Shifts brought on by the pandemic starting last year, including working from home, remote learning, video conferencing and expanded capabilities in services such as banking, will continue to influence businesses and technology.
Local tech leaders discuss what’s in store for 2021, including trends and things to watch for when it comes to technology and entrepreneurship in the region.
Derek Schmidt is the founder and CEO of DesignLoud, a website design and marketing agency, and SWELL Systems, a startup with a cloud-based application for business management. He said we can expect continued growth in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, clean energy, autonomous driving and solutions around health data.
“In 2020 we saw tremendous growth in various areas of technology, especially in video conferencing, online learning, telehealth, telemedicine and remote working software,” Schmidt said. “I strongly believe we will continue to see those applications and platforms grow throughout 2021.”
GWBJ: Are there any upcoming startups in the region that we will hear more about this year?
“Having grown up in Wilmington I have seen its transformation firsthand. This area is already home to some very talented entrepreneurs and startups. For example, Girard and Tracey Newkirk with Genesis Block, Stan Trofimchuk and David Reeser with OpiAID, Dallas Romanowski and Melissa Phillippi with Performance Culture, just to name a few.”
GWBJ: What are some new marketing strategies that businesses are using to reach their audience?
“I’m a big fan of omnichannel marketing, which, in short, is a marketing funnel that follows and adjusts itself based on the user’s interests and actions. As technology evolves and marketing experts use these new tools, we’ll see more relevant, personalized ads based on individual interests and where they are in the sales funnel.”
GWBJ: What should we keep an eye out for this year?
“2021 will continue to be a big year for video content. Insivia claims that mobile video consumption rises by 100% every year. According to Cisco Systems, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. That’s 15 times higher than it was in 2017.”
Trista Banfield, technical production manager with Morvil Advertising + Design Group and board member at Cape Fear Women In Tech, said this year we will hear from the “usual suspects” including Apiture and nCino but also expects to hear from companies out of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
GWBJ: Any specific tech industries that you see growing?
“Digital growth has skyrocketed over the past year with more online user-engagement than ever before. Regarding Wilmington, our fintech industry has seen substantial growth with the launch of nCino’s IPO. We will see Wilmington continue to grow as a hotbed of innovation. With remote learning continuing to be a necessity, companies like Cloudwyze are innovating the industry will become more prevalent in our rural areas to deliver the internet required to meet the publics’ demands.”
GWBJ: How can entrepreneurs and business owners continue to use technology in innovative ways?
“Business owners need to keep pushing forward during these times, so taking advantage of video conferencing and screen-share platforms is essential to survival. Adoption of services like cloud voice will probably become the standard for remote workers and efficiency processes will continue to adapt and change with the climate.”
GWBJ: What’s coming up for Cape Fear Women In Tech?
“While we don't yet know what the extent or the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak will be this year, Cape Fear Women in Tech will be attempting to bring back virtual events and community outreach opportunities later this year.”
Girard Newkirk, co-founder of Genesis Block, said the business accelerator has a portfolio of companies that will grow in 2021 including Get That Deed, Jayski's Rub A Dub LLC, Jones Sunset Sauce and more.
“I think Reeser and the team at OpiAID will have a big year. I also think you will hear more about more lifestyle entrepreneurs and the expansion of the broader Wilmington entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Newkirk said.
GWBJ: What tech trends do you see emerging in 2021? Any specific tech industries that you see growing?
“I think there will be advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence and voice automated software. There has been growth in this sector the last few years, and COVID-19 created an environment that increased the development of a lot of products to support this market. I also think aggregator platforms that connect niche markets will have success in 2021. People know what they want in the marketplace and platforms that can directly connect them will become of great value.”
GWBJ: With Genesis Block's goal to propel more minority businesses, how will those businesses impact the entrepreneurship landscape?
“We have a broad range of businesses that cross all sectors of the economy. We had 67 minority- and women-owned companies from the Cape Fear apply for the Back on the Block Accelerator. We hope to integrate all of these businesses into the Genesis Block ecosystem, which will result in highly skilled founders, low-risk startups and high-growth potential minority businesses in the region on a level that we have never seen.”
GWBJ: How will entrepreneurs and business owners continue to use technology in innovative ways especially during the ongoing pandemic?
“Zoom and other virtual platforms have made it easier to reach a much broader audience. I think this has enabled a new way for ideas to be shared and for collaboration to happen across all lines. The marketplace has become even more connected.”