2021 Predictions From Triangle Tech Luminaries

Despite what this graphic suggests, Pete can't actually see the future. Thankfully, he's gotten some help from his friends in the Triangle tech community.

We at GrepBeat have never claimed to have a crystal ball. We do, however, have a solid Rolodex. Sorry, we mean “email contact list.”

So as we collectively turn the page on 2020—and thank goodness!—we turned to some boldface names from the Triangle tech community to give us some predictions on what lies ahead in 2021. Enjoy!

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Robbie Allen, Co-Founder and CEO, Startomatic

Here are five can’t-miss 2021 predictions for you!

1) A record number of new companies will be started (yea Startomatic), funded (yea local VCs), and sold (yea entrepreneurs) in 2021.

2) GrepBeat will expand its empire to include new podcasts with at least one gaining a cult-like following. (Smart potential sponsors should contact GrepBeat NOW!)

3) UNC will sweep Duke in college basketball.

4) Going against earlier pronouncements, Robbie will only make four 2021 predictions.

5)

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Tina Cochrane, VP/Client Development, Dualboot Partners

Remote working is becoming socially acceptable and lots of people are leaving cities like NYC and moving to Raleigh. The exodus will result in an increase in entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh and great opportunity for angel investors and early-stage VCs to find investment opportunities.

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Joe Colopy, GrepBeat Godfather

The Triangle Tech community will continue its momentum post-pandemic with aspiring entrepreneurs and their startups migrating out of the Northeast and Silicon Valley to here. And, more importantly, I will finally be asked to participate in the next season on The Masked Singer. I can’t wait.

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Jan Davis, Founder of Davis Growth Partners and active angel investor

In Q1 2021, people will begin wearing pajama tops for Zoom calls along with their pajama bottoms, and everyone will think that is OK! By Q4, people will be Zooming in from Costa Rica in swimsuits, and that will also be OK!

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Lister Delgado, Managing Partner, IDEA Fund Partners

I predict the following (from highest to lowest degree of confidence)

1) IDEA Fund Partners will make multiple investments in 2021 in companies with underrepresented founders (Black, Hispanic, women)

2) Lister Delgado will stop paying tuition for one of his children’s educations

3) The Miami Dolphins will make the playoffs

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Sonja Ebron, CEO, Courtroom5

2021 will mark the beginning of the end for the “technical co-founder” as no-code app builders reach the mainstream and allow anyone to test innovative ideas in the marketplace.

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Robbie Hardy, Founder and Chair, xElle Ventures

Technology, Technology, Technology: That is the mantra for 2021. It is the backbone behind almost everything BUT is not often given credit for all that it empowers. If there had a been a pandemic even five years ago, life would have been very different than what we are experiencing today. The ability to connect and communicate simply and easily was our savior. So drug discovery saves lives and gets a lot of press, but where would drug discovery be without the data crunching/analysis to make that science relevant?

So, Zoom technology was the 2020 poster child for survival. Love it or hate it, it was our drug of choice to survive. Now there is a hunger for even better apps to connect and communicate and the innovation that is being contemplated, dreamed about is vast and will explode in 2021. Some will be huge flops but others will change our lives and we need both. So here’s to all that is possible in 2021.

Female Entrepreneur Explosion: We have always had those who choose to be entrepreneurs; they have a dream or a vision to create something better or different. But now we have the droves of unintended entrepreneurs who have lost their jobs and are looking for how to pay their bills. This will drive some very different but interesting innovation from this cadre of entrepreneurs, who are mostly women. These unintended entrepreneurs have many roles—family caregiver, homeschool teacher—and they also need to bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. These women will find some new problems to solve and since they are such great problem-solvers, they will do it well. Look out for some exciting innovations from female founders.

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Jesse Jones, Founder and Lead Attorney, Fourscore Business Law

2021 will see an uptick in investor interest from the Northeast and West Coast as everyone continues to get more comfortable being remote. This will result in both higher pre-money valuations for early-stage startups in the Triangle and the continued influx of parts of companies that can be stashed in locations with reasonable costs of living. Overall it will be a good thing, but local investors won’t like it much.

