Five Entrepreneurship Trends to Watch in 2015

By: Joan Siefert Rose, President of CED

By tapping into the country’s largest network of entrepreneurs, investors and thought-leaders, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) is applying its unique perspective on entrepreneurship in North Carolina to predict the trends to expect here and in other entrepreneurial hubs across the country in the year ahead.  Here’s what to look for in 2015:

Security is the New Black.  Nearly every business has embraced cloud, mobile and big data, incorporating them into their businesses.  But how do you keep that data secure?  The Sony Pictures and other high-profile data breaches this past year have shown how important data security has become.  Investors tell us they’re trying to put their money to work in this sector, but there simply aren’t enough B2B, enterprise-class software companies focused on security right now.  Look for this to change as these investors and data-savvy businesses drive development of the next generation of security solutions.

Corporate Venture Rides to the Rescue.  With traditional venture activity easing up in areas of the country outside California and New York, corporate venture dollars have helped fill some of the void.  Over $3 billion was invested by these funds in 2013 and they are set to equal or surpass their year–2000 high water mark in 2014.  With huge reductions in internal R8D and post-recession war chests of cash-on-hand, these corporations will continue to fuel this funding trend. They also are starting to work with very early-stage companies, and while investments have typically come from pharmaceutical companies, tech and agribusiness corporates are beginning to join the trend.  We expect more corporations from a wider swath of sectors to provide funding to entrepreneurs in 2015.

Growing Startups to ScaleUps.  A number of regions around the country are fortunate to have vibrant startup communities.  But if areas like Austin, Chicago, the Triangle, and Washington D.C. want to catch up to Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston, they’ll have to build sustained ScaleUp communities as well. ScaleUps – companies with customer traction, revenue and partnerships, and annual growth of at least 20 percent for 3 years – create jobs, develop new markets, attract talent and investment, and provide the basis for continued growth.  Once companies have graduated from the thousands of co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators that cater to startups the level of support drops off.  The rising entrepreneurial hubs will need to work in 2015 to build the support networks required to help companies ScaleUp and break out of the pack.

Nascent Tech Clusters are Emerging, but Need a Push.  Ed tech, Internet of things, Ag tech, and advanced manufacturing are all gaining momentum, but the leaders in those sub-sectors need to coordinate and collaborate in order to take the next step.  There is a desire within these communities to create density, which will lead to investment and more momentum, but companies and their support systems haven’t been able to properly connect the dots.  Look for renewed efforts to organize these groups into more credible clusters and for one or more of them to gain real traction with the investment community.

Developing New Cures through Venture Philanthropy.  Strategic partnerships are becoming a driver of innovation in the biotech sector.  Venture Philanthropy, specifically, will play an even bigger role in developing new therapies.  Patient advocacy groups are generating momentum for research while also supplying access to patients, pharma  partnerships, and funding.  Research into orphan diseases is now primarily driven by venture philanthropy in biotech and we expect to see this trend accelerate in 2015.  A number of these partnerships already exist and will either expand or seed other collaborations: BioKier and the American Heart Association; Parion Sciences and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics; Eboo Pharmaceuticals and the Michael J Fox Foundation; and Liquidia Technologies and the Gates Foundation.

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