Edge of Innovation

What do these billion dollar startups say about our future world?

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

One look at Fortune’s list of the world’s most valuable companies and you can see how they have shaped the world we live in.

We crave new iPhones from Apple (worth $564 billion), search the web with Google ($546 billion) and work on PCs powered by Microsoft ($439 billion). The majority of our cars run on petrol and diesel (Exxon Mobil is valued at $360 billion); we shop online at Amazon ($363 billion); and we take care of our health with products from Johnson & Johnson ($323 billion).

At the end of the day, we tell people about it all on Facebook ($367 billion).

But that’s today. What can today’s most valuable startups tell us about the world of 2020 or 2040? A look at the WSJ’s Billion Dollar Startup Club gives us a solid glimpse into the future.

The Uber app - billion dollar startups
Uber is more than just a web taxi company. It wants to rule the roads.

It’s a future where we might not own a car. Uber (worth $68 billion) is one of several taxi-rivalling transport firms on the WSJ list, showing just how popular tapping and riding has become. If the company has its way, our future selves will travel everywhere by self-driving, electric car. The company has already started testing an autonomous service in Pittsburgh.

But Uber doesn’t just see itself as net-connected taxi firm. It has ambitions in transport logistics too. UberRUSH pitches itself as an on demand courier delivery network, while the company’s $680 million acquisition of Otto suggests a future where self-driving trucks rumble up and down our roads auto-hauling goods to warehouses.

While Uber is changing the way we travel, Airbnb (valued at $25.5 billion) is busy disrupting the hotel business. Connecting people with rooms to rent with potential renters, you can now book a house, apartment or a room in over 190 countries. It’s not a perfect system by any means and hotel chains say they aren’t worried by Airbnb’s rapid rise. At least, not yet…

Airbnb in Seoul - billion dollar startups
With Airbnb, you can stay in over 190 countries from San Francisco to Seoul (above).

Rather than get a traditional bank loan in the future, we might go to a community-based peer-to-peer lending service instead. Chinese company Lufax ($18.5 billion) is arguably the biggest fish in this P2P pond. But UK-based firms like Zopa, Funding Circle and Ratesetter are growing fast, connecting those with money to invest with those who need to borrow it.

Powered by our billion dollar startups, this future world will be a place where SpaceX ($12 billion) will be launching rockets to Mars, while NASA watches jealously from the sidelines. A place where, thanks to the efforts of Theranos ($9 billion), it will be easier to get tested for a range of diseases and keep an accurate track of your overall health.

It will also be a place where systems like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Intel’s Project Alloy and Magic Leap (valued at $4.5 billion) have the capability to replace every screen. Rather than staring at our smartphones, we’ll all be plugged into a compelling mixed reality.

And while we listen to our favourite songs on Spotify (valued at $8.5 billion), drowning out the buzz of nearby delivery drones built by DJI ($8 billion), we’ll share key moments of our day on Snapchat ($17.8 billion) with a click of our Spectacles.

We might even wonder what the next 10-20 years might hold and what the next billion dollar startup might be. What do you think?

Main image credit: www.spacex.com

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