My Take-Aways from the Churchill Club 20th Annual “Top 10 Tech Trends” Meeting

By Jeff Richards
Managing Partner

Each year the Churchill Club, a not-for-profit public benefit organization, brings in a panel of five venture capital partners to present their predictions regarding the top tech trends that will be affecting the market four or five years from now. At the event each VC presents their first prediction and the other VCs vote on it. Then the moderator turns it over to the audience members, who use an app to register their votes. After each panel member has presented their first idea, the moderator goes down the line and repeats the process for their second idea.

I’ve been attending this event for 12 years now. I’ve found that the meeting is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and a great way to get executives thinking out of the box (sometimes way out of the box) beyond their annual planning horizon. Plus, it gives me so many interesting things to talk about that it makes me feel like the smartest guy on the block for a few weeks!

This year was the 20th annual edition of this event, and the audience filled a large ballroom. CIO Professional Services bought a table and hosted seven of our clients and colleagues as guests. Everyone at our table really enjoyed the event, which spurred some very stimulating conversation.

Predicting the Future

While you can download the entire Top 10 list, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of them…

The winner by a large margin: The hunt for authenticity

Tomasz Tonguz of Redpoint Ventures predicted that with deep learning enabling computers to synthesize voice that’s indistinguishable from humans and generate photos that look real, determining authenticity will be an important growth area.

What I think this really highlights is the uncertainty that surrounds any sound bite, video or anything else you see today, because it’s become so easy to fake things. The idea here is that as it becomes even more difficult to distinguish what was produced by a person and what was produced by an algorithm, businesses and consumers will be willing to pay for some sort of arbiter or certification service to help them determine what is real and what is not. The audience and other VCs agreed this can be huge.

Transportation will be reinvented

Sarah Guo of Greylock Partners predicted that, from self-driving trucks to electric scooters, the unexpected impact of the reinvention of the transportation industry on our infrastructure will be massive. While some of this is already happening, the general consensus was that this is true…but we’re a lot more than five years away from the point where fleets of autonomous vehicles completely replace car ownership nationwide (which is where the conversation went).

China will accelerate past the U.S. in key technology areas

Mike Vernal of Sequoia Capital pointed out that the strong alignment between the Chinese government and the country’s technology ecosystem, China will become the global leader in the key technologies on which the nation is focused. As Mike also highlighted, we’ve seen that this is already happening in a lot of areas. I agree that if we continue on the current trajectory, this will be a significant issue. And I noticed that a lot of cell phones went up to take pictures when this prediction went up on the screen!

Conversational bots will disrupt mobile commerce

This prediction from David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners got voted way down because most people thought conversational bots would simply be another avenue for access, just like a keyboard is an avenue for access. In the same way that the internet didn’t put TV out of business, conversational bots are probably just another channel—not a user interface that’s about to displace mobile apps.


While some of this year’s tech trends predictions were pretty out there (extraterrestrial commerce??), much of it made a lot of sense. The question now is, as IT leaders, what can or should we do to prepare?

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