Brooklyn founders and investors predict big headlines of 2018

We turned our sources into reporters, and we gotta say, they did a fine job.

55 Water St., the future home of the United Technologies Digital Accelerator.

(Image courtesy of Empire Stores)

So the plan originally was to write a column of my predictions for the tech world in 2018, when I realized that I am the medium for this information, not the source of it. So why not turn to the tech and business experts I talk to every day? I thought a fun piece of content would be to ask these experts to take a shot at headline writing and prognostication.

And so that’s exactly what follows.

We asked some of the most interesting and intelligent voices in the Brooklyn tech world what they expect to see and even asked them to write up a headline for it. Some of the pieces have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

Here’s what the experts said:

States Step Up to Fill Federal Void in Internet Governance

  • By Jonathan Askin, professor at Brooklyn Law School

In the wake of FCC abandonment of Net Neutrality rules and of consumer privacy protections on internet and communications networks, multiple states have become convinced that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to ensure a free, open, and secure internet. Several states’ legislators and state attorneys general, led by New York and California, have proposed state-level legislative and regulatory measures designed to reinstate Internet user privacy, security, access, and non-discrimination principles that were abandoned by 2017 Federal deregulation orders.

Crypto matures and VCs finally all realize they are in a bubble

Between CoinBase IPO’ing, crypto futures, derivatives, ETFs reaching scale, continuing geo-social/political instability, real institutional investors jumping in (a race to be this generation’s Yale University Endowment), and more companies and investment firms deciding to offer tokens vs. shares, the crypto market will continue to boom. There’s no bubble if those investing don’t see it.

On the other hand, traditional VC will finally see the bubble it has been/still is in. Traditional VC in the U.S. will continue to fall off, in terms of dollars per deal and number of deals. The bubble that was so obvious even in 2012–14 (if one had looked at the data) will now finally be obvious to all. A few more big late-stage disappointments, including company blow-ups and public markets punishing VC-backed IPOs for divorced-from-reality valuations, will push VC back to basics and generate a bit of soul-searching over the year as to what VC should look like in 2018 and beyond.


The death of the 1099

I expect to see the death of 1099 as a loophole that startups take advantage of.

If the government has decided that it is good tax policy to charge payroll tax, that tax should be applied to every dollar that gets paid to employees, regardless of their status. If we think that worker’s comp insurance is a good safety net for people to have, it should be provided to everyone.

There’s a strong disincentive for companies to classify workers as W-2, and so we’re pushing startups to go out of their way to avoid worker protections to make their business work. Take the recent Fair Work Week ruling. It was designed to make sure companies don’t mess around with worker shifts so badly that people can’t depend on regular work and a predictable paycheck. That’s nice in theory, except it doesn’t apply at all to companies like Relay that use 1099 workforces.

I’m an investor in Homer Logistics, a last-mile delivery company trying to do the right thing by workers and adhere to the law by properly classifying their workers as W-2, but they’re the only ones in the space doing it — and now they’re getting hit with additional regulation that makes it harder for them to optimize their workforce. Anyone using 1099 employees not only doesn’t have to bother adhering to these rules, but the Department of Labor and the IRS don’t seem that interested in enforcing the law — instead they wait until workers sue their employers. What are the chances that happens in this immigration policy environment when many of these workers have questionable work status?

Eventually, workers are going to get fed up, and the few companies trying to do the right thing need to help end the 1099 loophole for workers that are essentially full time. It’s one thing if you teach a class or two at General Assembly or you design a logo for someone — but if you’re an Uber driver 30 hours a week, you should be entitled to the same protections as a W-2 employee, and your company should be paying into the same benefit pools as a company who actually employs the worker.

Autonomous Vehicle Hype Cycle Continues, Leaders Try to Widen the Gap

  • By Ro Gupta, cofounder and CEO of Carmera

CES and the Detroit Auto Show will kick off 2018 with both AV stalwarts and wannabes trying to stand out in the noise. But the year will uncover even more noticeable differences between the handful of players leading the way and everyone else. Real “Level4” passenger services, more challenging environments and larger scale deployments will set the bar higher for all.

Large Indoor Farm Partners with Major Consumer Packaged-Goods Firm

  • By Allison Kopf, founder and CEO of Agrilyst

2017 was the year of big funding rounds for indoor farming companies. I bet 2018 will be the year of CPGs announcing big partnerships with these companies. This will drive growth in the indoor farming industry as well as competition among the CPGs for local or sustainable production.

The Rise of Downtown Brooklyn Will Bring Neighbors Together

The people of Brooklyn Heights, who have lived in a bit of dowdy isolation, will have more reasons to cross Court Street, while residents of public housing to the east will be drawn to shopping and cultural opportunities like never before.

Companies: Agrilyst
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