Boston venture capitalists look to 2022 for the long haul

Synthetic characters. You’ve heard of “deep fakes” – convincing lines of real people saying things they’ve never said in digital videos. But Rob Go of NextView Ventures in Boston believes the same technology will be used to create intelligent virtual characters for customer service, entertainment and gaming, and other uses. “We are reaching a convergence between the quality of these technologies and the willingness of end users to engage with robots and virtual characters,” Go said. Before long, a compelling Betty Crocker will be able to give you some baking advice on your iPad, or a friendly Flo will take care of your insurance claim.

Digital twins. Speaking of replicas, what if you made a digital duplicate of a factory or power plant and could use software to analyze where things might go down – or how to make them run more efficiently? This is the idea behind digital twins. Rudina Seseri of Glasswing Ventures says they “have the potential to help us solve our toughest technical challenges” – including supply chains that may be too dependent on a particular supplier. – using artificial intelligence to “increase resilience”, says Seseri.

Robots to fight against labor constraints. Robots are now becoming cheap enough and the software that controls them good enough to take on many new tasks, says Maia Heymann of Converge Venture Partners. She says that while warehouses and logistics companies have been at the forefront of the use of robotics in recent years, “many other industries like manufacturing, agriculture and construction are seriously pursuing the use of robotics. ‘next-generation automation, especially when faced with severe labor shortages. “

Better virtual offices. Bob Mason of Argon Ventures recalls working with advertising agency Chiat / Day in the mid-90s. At the time, co-founder Jay Chiat was trying to create a “virtual office” in which employees would be assigned a laptop, phone – and no permanent desk. “I find incredible the clarity of vision that there was 30 years ago,” says Mason. Mason was helping to create the software that would support this smoother working model, dubbed Oxygen, which included shared online working environments and avatars to indicate when someone was online and in which digital space they were active. But even today, with millions of people using video conferencing technology like Zoom and messaging systems like Slack, “there’s still something missing,” Argon says. “I hope to find a team to rebuild some of the magic that we started and then abandoned 30 years ago. The principles Jay Chiat set out to establish are probably the building blocks of modern business. “

Insurance everywhere. When you book a flight or vacation home online, you often have the option of securing that purchase as part of the payment process. Lily Lyman from says more companies in different industries – from shipping and construction to car sales and financial services – will be able to offer insurance on a transaction “transparently, if not invisibly.” And new types of insurers, she predicts, “will have different consumer behavior data sets than traditional insurers, which will speed up underwriting and create more personalized and predictive policies.” »Less paperwork and potentially lower prices based on me as an individual – not a large pool of people with different behaviors? Great.

Technology for remote and hybrid healthcare delivery. Providing more home health care services will be a big part of our future, says Rob Biederman of venture capital firm Asymmetric Capital Partners, which launched this fall with $ 150 million to invest. This change will require “a whole host of new digital connectors” and infrastructure to connect monitoring or diagnostic technologies used in the home – such as a blood pressure cuff or pulse oximeter – with the big data systems used in hospitals. hospitals and diagnostic laboratories. Lyman at Underscore agrees: “This change is exciting,” she says, “because it can relieve the pressure on centralized, monolithic health systems,” and it may even put more emphasis on preventative medicine. “But there is a lot to build to realize that potential,” says Lyman. “This is a clear opportunity for Boston as a hub of innovation in healthcare. “

More physical blockchain. Vinyl’s TJ Mahony says he uses the term “multidimensional commerce” to describe what will happen when a shoe brand or musician associates an actual purchase – like shoes or a concert ticket – with a digital item that exists. on the blockchain (often referred to as an NFT or non-fungible token.) While the concert experience is transitory, a one-of-a-kind photo or audio clip from that night can hold sentimental value to you – and it could become an object collection with increasing overtime value.

Neobanks. Adrian Mendoza of Mendoza Ventures says he’s interested in new banks leading with their website and mobile app, rather than opening branches across town. As an example, he cites Chime, a San Francisco startup that could be close to going public in 2022, according to reports. “There will be a new generation of ‘neobanks’ more focused on under-represented groups and providing access to financial products to Latino, black and LGBT communities,” Mendoza said.

Software that predicts the future. If you use Gmail, you may have noticed that it now tries to predict what you’re likely to type next, based on data from what millions of other users have typed in the past. Drew Volpe of First Star Ventures says he’s tested a technology called GitHub’s Copilot, which tries to predict what software code should follow, based on what you’ve already written. “It’s terribly effective in helping you fill in the details of what you’re doing,” he says. “Next year I’m looking for lots of applications from similar assistants in all kinds of fields: helping lawyers draft contracts, financial analysts draft reports, and so on.

Human resources services and services for DAOs. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or DAOs, are a new kind of entity that brings people together to work on a common project – you know, kinda like the company you work for. Often times, they develop new applications related to blockchain technology, but recently a DAO made headlines for bringing together a group that attempted to buy an original copy of the U.S. Constitution at auction. Giuseppe Stuto of 186 Ventures says these DAOs may need to purchase insurance, regularly pay contributors, or provide perks such as 401ks or health care. Stuto thinks more people might consider working full-time for a DAO if these “missing ingredients” are provided.

Scott Kirsner can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ScottKirsner.

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