12 Tech Trends to Watch Closely 2022 

12 Tech trends to watch closely in 2022

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Table of Contents
Intro 4
Next wave of telehealth. Big tech companies, retailers, and
telecoms will compete with existing healthcare players for
the $30B+ remote patient monitoring market.

6

Crypto crime. The crypto security space will expand to address
rising cyber crime as hackers continue to evolve in their tactics.

12

Direct-to-avatar. Mass fashion brands will go all in on the
avatar economy as the metaverse, NFTs, and digital identities
take off, and the low cost of development and huge user bases
entice a deluge of entrants.

18

Virtualizing the clinical trial. In silico techniques will cut the
time and money it takes to develop a drug and insulate clinical
trials from disruptions like Covid-19.

24

Net-zero or bust. Climate tech is becoming a VC darling, but
high capital costs and murky claims will pose tough challenges
for investors.

30

Ultrafast convenience. Retailers will join forces with cash-burning
ultrafast delivery companies to help win over consumers.

35

De-risking supply chains. Manufacturers, retailers, and other
stakeholders will turn to digital twins and the microfactory model
to bolster their operations.

40

The electrification of everything. Battery tech will make huge
advances this year, bringing the promise of electrification to
everything from planes to basketball shoes.

45

The consumer privacy battle. Consumer privacy will take off
as a strategic business priority in 2022 — which could end up
giving big tech an even greater advantage.

49

Killing the credit card. Buy now, pay later purchases will become
more frequent and higher value as millennial and Gen Z shoppers
gravitate away from traditional cards.

56

Lab-to-table. Regulations will finally allow lab-grown meat
to hit restaurant tables and grocery store shelves and begin
competing against traditional meat and plant alternatives.

61

Fusion energy. Advances in AI and a startup funding splurge
will push the long-sought clean energy source closer to reality.

66

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

3

Intro
2021 was a year of push and pull. Between the Covid-19 vaccine
rollout and a sharpening focus on innovation, companies across
industries increasingly turned to tech for new answers — and new
challenges. From supply chain bottlenecks, to escalating weather
disasters, to the ongoing battle against disinformation, 2021 was a
year of revised expectations.
In 2022, expect to settle into the “new normal,” where disruption
is always a possibility. To keep up with the sea change of the past
couple years, tech and industry players will rethink what they
produce, and how.
This year brings huge opportunities for tech companies to make
major, meaningful moves in healthcare — an industry tech leaders
have been after for years. As pandemic variants cloud the future
and highlight the need for quicker timelines, pharma players
will embrace virtual clinical trials as an avenue for faster drug
development. In healthcare more broadly, the already hot telehealth
sector will see greater emphasis on remote patient monitoring.
Digital identities will also become a lucrative opportunity, as talk of
the metaverse and NFTs further accelerates. But plunging deeper
into virtual worlds opens up the playing field to more cyber crime:
security solutions will become a major priority, especially as crypto
hype and data privacy controversies continue to boom.
Climate tech and the pursuit of alternative energy solutions will
become top of mind for execs and businesses looking to achieve
net-zero emissions, and the push for electrification will continue
to gain momentum. But with enormous capital costs, there will
be a wide chasm between winners and losers — and between true
impact and more greenwashing.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

4

Finally, ultrafast delivery players will rely on partnerships to reach
a sustainable scale, while lab-grown meat will vie for a spot in
consumers’ shopping cart.
Ultimately, expect 2022 to be a year of adaptation, where players
across the board will invest in solutions for the new — and
increasingly virtual — “normal.”

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

5

Next wave of telehealth
Big tech companies, retailers, and telecoms will compete
with existing healthcare players for the $30B+ remote patient
monitoring market.
The Covid-19 pandemic upended healthcare in countless ways,
but one outcome showing staying power is the rise of remote
patient monitoring (RPM) — tech that tracks key vitals and metrics
while patients are away from typical medical settings.
While RPM has been gaining traction for several years as a way
to reduce costs and improve the patient experience by enabling a
tech-driven “hospital-at-home” model, the approach took off as
lockdowns and overburdened hospitals led to an enormous surge
in demand.