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Nick Jordan, CEO, Smashing Boxes

I think that we are just at the beginning of a new wave of investment into technology companies and ideas. COVID-19 forced us to evaluate what tools are needed in all aspects of life to help us do more with less and to do more things (eat, learn, stay happy, work, play, etc…) remotely. So big-picture, this is great for the industry.

At the same time, I do not feel like we are going to go straight up and to the right as a macro economy. We have some bumps in optimism as the year was ending, elections were basically concluded, and vaccines were announced. I feel like that wave might come crashing down in late Q1 as we realize that, optimism aside, we are still in a pandemic and businesses are still strained and isolation and social distancing still takes its toll on well-being. This will be followed by a renewed surge and sense of optimism as we roll into the summer and hopefully we never look back.

As our local market is still only a fledgling market in tech, startups, and venture investment, we will probably see the same lumpiness as the economy as a whole versus just the tech industry. New opportunities, new ideas, and new companies will absolutely get created, as many already have, out of this new set of challenges and circumstances. It’s as good a time as any to start a company. The big news and the results of what these companies and entrepreneurs achieve is probably a year out though b/c our market will be distracted by the national news, and companies take awhile to get traction.

So, in summary, I think a LOT will happen in the tech and entrepreneurial space here in the Triangle, but the results and amazing stuff that arises out of the challenges likely won’t be covered or known until late 2021 or early 2022.

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Sarah Leners, Senior Associate, Bull City Venture Partners

The entrepreneurial spirit will remain strong in 2021 and we will continue to see innovation and an increasing number of high-quality startups emerge from the Triangle.

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Brooks Malone, Partner, Hughes Pittman

I predict that SAFE agreements (simple agreement for future equity) will be a more standard form of early-stage funding in 2021, especially with the area attracting more experienced entrepreneurs from larger cities due to COVID-19. They are being used in the area already. Also COVID has proven that a remote workforce can be widely successful, which may lead to more out-of-state companies hiring in the Triangle that either work from home or get their own space in one of the area co-working locations. Lastly Congress is likely to approve more stimulus, infrastructure spending, and a potential modest corporate tax increase. The magnitude of each will be determined by the outcome of the Georgia Senate run-off elections.

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Jessica Mitsch, CEO, Momentum

As a company focused on training the workforce for the demands of the tech industry, Momentum is in constant contact with employers. At the end of 2020, we had a goal to meet with 50 employers across the country. Most of the companies we spoke with have large workforces (2,000+ employees). We had engaging conversations with leaders in HR, Talent Acquisition, and Engineering management. Based on the information gathered in those conversations, these are my predictions:

— More tech companies will shift to fully remote workforces and as a result, we will see the Raleigh/Durham region continue to grow with “newcomers” and “boomerangers” (people from the region who will return). We will also see the competition for local talent grow as local talent will find increased opportunities to work for companies like Google, Atlassian, Shopify, and other big names. This may result in local employers needing to get more competitive with salary and benefits packages to recruit top talent. Shopify, for example, is already engaged locally with hiring from Momentum and has shared with us that they’re excited about recruiting more talent from metro areas like ours.

— Cybersecurity talent will be a hotter commodity than software engineers. We asked each company we spoke with to let us know what their biggest challenge was in recruiting talent right now and almost every leader replied with “cybersecurity”. In 2020 we saw Momentum graduates find roles in cybersecurity, transferring Python coding knowledge to the field. We will be finding ways to prepare the workforce for this demand in 2021.

— The last half of 2021 will give co-working spaces like American Underground, Frontier, and Raleigh Founded a big boom. As vaccines continue to get distributed, people feel safer with safety procedures, and general fatigue from working from home happens, people will return to co-working spaces in droves to find community. I believe we’ll see a rise in individuals seeking space in co-working spaces and possibly have their employers sponsor payments for individual co-working. We’ll see a real mix of talent from national and international companies work near each other in these community spaces.

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Kevin Mosley, Partner, Jurassic Capital

— Fundraising will double its previous yearly record in the Triangle in 2021. With the low interest rates/cost of capital, investors need to continue to take riskier bets to try and get returns.

— Three first-time funds will be created in the Triangle in 2021, while 5+ firms from traditional hubs (West Coast, Northeast) will create funds focused on the Southeast as investors recognize the opportunity here.

