15th annual Top 10 Tech Trends event to be held in Santa Clara

May 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Self-driving cars, creating life in a laboratory, and mining in space. Those are just a few things likely to come up Thursday night as some of Silicon Valley's top venture capitalists speak at the Churchill Club's annual panel on the top ten tech trends. They're in the business of predicting the future, but that does not mean they're always right.

Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park is at the center of the venture capital world; firms that make money predicting what's about to be big.

"The most important thing when you make predictions is to make them often," said Venky Ganesan with Menlo Ventures. "You try to do them as often as you can because you're gonna get them wrong most of the time."

But as he gets ready to speak at this year's panel on the Top 10 Tech Trends, Ganesan thinks he's "right" about one thing.

"The trend we like most is the right now economy," Ganesan said.

Everything from same-day delivery to information on demand, all enabled by smartphones.

"It's changing a lot of industries," he said. "We have a company called Uber. You can step out and take a cab any point, anytime, anywhere. You couldn't have done that a few years ago. Load an app like Waze, and know exactly what the traffic is gonna be when you drive back to the studio today."

As we keep using these devices to do more things more quickly, the computers that power them are getting smarter. And some venture capitalists say soon, those computers could be smarter than us.

"Behind the scenes of technology, a thing called machine learning is making sense of this torrent of data that we swim in and figures out patterns automatically," said Steve Jurvetson, partner at venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

IBM has been teaching computers to learn for some time. But Jurvetson says it's become almost the core business of Google.

"The cars, the glass, the you name it, they all rely on machine learning," he said.

Self-driving cars and Google Glass have stolen the spotlight. But Jurvetson's got his eye on something a little more far out.

"Space, the final frontier," he said.

Jurvetson is an investor in SpaceX, which has made launching satellites cheap enough for entrepreneurs to do it. He says that soon, "constellations" of camera-carrying cube-sats will send back photo maps of the Earth that are updated every day.

"To give us information about the planet like never before, that's awesome!" Jurvetson exclaimed.

It's that sort of conviction that panel moderator Bruce Upbin of Forbes Magazine finds fascinating.

"I want to see the ones who are thinking much bigger, and usually are not afraid to be wrong," Upbin said.


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