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6

The tech can be applied to a wide range of medical applications.
For example, well-funded startups in the space include:
• Huma, which uses data produced from smartphones to
monitor health.
• Element Science, which offers a wearable defibrillator that
also continuously monitors for life-threatening heart rhythms.
• Biofourmis, which provides a dedicated vitals measuring
device alongside AI tools to help manage patient care for
conditions like diabetes.
The role of non-traditional healthcare players will accelerate in
the coming year as the RPM market expands and the enabling
tech improves.
RPM could lead to earlier diagnoses and better treatments, reduce
the cost of care, and even support “decentralized” clinical trials.
Healthcare providers like Mayo Clinic and insurers are already
enthusiastic about the prospect and are partnering liberally with
RPM startups and wearables makers, but big corps from nonhealthcare industries are also seeing an opportunity to secure a
chunk of the $30B+ RPM market — particularly by leaning into
expertise in consumer electronics, data handling & AI, physical
retail infrastructure, and connectivity.
Another RPM boon will come from the quickening rollout of 5G
services. AT&T and Verizon are due to significantly expand their
5G services by late January. This will open up new possibilities for
data-heavy RPM applications, as continuous monitoring of multiple
vitals and AI-driven analysis tools can eat up a lot of bandwidth.
Telecoms are eager to showcase this healthcare potential.
For instance, in December, AT&T partnered with Samsung and
Qure4u, a digital health startup, to launch an initiative to monitor
people with high blood pressure.

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Meanwhile, RPM software platform Somatix received backing from
T-Mobile’s accelerator in September. Expect telecoms to rapidly
establish more RPM partnerships and even acquire startups in the
space to allow them to directly offer more RPM services.

AT&T has been talking up the potential for 5G-enabled RPM for years. Source: AT&T

Big tech will also be key players to watch in the coming months.
Apple, for one, announced tools for securely sharing data gathered
from its devices with doctors in June 2021. It is also rumored to
soon be launching additional health-tracking Apple Watch features
for glucose levels, blood pressure, body temperature, and more.
At the same time, a growing number of studies are indicating
consumer-focused wearables’ potential for helping to monitor
patients, including research from Stanford that found Apple
Watches were suitable for remotely monitoring the condition of
some heart patients. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are similarly
beginning to offer RPM services across their consumer devices,
including Fitbit, Nest, Azure Kinect, Halo, and more. (Read more in
our Big Tech In Healthcare report.)

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8

Apple announced tools last year to share health-related user data with doctors.
Source: Apple

This shift toward consumer-products-as-medical-devices
could create an opening for big tech companies to use their vast
ecosystems and AI prowess to go beyond what a typical medical
device maker could achieve using RPM. Medical device makers
tend to focus on building dedicated RPM devices that would be
prescribed to patients by doctors. Meanwhile, big tech companies
already have their devices in the hands of hundreds of millions
of users and have invested heavily in intuitive UX that could help
make RPM services feel more accessible.
For example, big tech companies are well-positioned to use AI
to passively screen everyday users for “digital biomarkers” —
subtle changes in how users engage with devices (such as text
input speed or interactions with certain apps) that may help
predict the onset of conditions like anxiety, depression, or even
Alzheimer’s disease.

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9

Other pieces of tech companies’ future healthcare plans may
also fall into place in 2022 — especially around VR. Apple, for
instance, is widely expected to launch a VR/AR headset this
year. This type of device could provide big tech companies with
a platform to offer immersive “digital therapeutics” — softwaredriven treatments often centered around behavioral change and
disease management — for conditions that have been diagnosed
using RPM on other devices in their ecosystems. Eventually, this
approach may even allow big tech companies to create a closed
loop that cuts out traditional healthcare providers altogether for
certain conditions.
Other big non-healthcare companies are also interested in RPM.
• Salesforce, for instance, is offering a remote patient
monitoring tool on its cloud-based platform — aimed at
helping providers manage RPM deployments and visualize the
vast amount of data being produced.
• Best Buy spent $400M in October to acquire Current Health,
a startup offering RPM devices and a data platform. The
retailer wants to tap into its network of stores and consumer
electronics experience to offer services across the entire RPM
value chain — from turning storefronts into de facto points of
care to offering RPM devices to managing the data created.
Watch for more corporations to leverage their current advantages
to enter the RPM market, a big prize which — by definition — takes
healthcare services out of traditional settings like hospitals where
barriers to entry for non-incumbents are high. Success in RPM
could also act as a launchpad for new entrants to compete in other
lucrative healthcare spaces. Anticipate a potential uptick in tech
companies and other non-healthcare corporations partnering with
hospitals and insurers to help deliver care.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

