Martin (Marty) Smith
January 6, 2014

Startup Trends 2014

Startups 2014 Trends on

Startup Trends in 2014 is a wide ocean of a topic (lol). Swimming around trying not be swept away I found a great macro trend report from Fjord. Fjord is owned by Accenture (so BIG) and they’ve taken a hip Forrester-like approach to the creation of an excellent and free annual trends report

Before diving into “cool 2014 startups” its useful to think of the tectonic plates startups will be surfing such as:

  • In Conversations With Objects (Internet of Things).
  • Living Conversations (Living Arrows or Shared Social Branding).
  • Invisible Money (New Social / Web Currencies).
  • To Serve or Not To Serve (DIY vs. Experience).
  • Every Product Is A Service Waiting To Happen (Learning to Think like Video Game Developers).

These five 2014 macro trends and the cool startups running after them will be today’s Editor of Chaos focus.

Next week’s Startup Trends 2014 II covers:

  • The Distributed Home (Startup Rich & Complicated).
  • What Health Care Is Doing (Complicated & Startup Rich).
  • What Insurance Is Doing (Underwriting Digital and Rich and Startup Rich).
  • Telco 3.0 (Can You Say M&A?).
  • You Are The Interface (Google glass & wearable tech but COSTLY and so Startup via APIs probably).

Fjord created great icons we will be using to organize this and next week’s Startup Trends 2014 report on Notes such as “Internet of Things” are my addons to Fjord’s organizing graphic:

Fjord 2014 Trends Icons

Internet of Things

Your fridge is about to talk to you dishwasher, car and phone. Big Data? We haven’t seen anything yet. What will having conversations and listening to objects be like? Money and time savings is the Internet of Things promise, but there is learning curve between here and there.

The algorithm smart enough to combine an alert that a customer’s Whirlpool dishwasher is ready for its five year maintenance with GPS information showing the customer shops for groceries at Harris Teeter, has redeemed several Cascade coupons, able to read and share maintenance calendars to suggest appointment dates/times with a simple “select” button to confirm and intelligent enough to toss in a Free Cascade coupon offer if the maintenance appointment is made today will make the Internet of Things a magical time saving Disneyland.

Cool startups exploring the big blue ocean that is The Internet of Things include:

  • Durham, NC based PlotWatt
  • Ann Arbor, MI (creates API easy to mashup layer for Internet of things).
  • Durham, NC based (innovative distribution system may create “healthy homes” as part of benefits).
  • Tampa, FL based (helps you tap your cars data).
  • Powell, Ohio based Ube controls your lights via a smart phone.
  • Washington, DC based creates an Internet of Things platform.

Living Conversations
(Shared Social Branding)

The conversation is king. Those who know how to seed and then harvest the gold of User Generated Content (UGC) and social shares UGC creates will fair better than those who don’t. Own the conversation to own the traffic. As we focus more on conversations and less on tools, platforms and websites we will see new ways to “own the conversation” such as:

  • San Francisco, CA based creates powerful “magazine” from content curation (another monster trend for 2014).
  • Mountain View, CA based Google’s G+ tool may be the most overlooked but best “conversation” tool out there.
  • Durham, NC based creates conversational project management tools.
  • San Francisco, CA based curates the social web to create viral stories and conversations.
  • Mountain View, CA based is a great Q&A conversation tool and social platform.
  • Seattle, WA based by be the best brand visualization tool ever created. Got an idea? Haiku Deck can help find an arresting visual.

Invisible Money

Money is changing from physical thing to virtual notion. As money morphs into Bitcoin or other “web currencies” what and how we pay is being transformed. 2014 will see an explosion of online “currency plays”. On the web “currency” can be anything. Currency might be a limited edition coin (Bitcoin) to the social shares, likes and links Internet marketers need to survive in a post Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird Google world. Money will be swiped, converted, manipulated, spun and floated in new ways next year thanks to an army of startups hellbent on becoming “the new money”:

  • San Francisco, CA based Square wins the ribbon for teaching us about money’s soon to be invisible state.
  • New York, New York based taught us about crowdfunding, a 2014 MONSTER TREND.
  • Chicago, IL based demonstrates the “Every Product Is A Service Too” idea and the “entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs” trend.
  • BitCoin – the Peer 2 Peer open source currency has been up down and up again, but it reminds us that money is different online.
  • Tronto, Canada based makes ecommerce a simple snap removing the pain of creating even a store.

