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Looking Ahead: Five Opportunities on The Horizon According to Tech Leaders


4 min read

Dozens of top leaders and thinkers from the tech industry and beyond recently joined us for a series of fireside chats commemorating Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. Over the course of 24 hours of conversation, these leaders shared their thoughts on everything from entrepreneurship to mental health — and how the Internet will continue to play a vital role.

Here are some of the highlights.

On the global opportunity for entrepreneurs

Anu Hariharan
Partner, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund

Fast forwarding ten years from now, I think entrepreneurship is global, and you're already seeing signs of that. 27% of YC startups are headquartered outside the US. And I'm willing to bet that in a decade, at least 50% of YC startups will be headquartered outside the US. And so I think the sheer nature of the Internet democratizing information, more companies being global, like Facebook, Google, Uber — talent is everywhere. I think you will see multi-billion dollar companies coming out of other regions.

People have this perception that everything is a zero sum game, or that we are already at peak Internet penetration. Absolutely not. The global market cap is ~$85 trillion. Less than 10% is e-commerce. Internet enabled businesses is $8 trillion. So even if you play this out for another twenty years, Internet enabled businesses should be at least $66 trillion. So we have a lot more to go. And I think the zero sum game that investors tend to think of, what we've gotten wrong is — most of these Internet enabled businesses are expanding TAM.

Watch the full interview

On democratizing and normalizing mental health

Karan Singh
Co-founder and COO of Ginger

Our vision is a world where mental health is never an obstacle, and that's a never-ending vision. I don't think that will be done in 10 years, but I am hopeful that in 10 years or even well before that, this whole new virtual-first sort of care paradigm can really start to take shape, where you start digitally and then progress to an in-person should you need it.

And for some people who are more acute, or in specific situations, they absolutely do need to see an in-person provider. But for many people, starting virtual — virtual being the default — feels like a more democratic and equitable experience in the world.

Watch the full interview

On leveling the playing field

Jennifer Hyman,
CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway

Where I'm optimistic is that I think that in a life post-vaccine, when kids are back in school, when things are a little bit more normal, businesses are no longer going to require their employees to come to work five days a week in the same way and in the same structure that existed in the past. We realize that because of technology, we can work more flexibly, we can work more virtually.

And I think that that is going to have unlocks for everyone, don't get me wrong, but it'll have huge unlocks for women who are often the ones making the sacrifice to spend more time with the kids, be at home, do all of the house-related leadership, so I think that this will be a great equalizer in many ways.

Watch the full interview

On expecting the unexpected

Eric Schmidt
Former CEO & Executive Chairman, Google
Co-Founder, Schmidt Futures

It seems to me that the gains in machine learning and the investment that everyone, including Cloudflare, Google, et cetera, is putting in it — are going to yield a whole new set of applications.

We should expect more of the unexpected because of the level of investment. And so the people who sit there and say, oh, you know, it's Apple and Google and Amazon and Microsoft and so forth, and it's all done. They're missing the narrative. The narrative is that there's a new platform emerging which the big guys and the new guys, the new little guys are going to compete over. And that competition will generally be incredibly helpful. It will produce very significant large companies as they figure out a way to monetize. But more importantly, it'll have an impact on society, both in terms of entertainment, as we saw with TikTok and its predecessors, but also in terms of information and productivity.

Watch the full interview

On the future of video conferencing

Eric Yuan
Founder and CEO of Zoom

For now, if we all work from home, from a productivity perspective there's no productive loss. However, social interaction is a problem. Mental health is another problem. The reason why, no matter how good we think it is now — it cannot deliver a better experience than a face-to-face meeting.

If I didn’t see you for a while, and I wanted to give you a big hug — you cannot feel my intimacy over Zoom, right? And if you are getting a cup of coffee, I can not enjoy the smell, not like when you and I are in a Starbucks.

I think that technology-wise, in the future with those cutting edge technologies, we should believe that videoconferencing like Zoom can deliver a better experience than a face-to-face meeting. I shake hands with you remotely, you can feel my hand-shaking. And even if you speak a different language, with AI, with real-time language translation — I think those technologies can truly help make sure that online communication is better than face to face meeting. In the next 10 or 15 years, I think we will get there with some technology.

Watch the full interview

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

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Jason Kincaid|@jasonkincaid

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