10

A key challenge for these corporations will be navigating fiendishly
complex healthcare regulations, especially around data. This could
slow down newcomers, but is unlikely to stop them. That said,
“moving fast and breaking things” is unlikely to be on the table.
This may calm the nerves of healthcare incumbents worried about
rapidly losing ground, but one question will likely be keeping
more than a few CEOs up at night: can a tech company move into
healthcare faster than a healthcare company can move into tech?
As more healthcare services become delivered via consumerfocused channels, a growing number of industry giants certainly
think they know the answer — and they’re betting that remote
patient monitoring is just the tip of the iceberg.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

11

Crypto crime
The crypto security space will expand to address rising cyber crime
as hackers continue to evolve in their tactics.
Interest in crypto is higher than ever before. Spending opportunities
are increasing as more companies — from Starbucks to Whole
Foods to KFC — begin to accept cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as a
form of payment.

But as the technology becomes more ubiquitous, so do the
associated cybersecurity risks. Though illicit activity reportedly
accounts for less than 1% of crypto transactions, reports of crypto
crimes have risen an average of 312% every year since 2016.
These include hackers stealing coins from investors, individuals
falling for crypto investing-related scams, and more.

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In August 2021, for example, hackers stole over $600M worth of
tokens from decentralized finance (DeFi) platform Poly Network
in what was considered the biggest crypto heist to date. Though
the funds were ultimately recovered, the attack demonstrates how
costly vulnerabilities in crypto security can be — and it’s not the
only instance.

The largest known cryptocurrency heists, as of August 2021. Source: Statista

More recently, in December 2021, cybercriminals stole $150M in
cryptocurrency from exchange BitMart as a result of a security
breach involving stolen private keys. Individuals with large
amounts of crypto have also fallen victim to hackers. In November
2021, a teenager was arrested for the theft of $46M CAD — the
largest known cryptocurrency theft from a single person.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

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Another way cyber criminals are taking advantage of cryptocurrency
is as ransom to pay off ransomware attacks. While cash continues
to be the first choice for criminals, that could change as crypto
becomes more widely used and accepted. Because cryptocurrency
transactions don’t involve intermediaries like banks and do not carry
personally identifying information, hackers can extort millions of
dollars while remaining basically anonymous.
Further, crypto payments are permanent. Like cash, once the
money is sent, the sender usually can’t get it back unless the
recipient returns it. Hackers can also “launder” the money by
transferring it through multiple digital wallets so that it’s nearly
impossible to trace. In short, it’s the perfect crime.

Source: Emsisoft

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

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In 2021, cyber attackers halted operations at a major East
Coast pipeline, stopped production at one of the US’ biggest
meatpackers, and breached an IT software vendor that supplied
hundreds of other companies. In each of these cases, the hackers
demanded a ransom of millions of dollars worth of bitcoin.
Criminals are also targeting bitcoin ATMs as more are being
installed around the US in places like Walmart. Scammers
drive victims to use a QR code to send funds to the scammer’s
crypto wallet during their ATM transactions. As with blockchain
technology in general, there is little legal oversight of the machines.
All of this sets the stage for the security and compliance space to
grow dramatically in 2022. Regulators in the US have voiced the
need for guardrails in cryptocurrency markets to mitigate this kind
of risk. China has been much more aggressive, banning crypto
trading and mining in September 2021 in an effort to limit risk to
the country’s financial system and minimize financial crime. But
without consistent regulations in place, startups are stepping in to
try to fill the security void.
Companies like PassFort, Chainalysis, TRM Labs, Solidus Labs,
and Elliptic are working to minimize blockchain-related risks with
solutions that range from anti-money laundering (AML) and know
your customer (KYC) solutions to transaction visibility to smart
contract code security.
Investors are also taking note — funding to the cybersecurity
market in general has exploded. In 2021, startups in the space
raised $28B — up 136% year-over-year — across nearly 850 deals.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

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Companies in the cybersecurity space focusing on crypto-specific
solutions include:
• Base Zero, which aims to help financial institutions safely
self-custody client crypto assets.
• CryptoPolice, which is working to create a decentralized
crypto scam verification system.
• PhishFort, which provides an anti-phishing solution for crypto
companies.