— Public valuations for tech will continue at all-time highs, trickling down to higher private valuations.

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Mitch Mumma, Managing General Partner, Intersouth Partners

In 2021, I think the Triangle will benefit from the permanent COVID fallout of working remotely. Specifically, remote working will make investors less concerned about where a company is located since talent doesn’t need to geographically concentrate anymore. That will allow investment funds to flow more frequently to tech hubs outside the Big Three.

Secondly, tech workers will increasingly move to places where the quality of life is better. The Triangle has already shown to be one of those places. We should encourage and plan for this to happen.

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Randy Myer, Managing Director, Carolina Angel Network

Prediction: the number of eligible angels will expand because of the new SEC standards (approved several weeks ago) that opens the doors for investment professionals who do not meet the accreditation $ standards.

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Kelly Pfrommer, CEO, Cloud Giants

Happy 2021, thank goodness 2020 is over. Remember last year when people were fighting over if 2020 was the end of a decade or the beginning…. well, now that we know how 2020 turned out, I’d say it was definitely the end of the decade. I’m personally starting a fresh decade in 2021!!

Predictions/guesses/hopes:

— Given the roll-out of COVID vaccines in 2021, life will start to feel more normal. In-person events will become easier to attend and conduct safely, but many with the option to allow for remote participation

— There will be many more businesses starting up and lifting off in 2021 in the Triangle. I know of one in particular that is going to have a bright future—our very own RevdUp (revdup.io) will be making some waves this year. 🙂

— More commercial real estate campuses will need to reassess how they plan spaces so that they can attract businesses to use their space now that so many companies know that can operate well remotely. The Frontier is well ahead of the curve in this respect.

— Once all schools can safely open for in-person classes, that’s when things will really start to speed up again.

I’m really excited for this year! It will still be bumpy, but the future is bright. Out of the many tragedies and hardships that COVID has caused, there are already so many incredible improvements to life that we’ll continue to see come to fruition. I for one, will continue to order my groceries. I don’t miss the busy stores. If only Trader Joe’s could be easier to get products from without stepping in to their stores. Their chili onion crunch is the best!

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Joe Procopio, COO, Precision Fermentation

In 2021, no-code will do for SaaS what the iPhone did for mobile apps in the early 2010s—good, bad, and ugly.

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Kelly Rowell, Interim CEO, CED

Here are CED’s Predictions! Happy New Year.

— NC-based companies will raise more than $2 billion in equity, assuming Epic Games doesn’t raise more money to buy all of Cary.

— NC Ecosystem will rank in top 10 for the number of companies raising over $1M in a single round.

— RTP will strengthen as an AgTech Hub with a new agtech fund and a continual flow of European-based companies setting up U.S. Operations.

— CED anticipates three Triangle IPOs in 2021.

— Gaming will be the fastest-growing of the tech sectors in Triangle.

— Live Oak Bank will back three more banking-tech companies furthering North Carolina as the Fintech Hub Epicenter.

— NC gains serious street cred with 10 new gene therapy companies moving to the state.

— A breakthrough application in quantum computing demos at NCSU or Duke.

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Adam Smith, CEO, Wrangle

— Remote work becomes permanent. Even when Covid is finally gone, working from home is here to stay.

— No-code platforms will become a major change agent for tech companies as more and more business users automate their businesses on their own.

— The number of new businesses started will be at a record high.

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Bill Spruill, CEO, Global Data Consortium

Rather than just companies, more individual talent will relocate to the region than ever before. They will be attracted by the opportunities, access and all of the other reasons why people find the Triangle and NC a great place to be as a technology worker.

Hybrid work environments will flourish as a trend despite the introduction of a vaccine. Area restaurants will learn new delivery, food prep (think ghost kitchens) and experience-based marketing models in order to survive.

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About Pete McEntegart 37 Articles
I've worn many hats, but my current chapeau* is as Managing Editor of GrepBeat, which covers the Raleigh-Durham tech scene, especially tech startups. Sign up for our Tuesday-Thursday email newsletter at grepbeat.com. Hope to see you around the Triangle! (*chapeau is French for "pretentious")