The most interesting startup opportunities in 2018

Since I joined Seedcamp as an EIR back in March, I’ve been considering where the biggest opportunities are for startups.

These are the areas where I think we’re still in the early stages of the industry or technology, or need some real innovation to drive better outcomes.

They’re also the areas where I think the overall opportunity is the biggest. This isn’t to say other areas aren’t interesting, I think these have the biggest potential to create companies that can positively affect large numbers of people.

If I was starting a new company, this is where I’d be looking.

1. Cyber security

Even before Server Density was acquired by StackPath, I thought that security was becoming a huge issue, both commercially and within the public sector.

Everything is online and with more and more devices getting direct internet access – both tiny devices in the home and critical industrial systems – the attack surface is expanding rapidly. Technology is advancing quickly and security is not being properly considered.

Having sufficient scale to be able to make real time decisions based on analysis of data will be the key to the success of future security products. This will give Amazon, Google and Microsoft significant advantages because they already see massive volumes of traffic, and make it harder for new startups to establish themselves.

Technology gets all the coverage but human aspects of security are just as important. Most people still don’t take even the most basic of precautions like using password managers and 2 factor authentication.

The market today has too many companies making too many marketing-driven claims without really delivering a coherent set of products, at scale. It will be interesting to see what Alphabet’s Chronicle comes up with. And of course I’m very excited by the things we’re building at StackPath.

2. Space

Elon Musk and SpaceX get all the press coverage for their amazing rocket launches but this is just the beginning. This graph from Founders Fund tells you everything you need to know about the opportunity in space technology:

Cost to launch 1kg of mass into orbit

I think we’re in the 1980s equivalent of the internet era: SpaceX’s rocket technology is analogous to the building the first network backbone cables and the likes of Spire, Planet and Astranis are like the early applications built on the Windows/Microsoft platforms.

The reduction in cost of launching payloads will have the same effect as increasing the speed and decreasing the cost of internet access – a huge market opportunity for a wide range of applications. This begins with near-Earth satellites but will eventually broaden out into the rest of the solar system. The Google/Facebook/Amazon equivalents in space have yet to be created.

3. Healthcare

Every country has their own system, which makes it difficult to create a healthcare company at global scale. That said, out of these three areas the ability to create a positive outcome for the user is the most immediate and direct.

The problems within healthcare are somewhat obvious. Healthcare today tends to focus mostly on reactive rather than proactive and preventative. Lifestyle improvements mean that the demographic is moving towards longer life but with more chronic conditions. And the current approach to funding healthcare is very inefficient and probably unsustainable in the future (in the UK, and very, very expensive in the US).

Just like with cybersecurity, innovative use of the increasing amount of data collected by our devices seems like the are to focus on. Unfortunately, the time to market is significantly longer because regulation adds a barrier for diagnostics and medical devices. Patient safety is crucial but there has to be balance with also allowing new developments.

I would like to see the controlled loosening of regulation like has been done in the financial services sector in the UK. The result has been an explosion of startups and London dominating in FinTech. Can it do the same for medical technology, too?