Oracle VP offers up seven predictions for startups in 2021

In a highly unpredictable 2020, we got a few guesses right with last year’s predictions piece. Here are my thoughts on things I believe we’ll see happen next year

Jason Williamson 16:3321.12.20

We learn so much from the founders, creators, and innovators we have the pleasure to work with in our Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research programs. Having a front-row view into the world of startup and research innovation ecosystems provides a wealth of insights, information and learnings. In a highly unpredictable 2020, we got a few guesses right with last year’s predictions piece. Here are my thoughts on things I believe we’ll see happen in 2021.

Jason Williamson, VP, Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research. Photo: Oracle Jason Williamson, VP, Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research. Photo: Oracle


Food insecurity inspires innovation and partnerships to increase


Food insecurity and hunger aren’t new issues. But just like everything else, they’ve been accelerated because of Covid-19. Due to pandemic shutdowns, social distancing, and job losses, 50 million new people have entered into poverty conditions and food insecurity in 2020. And those numbers are conservative. In our increasingly virtual world, with less quality food easily available, the numbers will only increase. Countries like Israel have been leading the way in this area of innovation, but we’ll see a global movement next year and beyond.


I think 2021 will see ingenuity and strategic partnerships sprout due to the fast-rising need, human awareness and compassion. The private sector will join forces with the government to see the beginnings of change. Companies like Whole Foods, Walmart, Uber, and others will partner with innovative founders and builders to provide solutions that can be boosted by our government. We are seeing it with the innovators and researchers we work with at Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research. In fact, I believe our programs will see a 20% increase in technologies trying to solve food insecurity and food sustainability.


Construction and engineering industry steps up with innovation


It might not be the most glamorous industry, but it’s ripe for disruption. We’re seeing it with many startups that are advancing their solutions with Oracle’s cloud products and expertise. Israel has been known as an innovation hub for construction-tech startups, but other regions are catching up.

“Startups are co-innovating with us, complementing our cloud offerings like Primavera to drive new possibilities for our customers,” said Burcin Kaplanoglu, Executive Director, Innovation Officer, Oracle Global Business Units.


Whether it’s innovations in brand-new construction, or rethinking and optimizing building space for a new remote-working world, this industry will see massive innovation this year. In the United States, we saw a slowdown within the supply chain for construction, but an increase in demand for new building and home improvement, which created a huge spike in construction. The industry will remain strong through 2021 and will create areas of innovation opportunities as people need to collaborate, design and execute on projects.


Middle East innovation drives global business growth


The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will unleash innovation and business opportunities not just for these unique ecosystems but worldwide.


Israel is the Startup Nation, but the UAE has been earning its own technology and entrepreneurial chops. Look for benefits to go both ways. Israel gets access to the UAE’s investors and the ability to collaborate on tech, and vice-versa. More resources are being dedicated to the region from cloud providers. Already with data centers in Dubai and Jeddah, Oracle will be the first global cloud provider to open a cloud region in Israel in 2021.


While Israel has traditionally focused on the United States and Europe, the UAE has ties to the east. As Dr. Sabah al-Binali, GCC VC Partner and Head of the Gulf Region at OurCrowd, said recently: “We can help Israeli businesses enter new markets in the Muslim world, including the huge opportunities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.”


Israeli startups are known as pioneers. Driving agritech, AgroScout’s AI drone platform is boosting crop production and food sustainability. We’re also seeing sharp increases across the Middle East with innovators like Awini App (Riyadh), Reengen (Istanbul), and Mawlny (Jeddah). Growth from startups joining our program from the Middle East is up 297% YoY. Their collective innovation and collaboration will unlock and unleash new business opportunities across the globe.


High-performance computing no longer just for big companies and researchers


Cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) capacity is allowing even small startups to compete with established players in fields that require storage, processing, and analysis of massive amounts of data. Think biomedical research, video streaming, AI analysis, and advanced engineering. Data volumes are exploding. The global datasphere will grow from 35 zettabytes in 2020 to 175 zettabytes by 2025, according to IDC. That’s an incomprehensible 1 with 21 zeros. Consider that nearly 30% (and growing every year) of that data requires real-time processing, and you understand why startups are claiming their place at the HPC table.


The number of AI, machine learning, and big data companies enrolling in our Oracle for Startups program has grown more than 20% this year. Among them, AI and analytics startup Kinetica is tapping Oracle Cloud HPC capacity to analyze huge datasets, including drone data collected on the San Francisco Bay to combat pollution.


Sound board governance and board integrity returns


The board of directors is one of the most integral parts of a startup’s internal management structure. These individuals have great responsibilities, including fiduciary and ethical duties, to act in the best interest of the company. It’s an honor and a privilege that requires dedication, discipline and integrity. Unfortunately, the role has also become lax in today’s capital-flushed investing world where seemingly anyone with a checkbook can qualify as a board member. And even some seasoned venture capitalists have come into question.


We’ve seen many epic fails where sound board governance didn’t prevail. But it is happening with lower profile startups, and it can greatly harm innovation for the startup and the ecosystem. Growth-at-all-costs mantra is a failed experiment. Yes, more money can help build a competitive moat, but it can also lead to blind spots and stupidity.


Sound business principles and fiscal responsibility will make a return. That starts with board members leading with integrity. I alluded to this in last year’s predictions. So, pardon my wishful thinking for this year.


Strategic partnerships unlock regulated industries


From disrupting industries with gatekeepers—think healthcare, government, education—to startups partnering with corporates, partnerships will play a critical role in driving innovation in 2021. To breakthrough in highly regulated and bureaucratic industries, innovators are going to need partners as key allies both within those specific industries and with big tech.


We’ve seen it with healthcare and medtech startups seeking technical advice for architecting highly secure and compliant environments. Or startups needing advice and credibility to penetrate government and financial customer ecosystems. Startup ingenuity will always be a primary driver, but momentum and progress accelerates with the right partners.


Multicloud is the future—2021 will see advanced adoption


Today’s cloud technologies are becoming increasingly more commoditized and portable. And while cloud providers are showing their strengths (think Oracle and HPC), the strategy of using multiple cloud providers is the future. Think of recent outages that have taken down a big chunk of the internet and many businesses. With a multicloud strategy, these businesses could have shifted resources to another infrastructure provider and not missed a beat.


“A cloud failure should not become a disaster. Never again,” said Laurent Gil, CPO and Co-Founder at CAST AI, a startup in our program. “You can rest easy knowing that your infrastructure is never down.”


Public clouds have tremendous benefits—but lock-in should never be one of them. Price-performance, interoperability and security will drive your partner selections.



Jason Williamson is the VP at Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research.