From student loan debt and voice technology to the fate of brick and mortar, these are the issues preoccupying top CEOs at the start of this year.
Last year, we asked CEOs for their predictions heading into 2017 and have since seen a few of those things come to pass–in ways both expected and unexpected. While it was easy to foresee how the GOP’s efforts to scale back the Affordable Care Act would thrust health insurance back into the national debate, even those who expected conversations around diversity and inclusion to intensify may have been surprised by the so-called “Google memo” and the deluge of sexual misconduct revelations this year.
So we turned once again to a handful of execs, this time across industries like fintech, beauty, video, and AI, to find out what they’re focusing on in 2018 and what they believe the business community as a whole needs to prioritize.
1. CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR AN EQUITABLE INTERNET
Anjali Sud, CEO of video-sharing site Vimeo:
“Creators have always been the heart and soul of Vimeo’s platform, and more than ever, we’re committed to giving people a voice and an opportunity to tell their story in whatever format they choose. In 2018, we will prioritize building a supportive community that truly puts creators first and helps them succeed. Also important: We will continue to rally behind all efforts in support of net neutrality.”
2. FIND THE RIGHT FORMULA FOR BRICK AND MORTAR
Steph Korey, CEO of direct-to-consumer luggage brand Away:
“As a digitally native direct-to-consumer brand, we’re exploring what our retail presence might look like next year. At Away specifically, we didn’t think brick-and-mortar stores would be a cornerstone of our business, but we were quickly proven wrong. Despite the troubled retail climate for more traditional business models, we’ve opened four successful stores in 2017.”
3. INVEST IN VOICE TECH
Bea Arthur, CEO of artificial intelligence startup The Difference:
“Voice is the new video! There are so many exciting opportunities on the horizon with Alexa Skills and Google Assistant, including my new machine-learning mental health startup The Difference. Sure, integrating tech into every aspect of our lives brings us one step closer to a robot coup, but we won’t even notice because we’ll be on Snapchat.”
4. LIGHTEN STUDENT LOAN DEBT
Kelly Peeler, CEO of NextGenVest CEO:
“Whether you are an employer or serving millennials or Gen Z, the ballooning $1.4 trillion student loan market will be the main driving financial decision maker for consumers–from what career to choose and whether to buy a home or car, to whether to invest or save for retirement.”
5. GET SUBSCRIPTION MODELS TO COMPETE WITH AD-BASED PLATFORMS (BEYOND STREAMING)
Amanda Bradford, CEO of elite dating app The League:
“Users are finally willing to pay for subscriptions! They’re tiring of the advertising model, especially after digital ads were seen as one of the main reasons for the recent [2016 presidential] election results. The ad-modeled business, like Facebook, is incentivized to get you to keep scrolling or clicking. The subscription-modeled business, [by contrast], like The League, offers users an efficient way to solve whatever problem they have, and doesn’t require them to spend hours browsing content.”
6. MAKE FINTECH WORK FOR MORE PEOPLE
Tricia Martinez, CEO of financial platform Wala:
“In the financial inclusion space, the metrics are all wrong. We focus on how many people are ‘banked’ when we should be focusing on financial inclusion and providing access to the right products and services for consumers. I can tell you that just giving a basic bank account to an unbanked consumer will be disastrous because these accounts come with high fees and access problems.”
7. REFOCUS ON SUBSTANCE, NOT FLASHY MARKETING
Cat Chen, CEO of hypoallergenic fragrance brand Skylar Body:
“Focus on the customer and delivering quality products and service to them, not just marketing to them. There is so much noise and so many options in the beauty industry. The brands customers will truly stick to and talk about to their friends are the ones that make quality products and deliver excellent customer service.”
8. MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA SOCIAL AGAIN
Ben Rubin, CEO of video-chat app Houseparty:
“Social media needs to be social. People are spending more time online and less time hanging out in person–that’s not going to change anytime soon. We need to focus on allowing more human connection during time spent online. Otherwise, we’ll spend our lives scrolling through frenemy profiles instead of enjoying fulfilling relationships.”
9. MAKE TECH MORE INCLUSIVE
Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of on-demand marketplace TaskRabbit:
“I hope that tech leaders will make more of a concerted and viable effort to ensure that everyone in our society, not just the well-off, truly benefit from all of Silicon Valley’s technological breakthroughs. Just as important, 2018 must be the year when tech firms must truly prioritize diversity among their respective workforces. Having a diverse group of employees should be mandatory, not only because of tech firms’ collective commitment to our global society, but also from a business-value proposition.”
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This article originally appeared on Fast Company and is reprinted with permission.