To Serve Or Not To Serve

The online experience can feel cold, full of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. One of the hardest things to find out while writing this post is WHERE companies are located (Canadian companies being the happy exception). The web is a dislocation. Most startups promote THINGS not people. These companies seem to exist in cyber-space. There is no “there” there.

In 2014 experience will rule the day and too much DIY will create frustration and bitterness. Might be a good idea to adopt a tactic from our brother and sister startups to the north. Every Canadian startup included their mailing address and location on their home page (Bravo).

Customer frustration and bitterness don’t scale. LOVE and JOY work much better. Our advice is TO SERVE customers, be present in social media, follow and listen with all of our new magical tools and find ways to win advocacy, contribution and loyalty with tools such as:

  • Mountain View, CA based Google has the best “long form” communications tool with G+ and the really great news is the tool has a learning curve so is underused in most business segments. I know Google is hardly a “startup” but G+ is and think of it as more TOOL than SOCIAL NETWORK.
  • Durham, NC based Bronto remains my favorite email marketing tool thanks to its easy to use layout, a layout that handles nested what ifs like a knife through butter. Email isn’t dead, but it sure is different thanks to mobile and social, so use the best tool out there (and I’ve used ’em all).
  • San Bruno, CA based YouTube, though not a startup, is an important bridge between DIY and helpful community based content.
  • Kitchener, ON, Canada based VidYard.c0m helps create and analyze ROI analytics for video marketing (and video marketing bridges DIY and intimate customer service).
  • Cary, NC based remains my favorite Q&A content creation tool and Q&A content is great SEO food (sure to increase heuristic measures such as time on site, pages viewed and User Generated Content UGC provided and social shares).
  • Got a great note on GPlus from Greg Hyer about adding an easy way to add video to a website (finally). Thanks Greg!

Products Are Services Too

Once we move our thinking form “closed loop” and “lecture based” websites to social platforms the number, variety and value of services we offer explodes. Video game developers are leading this “think social platform, not limited in the box product” thinking:

“World of Warcraft” has lots of ways for you to customize your game. You can access lots of settings through your interface options. These options let you change how your camera moves, which features your game displays and how you use your mouse to target yourself or enemies. Your video options lets you change the level of detail in the game world, which can help compensate for a slow processor or limited graphics abilities.

But suppose you want to completely change the way your party’s health and mana bars look when you’re in a group or see how much money you have without opening your backpack. The WoW interface options can’t handle these requests — but third-party addons can.”

The secret is to open up your brand or company’s garage and share, share, learn and then share some more. “Can opening” a website forces its inside out and welcomes conversations, social presence and learning from customer feedback, metrics, User Generated Content, and social shares. Tools needed to create transformation range from advanced pattern analysis metrics tools to open source blog platforms.

How can your company hand over more of your P&L to your customers in 2014? Use tools such as:

  • Ottawa, ON, Canada makes ecommerce so easy everyone should have a store. B2B, B2C who cares, you should be selling something in 2014 if only because ecommerce teaches more faster than any other online marketing AND lessons learned are easily applicable to all Internet marketing.
  • San Francisco, CA based deserves another mention here since the promise of their API layer may be the fastest way to become an effective content curator. has a “shared board” function too, but it needs some enhancements before it is a real attention grabber.
  • New York, New York based show promise too. Morph “Editors of Chaos” into an effective content curation tool set and could ride two MONSTER TRENDS – the move to quality or flight from quantity and the rise in content curation as a marketing function that provides greater reach for less cost than almost any other Internet marketing tactic.
  • Open source WordPress Foundation should be on any Internet marketers list for how to open content up, mine User Generated Content and create with powerful open source code, addons and plugins.
  • Durham, NC based (my startup) isn’t out of beta yet, but our goal is to be the “can opener” mentioned above. Content marketing can easily become solipsistic, self referential and closed. SpinSnip is a movement we are experiencing NOW. Wish me luck and I will come back and link the site when it is out of mothballs (should be in the next few days).


Startup Trends 2014 II continues with more than 25 new startups in everything from smart homes to wearable tech. If we missed your favorite just let us know in comments and we will curate in. Thanks, Marty

WAIT! and Thanks

Congratulations on arriving at the bottom of’s first Startups Trends for 2014 post. We will follow this post with another covering five more tectonic trends and more cool startups next Tuesday. If you are a startup or know of a cool startup we should mention please share in a comment and we will curate in.

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Passionate cancer survivor, Internet marketer and former Director of Ecommerce who believes in Margaret Mead's quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Glad to be an "Editor of Chaos".

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