generation of clones and derivatives that, in total, have only begun to tap the ever-growing online to offline commerce market. As local merchants and retailers realize the connection in point of sale from offline to online, these businesses will only continue to grow as they provide businesses new ways to advertise and promote.
  2. Proliferation of social location-based services. The adoption of the “check-in” by the masses (i.e. Facebook) is a huge win for location-based services, namely Foursquare, Loopt, SCVNGR and Gowalla. At the beginning of the year, the check-in was still a mere fad amongst early-adopters and an interesting way to share location. Now, these services are being used by millions of people, and have begun to turn the smartphone into an easier way for local retailers and merchants to connect to their customers. The fast adoption of mobile devices, LBS and mobile retail could be one of the most exciting spaces for the next few years…a big win in 2010, and potentially an even bigger win in 2011.
  3. Emergence of internet television. Okay, I agree this might be a stretch, but the emergence of internet-enabled television devices and apps has finally begun to put pressure on traditional cable establishments. Services like Hulu, Netflix and devices like Roku, Apple TV and Boxee, although not enough in their current form to completely replace cable, have started knocking hard enough on traditional models of consumption that cable providers have begun to seriously consider how to combat (or, I hope, adapt to) new pressures. This story is still yet to play out, but the emergence of these technologies over the past year have sure set the table for an interesting, and I hope beneficial, transformation over the upcoming years. Let’s just hope net neutrality wins out…
  4. Breakthrough of the tablet (ahem, the iPad). I’m not a huge gadget freak (although, yes, I am an Apple Fanboy), but the release of the iPad has begun to transform the netbook (and even mobile and laptop) markets. iPads to date have been flying off the shelves, even with some noticeable flaws, and now that the new iPad is set to be released, along with various versions of an Andriod enabled tablet, a RIM tablet, a Microsoft tablet, etc., it is clear, there is a very clear market segment for these devices…congratulations Steve Jobs (yes, I’m smiling)!

Now, this list is obviously not exhaustive; however, what it begins to demonstrate is that there are some key trends that are beginning to drive innovation and change in technology. Each of these successes in the industry reveals a few key drivers that will only remain prevalent in the future:

  1. Mobile is not just important, it is vital. The smartphone has been around for a few years now, but this past year demonstrated the overarching theme that smartphones are now becoming a crucial medium in which owners consume information. This chart below (courtesy of my colleague from BCV) only begins to demonstrate how vital mobile will be in the future of technology.
  2. Social is here to stay. Facebook has redefined the web. At its root, Facebook is changing the way we consume information, and through the use of Facebook Connect, is allowing every website to tap into our personal network to customize the web. Social discovery is the key to creating more efficient markets and easier access to information, Facebook Connect is only the first step.
  3. Convenience and savings are better than tradition. This is not a new trend, but as group deals and cheaper mediums in which to consume information begin to become more easily accessible, traditional establishments of retail and information consumption will be challenged. The biggest value proposition to a consumer is time and dollar savings; if traditional models cannot compete, disruption is inevitable.

So yes, 2010 was an exciting year. As a tech junkie, I was amazed at the constant pace of disruptive innovation. Now though, the past is the past – what will the new year bring? In my next post I will preview 2011, and provide my personal perspective on why 2011 will be even more exciting. But for now, enjoy the last few days of the year, take the time to reflect and prepare for what is bound to be an even more exciting year!

As always, I appreciate comments and discussions on each of these posts. I don’t profess to always be right, but I hope my thoughts can be used as a springboard for further discourse.

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