Crypto exchanges like Coinbase are also investing in security
solutions to protect themselves and their customers. The crypto
giant participated in a $23M seed round to security platform Forta
in September 2021. It also announced plans to acquire crypto
security startup Unbound in December. The announcement came
just 1 week after Coinbase’s purchase of Switzerland-based BRD.
Financial services companies are jumping in as they increasingly
embrace cryptocurrency. In 2021, for example, Mastercard
purchased cryptocurrency AML compliance company CipherTrace
and PayPal acquired cryptocurrency security company Curv.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

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But many of these security measures focus on protecting crypto
exchanges, which leaves personal wallets vulnerable to theft.
Further, cyber criminals are expanding their toolkits. For example,
cryptocurrencies known as “privacy coins,” such as Monero,
let users send and receive coins with total anonymity. Hackers
have demanded that victims pay in privacy coins in some recent
extortion cases, driving many exchanges to delist the coins.
However, this method can pose challenges for hackers looking
to cash out those funds. Kim Grauer, the director of research at
Chainalysis, says,

“Privacy coins haven’t been adopted
to the extent that one may expect. The
primary reason is that they aren’t as liquid
as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Cryptocurrency is only useful if you can
buy and sell goods and services or cash
out into mainstream money, and that is
much more difficult with privacy coins.”
Still, the crypto space changes quickly, and privacy coins could
pose a greater risk in 2022.
As of 2021, there are over 300M crypto users around the world and
more than 18,000 businesses accepting crypto payments. With
more individuals and companies storing wealth in cryptocurrencies
and using the coins to conduct transactions, the costs of hacks
are rising. This year will bring more scams, hacks, and illicit
transactions, but it will also bring well-funded startups seeking to
apply their protections to the quickly evolving ecosystem.

12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2022

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Direct-to-avatar
Mass fashion brands will go all in on the avatar economy as the
metaverse, NFTs, and digital identities take off, and the low cost of
development and huge user bases entice a deluge of entrants.
A $4,115 Gucci bag in Roblox. A $50,000 FEWOCiOUS x RTFKT
sneaker NFT. An $8 Balenciaga outfit on Fortnite.
In the last year, the explosion of NFTs and metaverse hype —
combined with the rise of virtual worlds like Roblox and Fortnite —
has spurred fashion brands to further experiment with virtual goods.
In these worlds, users interact in the form of avatars, which they
can personalize with clothing, accessories, and other purchases.
Alongside their popularity in virtual worlds, avatars have grown
more ubiquitous through messaging apps like Snapchat, social
platforms like Zepeto and VRChat, and avatar tech developers
like Genies.
These digital identities are becoming increasingly important,
especially to Gen Zers, who report feeling more like themselves
“online” than “offline,” according to one survey.

Source: The New Consumer

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As the importance of virtual selves grows, selling to users’ digital
identities — in other words, going “direct-to-avatar” (D2A) —
presents huge branding and monetization opportunities for fashion
brands and retailers more broadly. In 2022, we expect the directto-avatar business model to take off as brands bet on the future of
virtual worlds and compete for relevancy online.
Recent collaborations between fashion brands and virtual
platforms — like Gucci’s 2-week virtual “Gucci Garden’’ space on
Roblox — highlight the potential of targeting audiences in virtual
worlds. Gucci’s experience reportedly saw around 20M visits from
Roblox users, yielding hundreds of thousands of purchases.
But limited-edition collaborations are just one avenue. Brands are
also testing out their D2A strategies by:
• Launching digital storefronts or permanent “experiences”
in these worlds (e.g., interactive skatepark Vans World in
Roblox).
• Targeting blockchain-based worlds like The Sandbox,
where Adidas recently bought a plot of virtual land, and
Decentraland, where Sotheby’s has opened a virtual gallery.
• Creating their own experiences (which they could monetize
directly), such as Off-White’s OFFKAT mobile game or Louis
Vuitton’s NFT mobile app Louis: The Game.
• Experimenting with NFTs. For instance, Nike acquired RTFKT,
an a16z-backed NFT studio that creates digital collectibles
like virtual sneakers, in December 2021.

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Source: RTFKT

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a “key enabling technology”
for digital goods, per Index Ventures principal Rex Woodbury,
as they prove scarcity and authenticity, since users can claim
exclusive ownership of digital assets verified on the blockchain.
This has important implications for brands looking to get in on
the burgeoning resale economy for virtual goods — digital fashion
house The Fabricant, for example, takes a 5% royalty when a piece
of clothing is resold thanks to NFT tech.
While there is massive potential for brands going D2A,
opportunities — via minting NFTs or launching in-game virtual
content more broadly — hinge on 1) branding and 2) monetization.
By entering virtual worlds, brands can engage with large, young
audiences where they’re spending much of their time — active Roblox
users, for instance, average 2.6 hours per day on the platform.

