This blog is part of our Tech In Review: 21-22 report series. Head to the hub to access the reports, insight and analysis.
As a startup founder, your overriding priority is getting your company to where it needs to be. The market context you’re operating in has a significant impact on the decisions you’ll be required to make, and how quickly you can reach your destination.
2022 will be shaped by both ‘known unknowns’, and ‘unknown unknowns’, that change how people view technology. The big picture around technology will impact your startup in 2022, either directly (e.g. the EU’s AI regulation), or indirectly (e.g. a techlash which makes people distrust your sector).
2021 in a nutshell
At the beginning of 2021 there was great optimism about an imminent return to normality. It was a standout year for tech – funding boomed, and technical ideas advanced significantly (read our Year In Review report for more on that).
European tech is awash with capital after a record breaking year, and while that means founders have more options to pick from, but we’ve also heard from founders that they’re experiencing more pressure to deliver outsized results.
But the pandemic continued to rage on, and while technology companies saw economic benefits, the gap between tech sector growth and what society was experiencing widened.
Tech’s priorities in 2022
We believe that start-up founders are the guardians of a better technological future – today’s startups are tomorrow’s titans.
In 2022, the technology sector must act boldly and ethically. Start-up founders, tech giants, and the millions of employees in the sector, all have significant roles to play.
There are three areas that we feel those in tech must prioritise in 2022 to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
- Put social responsibility at the heart of how you scale and grow – ethics, diversity, innovation, and sustainability are paramount. Operating with purpose and aligning themselves with society’s goals will yield stronger business results.
- Step up to provide vocal, transparent leadership – society is suffering from an endemic lack of trust and responsible businesses can step into that space.
- Discuss, plan, build and champion the future you want to see – the conversation is waiting to be guided by those with the knowledge, tools, and vision to do so.
Three forecasts for 2022 and actions for founders
More moves to protect human rights in an AI world
- We expect there to be more formal structures put in place to protect human rights in a technology-first world. The UK and Europe have distinct privacy cultures from those in the US and Asia, and there is an opportunity for start-ups in the region to build technology which caters to these differences.
- Founders need to be very aware of the social context they’re operating in, and what type of tolerance your customer base has for different types of AI. Being clear, open and transparent about how you plan to use AI within your startup and how you can mitigate any negative impacts.
Regulators reach for the stick, but will they remember the carrot?
- We anticipate greater regulatory scrutiny in 2022. The challenge for regulators is to make sure that this is not perceived to be a burden on European tech, and a deterrent to entrepreneurs and investors. Instead, regulators should aim to encourage innovation, driving opportunities for UK and European start-ups to build products suited to the market.
- Startups could get swept up in regulation of bigger tech firms, so evidence will be critical to a successful outcome for tech firms. Now is the time to build effective marketing and communications campaigns, grounded in quantitative data and qualitative perspectives, on how you build better outcomes for your customers.
More industry-specific ecosystems emerge
- The need to build environments that foster collaborative partnerships and sharing suggests that ecosystems will become an even greater force for competitive advantage and technological development in 2022. They must include corporate innovation; partnerships between giants and start-ups; and stronger links to research institutes and government.
- Embrace the opportunities of collaboration. Get to know other members of the ecosystem you’re in, and provide no-strings-attached support and guidance. Create content and support projects that further the space, even if there’s no immediate benefit to your business.
2022 Startup PR & Marketing Priorities
1. Build in public – this approach is delivery big rewards for those from game development to GPS.
2. Get your ethical framework in place – no one can predict the future, but having a solid set of guiding principles and values for your company will help you navigate tricky times.
3. Get feedback in early – yes it’s tough and sometimes embarrassing, but getting customer feedback early and frequently will keep you on the right track as you grow.
4. Create messaging that works – in an age of digital noise, big campaigns and buzzwords, keep your messages clear and concise.
5. Make long term and short term plays – different marketing tactics give different results so make sure you understand your objectives and allocate effectively. Build your reputation with content and PR, your relationships with email and social, and your quick wins with paid.