Mary Meeker is not a fortune teller. But it’s worth listening to the venture capitalist when it comes to predicting technology trends.
Meeker spoke on a panel in Redmond, Wash. on Wednesday at the second annual KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, an event held in conjunction with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club this weekend.
The Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers general partner is well-known in tech circles for her annual annual “Internet Trends” report. Meeker just published her report for 2016, which runs 213 slides long and includes a wealth of analysis about the latest tech trends happening online, from advertising to communication to transportation.
On Wednesday, Meeker was asked how exactly she anticipates trends.
“Meet a lot of companies; use a lot of products; love using those products; try to have people around you who also use those products,” Meeker said.
Looking at hard data is important, too, Meeker added. She used Amazon’s Echo device as an example, noting how Amazon has sold “about 5 million” Echo devices — that number is up from estimates of 3 million in April.
“That’s a number that shows something is going on here, and customer satisfaction is quite high,” Meeker said. “Human-computer interaction via voice has been around for years, but we’re just at a point where the accuracy level is better, the latency level is lower, and the products are now useful. We’re about to hit liftoff.”
Added Meeker: “The way you can affect a room and get a point through is by backing it up with data and presenting it in a data-rich way.”
As far as predicting which companies will find success, Meeker said her firm has a 22-point checklist. Of those, she outlined three primary rules to identify promising companies. She noted that “these are like mom and apple pie, but they are tried and true.”
1. “The company has to be going after a huge market.”
It’s not hard to find companies that grow from a $10 million run rate and hover around $100 million for several years, Meeker said. Those companies might end up grabbing 100 percent market share of a $100 million market — but that’s not necessarily what Meeker and her firm look for.
“It’s much better to invest in a company that has 1 percent market share of a $1 billion market, and can take its market share from one to two to three percent of a huge market.”
2. “A missionary, fabulous, and unique entrepreneur.”
Meeker said she looks for entrepreneurs who have an ambitious vision.
“Like Bill Gates, you’ll sit down with him and say, ‘this guy sees the world different, and he will morph the world to make it the way he sees it,” Meeker explained. “And I mean that in a positive way.”
3. “A good product with a great, fabulous product visionary that can be extended.”
It’s OK if a company’s product isn’t kickass in the beginning — as long as it is decent and the founders have a huge vision, that’s enough. “As long as it can evolve into great,” she noted.