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This article was published on January 3, 2012

5 startup trends for 2012

5 startup trends for 2012
Martin SFP Bryant
Story by

Martin SFP Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

As we enter 2012, what trends will we see amongst the startups that emerge this year? Here we take a look at some of the themes that are likely to run throughout the year.

The battle for the opinion graph

In our look forward to social media in 2012, our own Nancy Messieh noted how Facebook’s dominance would be challenged by niche, often mobile-based, social networks this year. However, also look out for startups that aim to challenge the dominance of the ‘Like’ button as a metric of our tastes.

Kevin Rose’s Oink has got off to a strong start with its beautifully presented way of reviewing anything and everything. Meanwhile, Amen offers a fun way of working out what its users like by letting them set up strong opinions like “Three Kings is the best George Clooney movie” and letting others vote on them and suggest their own answers.

What startups such as Oink and Amen have in common is that through small amounts of individual user activity they can quickly build up rich databases of information that can be valuable to marketers but also fun and useful for individuals.


Marketplaces for experiences

Doing for the ‘experiences’ market what Airbnb did for short-term accommodation, a number of startups have emerged in recent weeks and months that allow individuals to sell their time doing guided tours, teaching skills or holding events. Booking and payments are generally taken care of by the startups, which take a cut of the fee charged for each activity.

We’ve previously covered Germany’s Gidsy, which is active in Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and San Francisco, although Vayable, SideTour, Blink Collective and MyGuidie and more have all sprung up with similar offerings around the same time. It will be interesting to see if any of these contenders can become the Airbnb or Groupon of this market. Vayable has already done a deal to market its experiences via Airbnb, which may bode well for its future.

However, the current players in this nascent market are only active in a small number of locations so far, so expect a race to scale among the better-funded players this year.


Peer-2-peer Work

Beyond people marketing their own ‘experiences’, a broader trend this year will be peer-2-peer labour. We’ve looked at this in depth during 2011, but 2012 could be when the concept really gets a foothold. Taskrabbit, for example allows people to hire themselves out to do ‘odd job’-type work, often for busy professionals and small businesses. Competitors are emerging, such as Viatask, while the experience marketplaces mentioned above are another example.

With the jobs market in a poor state in many Western economies, the idea of decentralised labour may become more popular this year, with individuals working for each other without the intermediary of an employer. If the startups that facilitate this can help to  take care of the self-employment tax headaches that come with such work, all the better.

Transforming the taxi market

Uber is the best known taxi startup in the USA, but we’ve previously noted that 2012 looks set to witness an explosion of similar services, particularly in Europe, where firms such as MyTaxi, Hailo and Kabbee are set to expand across the continent. Uber itself recently launched in Paris too, so expect a greater European presence from them too.

The different players in the market work in differing ways, some allowing drivers to bid for jobs from an app on their phones, and others acting as price comparison services for minicab firms. This is yet another example of startups facilitating peer-2-peer marketplaces. As with the experience marketplaces mentioned above, expect ‘turf wars’ as the currently disparate players in the market expand into overlapping territories.

Hardware and software fusion

Look out for more apps that interact with dedicated hardware this year. We’ve already seen health and fitness devices such as the Jawbone UP and the Wakemate make their mark over the past couple of years, but this year look out for smart peripherals popping up for all sorts of uses. There will soon be a device that tells your smartphone when you need to water your plants and there is already a solar-powered USB charger that shares your electricity savings figures with the world (pictured below).

Meanwhile, health and fitness devices are sure to become more advanced. We recently looked at soccer boots from Adidas that sent data back to an iPhone app.