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5 Crucial Trends Entrepreneurs Should Keep An Eye On In The New Year

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By Joe Mullich

From new tax laws to new mandates about safeguarding personal data, 2018 promises a wave of disruption.

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And disruption means opportunity, says Steven Gal, a career entrepreneur and professor at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. He’s pinpointed five trends that will shake up the economic landscape in the year ahead.

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From new tax laws to new mandates about safeguarding personal data, 2018 promises a wave of disruption.

Intelligence Gets Augmented. From assembly line workers to lawyers, people are increasingly concerned that artificial intelligence will relieve them of their jobs.

Gal says, however, that as much as 75 percent of AI applications will work in tandem with humans. This sort of “augmented intelligence” will be particularly valuable in performing tasks where precise execution is required to fulfill relatively complicated plans.

Consider construction, where builders could save millions if they identify problems in advance. Architects, for example, could use augmented reality headsets to view projections of buildings they’re in the process of constructing. Studying a projection, an architect could determine that, say, his or her plans for ceiling ductwork have been incorrectly drafted – thus catching in advance a costly mistake of precisely the sort that often crops up in building projects.

Construction workers at a building site could use similar technology to see at a glance that building plans aren’t completely identical with what they’re actually building, letting them adjust on the fly.

Gal believes such technology will begin to appear at construction sites this year and will eventually make its way into homes to help DIYers.

Recruiting Women Becomes A Strategic Competitive Initiative. An overall wage gap still exists nationwide between men and women. But among single millennials who live in U.S. cities, women are out-earning men by 8 percent.

“This isn’t because the wage gap has narrowed, but because women are 50 percent more likely to graduate from college and be prepared for higher-paying knowledge economy jobs,” Gal explained.

Over the past three decades, women gradually started earning more bachelor’s degrees and more master’s degrees than men. By now they’re earning more doctorates, too.

“In 2018, we’re going to see that the ability to recruit and retain women will be recognized as the key to strategic competitive initiatives, because that’s where the talent is,” Gal said.

Companies will need to address a host of questions beyond “compliance” as they compete to recruit this talent: How do we attract the women we need to come work for us?  How can we create a better environment for them?  How do we get them to stay?

Finding Opportunity In Tax Reform. The tax reform bill that Congress recently passed will provide opportunities – both intended and unintended – for entrepreneurs.

“Tax reform is complicated and it was put together very quickly,” Gal said. “It’s going to be very disruptive.”

Financial advisors, tax attorneys and accountants will all see a nice business boost from the new law. However, the greater impact will come in the form of the new economic models the changes bring, Gal believes.

Revising the deductibility of property taxes in states like California, New Jersey and New York, for example, could change the cost-benefit analysis of when it pays to own property versus when it pays to share or rent it. That changing analysis could create new business opportunities, such as for entrepreneurs who are able to think up new Airbnb-type models.

Data Security Spurs Antitrust Sentiments. Facebook, Google and other technology giants have built their fortunes on their ability to gather and use huge amounts of data. But data breaches and other data-related concerns are putting a new emphasis on shifting control of data away from large technology companies and back to people.

The European Union’s sweeping new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect next May, represents a big change in this area. The legislation applies to all companies that do business in the EU – so many American companies will need to provide more stringent protection of data than the U.S. now requires.

“Europe has extraordinarily strong protection over things that affect identity,” Gal said. The U.S., by contrast, is “the Wild West.”

As such data-protection initiatives appear around the world, Gal believes, tech giants, long the darlings of media and venture capitalists, could find themselves under pressure within the U.S. to better safeguard information.

“The reaction of politicians in the U.S. will be jarring.  It’s not too extreme to talk about a political discourse that harkens back to the antitrust era, where they’re going to turn on these companies and talk about breaking them up,” Gal said.

Video Streaming Will Explode. Every major player in Hollywood and Silicon Valley – from Apple and Twitter to Disney and AMC – will be competing for people’s attention with new video streaming initiatives.

“You’re going to see a lot of new services come out in 2018,” Gal said. “If you’re anywhere in the video space, even as an advertiser or marketer, the question is how to deal with this tremendous variation in opportunities.”

He cautions entrepreneurs who are trying to benefit from this to expect first a huge surge, then a decline. People can only watch so much content and join so many services.

The key to exploring all these opportunities, Gal says, is to maintain a strict customer focus.

“When thinking about trends, the number one mistake that both inexperienced and even experienced entrepreneurs make is focusing all their time on building a product or service before they actually talk to the customer,” he said. “When you do that, you can end up with a huge disconnect between what you’re doing and what the customer actually wants, needs and is willing to pay for.”

Learn more about Cornell Johnson’s entrepreneurship curriculum and Two-Year MBA program.

Joe Mullich is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer on finance, economics and other topics for top publications and Fortune 500 companies.

 

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