Business Startups

The Buzzy Topics The Startup World Couldn’t Stop Talking About In The Past Year

metaverse

Every year there seems to be something (or a few things) the tech and VC world is fixated on. Last year and in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed everything, but one could argue that the Future of Work™ was one of the main talking points in a year when there were so many questions about returning to the office and how work would get done amid the pandemic. 

Last year, there were several themes that captivated the attention of startup founders, investors and employees. We rounded up some of the topics the startup and VC world couldn’t stop talking about in 2020. 

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It might be too early to tell which are just fads and which will stay with us in 2022, at least some (like NFTs) became so popular that investors put money behind them. 

Miami

Toward the end of 2020, it seemed all the entire tech and VC world could talk about was Miami. The city was billed as the next big tech hub after some prominent investors moved to the Sunshine State. That energy continued into the beginning of 2021, though according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Florida wasn’t the top destination for people leaving San Francisco during the pandemic: it was actually New York. 

Still, that hasn’t stopped the chatter about Miami being a destination for tech companies and VCs. Just check Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s Twitter retweets. 

NFTs

When much of the tech world started talking about NFTs in the spring, it seemed like it might be a temporary fad. But NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, seem to be here to stay a while longer. 

With much of the world moved online, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic (and now the Omicron variant), and Bitcoin reaching a record high last year, NFTs increased in popularity. Venture capitalists have invested in NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, and former First Lady Melania Trump even announced her own NFT platform in December. People are giving NFTs as holiday gifts and large companies like AMC have gifted NFTs to customers.

The metaverse

The idea of the metaverse isn’t new, but it exploded into mainstream conversation this year, and became something startups and large companies alike began to focus on. At least 220 companies in the Crunchbase database mention “metaverse” in their description. Perhaps most notably, the company formerly known as Facebook even changed its name to Meta to mark its shifting focus on the metaverse.  

In a way, it makes sense, given that the pandemic has moved so many things to the virtual world. Gaming companies—probably the closest to having established their own sort of metaverse—have also thrived during the pandemic, with users flocking to the likes of Roblox and Epic Games’ Fortnite. While it’s up for debate when the metaverse will actually be here, there’s no doubt more companies are working on making it a reality.

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DAOs

Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, are online communities that are owned and controlled by their members. DAOs became somewhat mainstream this year after one raised millions of dollars to bid on a copy of the U.S. Constitution that was up for auction at Sotheby’s (the DAO did not have the winning bid). 

More businesses are accepting cryptocurrency as forms of payment now, and there have been other efforts to crowdfund money through a DAO to buy physical and digital goods, which means DAOs likely aren’t going anywhere.

Tiger Global Management

Tiger Global Management isn’t exactly new to investing in startups, but this year it was in the headlines a lot more for its increased pace of investment. The number of deals Tiger Global did was up significantly from 2020, with many of those companies new to the firm’s portfolio, according to a Crunchbase analysis. 

By mid-2021, Tiger Global was the biggest investor in unicorn startups, per Crunchbase data—and it’s not even a traditional VC firm. Little is known about Tiger Global, and the firm generally doesn’t grant interviews. With its rapid pace of investment into some of the most highly valued private companies, it’s safe to say Tiger Global was the standout startup investor of 2021 and will likely remain active this year as well. 

Web3

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Web3, or the idea of a decentralized internet based on the blockchain. It’s not here yet, but it’s something the tech world’s been fixated on as of late. Most recently, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey made his thoughts on the matter known, tweeting that venture capitalists and their limited partners funding Web3 projects would be the owners of it, not people. Dorsey also took a dig at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in companies working on tech related to Web3.

Web3’s part of a greater interest in blockchain technology, which NFTs and DAOs are also based on. What’s next?

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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