Though it’s incredibly valuable to be an early adopter of 2012’s tech trends, it won’t hurt your company to be right on time with everyone else who is just discovering them now. It’s not too late to set up a presence on Pinterest and Instagram, and mobile apps aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

However, as always, new tech trends are on the horizon. From breakthrough online products to new features from established platforms, today’s startups should be jumping on the most promising of tomorrow’s trendy technology.

I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs the following question:

What tech trends are you watching closely in the second half of 2012?

Thirteen young entrepreneurs shared which exciting innovations they’ll be watching closely in the second half of 2012, and whether or not they’ll be putting time — and money — aside to pursue them.

1. YouTube Isn’t Utilized Enough

YouTube has been putting more influence on user engagement. Videos that keep the viewer watching longer and receiving likes are ranking higher than videos with lots of views. The name of the game now is quality content which keeps viewers watching past the golden 1-minute mark.

Raul Pla, SimpleWifi and UseABoat

2. Pinterest and Visual Search

Content was king last decade, images are reigning now. Pinterest is going to be the website to watch, along with other image-based social networking, search and sales websites. I think it is important for brands to have some rock-solid images that represent their company and what they do because a picture tells a thousand words.

Vanessa Van Petten, Science of People

3. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!

It’s crazy how much web traffic is being served to mobile phones now. It’s changing the landscape of web development, design, apps, business, and everything in between. You can’t ignore mobile, and yet most of the web isn’t optimized. I think increasingly new apps and publications will focus on mobile and tablets first, old web second. I’m excited to see the web move towards responsive design!

Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

4. Social Influence

As search engines get smarter and start working in more relevant social influence paramaters (+1’s, Facebook Likes, Klout, etc.), it’s going to completely shift the current landscape of online business. Those who can capitalize on this are going to see a lot of success moving forward.

Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

5. Eye Out for Airtime

I don’t really know how Airtime is going to play into the bigger business picture, but I’m really intrigued and keeping my eyes peeled for more.

Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool

6. APIs Are Everywhere!

APIs use to be only for the big guys, but now you’re seeing MVPs include APIs and almost everyone on talk to that doesn’t have an API has one on the road map. Heck, even the White House has issued a directive that all departments need to build an API in 90 days.

Wade Foster, Zapier

7. Personalization Technology

The next phase of the web will be about personalization. This involves concepts like how the navigation or content experience on the web changes for each unique user, or how to get the right product into the hands of the right consumer online. There are fascinating data and e-commerce implications to personalization. While it’s still early-stage, I’m excited to continue following this space.

Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

8. Monetization of Mobile

I believe there is huge untapped potential in the monetization is mobile, and I am curious to see whether new solutions are uncovered later this year and beyond.

Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring

9. Simplification, Seriously

By this point, we have all downloaded more apps than we can make use of and we are all victims of information overload. Companies, products and technologies that successfully cut through the clutter and deliver meaningful value will be in high demand. Look out for more products that aggregate and organize existing accounts and automatically scrub your inboxes, feeds and social media connections.

Christopher Kelly, NYC Conference Centers

10. Niche-Based Social Networks

As web surfers start to see the broad range of content they get on Facebook or Twitter that isn’t always relevant to them, they want to get the information they want. Likely, that is the cause of Facebook’s declining user numbers. This is Pinterest’s rise to power from people wanting to find their interests and network with those people.

Lane Sutton, Social Media from a Teen

11. Crowdfunding Gone Crazy

Crowdfunding is hot right now. While I’m not directly involved in the space, I can’t wait to see what results from the recent legal changes and that industry’s acceleration. It could open up a new host of opportunities for startups.

Brent Beshore, AdVentures

12. Valuations Aren’t Going Away

The jury is still out as to whether or not we are currently in another tech bubble. As a startup investor, it’s important for me to monitor both the public and private markets to see where the tech world will end up in a few years. Facebook’s IPO was a tell-tale sign that startup valuations are very unpredictable and susceptible to major changes.

Logan Lenz, Endagon

13. Augmented Reality?

I think this is really a game changer. The possibilities for designing interactions between physical and digital spaces are as boundless as the world around us. Besides, the big tech titans are already making moves with new hardware and software that will accelerate the integration into everyday life.

Henry Glucroft, little skips / Airdrop

Image Credit: Keith Costin