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Cautious optimism, a focus on people, and — of course — AI: Tech leaders’ predictions for 2024


As an eventful 2023 draws to a close, TFN spoke to the tech leaders about what they expected 2024 to bring. In this canvas of anticipations, a prevailing theme emerged — the intersection of tumultuous times and the pervasive influence of AI. Amidst the projections of a continued technological surge, a subtle yet profound undercurrent began to surface: Could 2024 be the year when the narrative shifts from the relentless march of technology to a more profound contemplation of human connections and societal implications? Join us as we delve into the perspectives of these tech luminaries, navigating the intricate interplay between innovation, human experiences, and the evolving landscape of 2024.

Many expected the difficult times of the past few years to continue, and many felt that the year would be dominated by AI. However, perhaps in response to both, some felt that 2024 might be the year when we will think less about technology and more about people.

Hard times continue

Eleanor Kaye, Newton Venture Program’s Executive Director was blunt about 2024, “it’s going to be another tough year for the market. It would do a disservice to the founders and VCs grappling with these challenges to minimise them.” However, she felt better times were ahead, and added that even in tough times, success was still possible, “the toughest, most innovative entrepreneurs and funds will always find a way.”

Her pessimism was shared by Livia Moore, a Partner at Antler, who said, “the bloodbath isn’t over yet, and we’ll likely — sadly — see a lot more companies going bust,” although she also could see glimmers of light, “the tech winter is starting to thaw and there is optimism on the horizon.” She also suggested that even AI wouldn’t be immune. “The megatrends within climatetech and AI will persevere in 2024, but I believe we’ll also see the first examples of AI companies failing to get traction and going bust in 2024,” she said.

AI everywhere

It wouldn’t take a large-language model to work out that AI would feature heavily in any list of predictions. But with no shortage of ambitious predictions for AI elsewhere, there were a few notes of caution.

eFlow Global CEO, Ben Parker, pointed that some problems are already emerging. “The potential convergence of AI and algorithmic trading presents significant challenges for regulators that are trying to ensure market integrity,” he said. Predicting that at least one area of AI use will see regulation, he commented, “there’s already some evidence of AI being sophisticated enough to assess the risk of illegal trades, execute them, and then cover the activity up.”

Co-founder and director of Bayezian, Glyn Heath, expects to see the rise of ’nanoLLMs’. “With many organisations having no need for the breadth of general purpose LLMs, like ChatGPT, more compact models are being built at a fraction of the cost and at a much quicker pace. This enables for rapid iteration of models in order to train and tune them for the specific use-case,” he said. While this would create new jobs for people able to manipulate them, he added that, “the challenge we’ll face beyond 2024 as AI gains traction in white-collar activities is that new jobs are likely to be created at a slower pace than losses.”

Oil Hammond, Partner at Fuel, also suggested that AI-mania means some companies’ claims should be closely examined, and he was expecting “to see the rise of the ‘pretenders’, companies that claim AI as a core part of their product with little technical proof that this is the case.”

Change will get faster

The convergence of a range of technologies presents opportunities, suggests Antler Partner Alan Poensgen. “The thing that fundamentally excites me is that the rate of technological change is accelerating,” he said. “We see a change in the software stack the world operates on with the maturing of AI,” he explained, while at the same time “hardware innovation is becoming massively easier. 3D printing reaching maturity; the computing power to enable testing through simulations as opposed to physical testing; the decrease in cost of key components such as advanced sensors or programmable chips.” Combined, these mean that innovation no longer requires large R&D departments.

This, however, might create problems, according to Massimiliano Magrini, Partner at United Ventures. “We predict that a key challenge will be navigating the structural bottlenecks that arise as AI innovation scales up. This encompasses enhancing infrastructure, including hardware, and sustainable data management.”

Putting people back in focus

With so much attention on artificial intelligence, several leaders we asked thought that 2024 might see a renewed focus on people instead.

Ollie Purdue, an Antler Partner in London, said, “I’m hoping we see an uptick in consumer businesses which get funded. Consumer spending is over 60% of UK GDP, yet it feels like over the last year they have struggled to raise money compared to B2B SaaS companies.”

In the payments sector, Frank Molla, Managing Director and Head of Sub Saharan Africa for global payments firm BPC, made a similar point. “The future of payments in 2024 will be less about technology itself and more about the consumers,” he said. “Technology serves as an enabler, but it’s crucial to tailor it to fit into the existing ways and cultures of people in different regions.”

Finally, Dom Bridgman, Chief Commercial Officer at Amdaris, stated exactly why, in 2024, the focus needs to be on people. “New innovations aren’t going to magically produce world-class products, taking the time to understand your consumers with a product-led and design-led approach will,” he said. For him, at least, trends come and go, but it’s people that matter, “shiny new innovations will remain a distraction to businesses, which is why we should be constantly reminding ourselves that our people are our greatest asset.”

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