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Eventually, brands may work directly with users-turned-creators
(like the ~1.3M developers on Roblox) who have the skill sets
and gaming experience to develop these goods and installations,
predicts Meagan Loyst, Gen Z VCs founder and Lerer Hippeau
investor. Gucci, for example, partnered with popular Roblox
creators and designers cSapphire and Rook Vanguard to develop
its virtual items.
In a virtual environment, brands also have more leeway to
customize and test products than in the real world, especially
as physical constraints like supply chains, inventory, labor and
material costs, and other factors become non-issues. “In theory,
the potential is limitless for brands to monetize in the metaverse,”
Loyst writes, as it’s much cheaper to create and replicate digital
goods vs. physical goods.
For example, between November and December 2018, Epic Gamesowned Fortnite reportedly sold 3.3M NFL-branded skins to bring in
approximately $50M in revenue as part of its partnership with the
NFL (which was brought back again in 2020 and 2021).

Source: Epic Games

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But the potential upside of selling directly to digital identities
extends beyond what we’re already seeing.
While most virtual goods are currently world-specific (e.g.,
Balenciaga Outfits are only available in Fortnite) or exist as crypto
collectibles (e.g., RTFKT sneakers), the future that brands are
betting on looks quite different. Avatar tech companies like Genies
and Wolf3D are currently working on developing avatars that users
can “carry” with them across platforms. With interoperability on
the horizon, consumers will be even more incentivized to buy
goods they can take with them wherever they go, as they do in the
physical world.
In the short term, fashion brands will invest heavily in creating
items and experiences in virtual worlds with already big audiences
— over half of kids in the US use Roblox, and Fortnite and Zepeto
count user bases in the hundreds of millions. But as more fashion
houses compete for relevancy online, including with fully digital
fashion brands like DressX, they will need to experiment with
smaller platforms — as well as invest in the tech solutions (e.g.,
3D modeling) and skilled workers that will enable them to do
so — to keep learning about the space and get ahead of future
developments.
Given the $190B market opportunity for virtual goods, we expect
the D2A model will be adopted not just by luxury fashion brands,
but by all players looking to monetize the metaverse hype, from
professional sports teams to restaurant chains. Other areas of
opportunity include:
• Entertainment: Events marketed to consumers’ avatars have
the potential to draw far larger crowds (and revenue) than
they can in the physical world. A prime example is Ariana
Grande’s 3-day Fortnite concert series in August 2021, which
saw millions of attendees and $20M+ in revenue including
merchandise sales.

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• Real estate: As more brands and consumers head into virtual
worlds, purchasing and owning “virtual land” or properties
could become an important market for companies to target.
• Payments: Emerging digital financial ecosystems could
underpin activities and D2A transactions in the metaverse,
disrupting traditional payments systems. Companies offering
financial services that are tailored to virtual currencies (e.g.,
DeFi applications) are already seeing strong interest.
As more players enter virtual worlds, “creating brand FOMO,” as
Decode_M founder Mike Berland puts it, will require increasingly
creative and targeted audience approaches. Brands and retailers
will need to understand the communities they’re trying to engage,
otherwise they may risk alienating users or falling short with
their campaigns.

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Virtualizing the clinical trial
In silico techniques will cut the time and money it takes to develop
a drug and insulate clinical trials from disruptions like Covid-19.
For potentially life-saving drugs and treatments, the road to
commercialization is steep.
On average, it costs $2.6B to research and develop a successful
drug and takes 10+ years to come to market. It’s estimated that in
vivo testing (testing on animals and humans) accounts for more
than 75% of the total cost, with recruitment alone being one of the
biggest barriers to drug development — only 6% of clinical trials are
ultimately completed on time.
Amid a global health crisis, the challenges only multiply: Covid-19
interrupted an estimated 80% of non-Covid-related clinical trials,
a costly setback. At the same time, the accelerated development
and approval of Covid vaccines demonstrates the critical value in
implementing faster and more effective clinical trials. But how can
pharma players succeed?
Enter in silico clinical trials.
This technology — which uses computational models to simulate
how a drug, medical device, or intervention will affect a virtual
population — is emerging as a way to cut costs and accelerate
timelines while reducing the risk to animal or human test subjects.
In silico trials are unlikely to replace traditional clinical trials entirely,
but they could improve their speed and success rates dramatically.

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From study design to post-study analysis, clinical trials are
notorious for their time-intensive, manual, and error-prone
processes. Working with human patients is time-consuming, costly,
and in some cases, unfeasible. The average cost per patient per
trial is over $41,000.
Finding patients who even fit the criteria and are willing and able
to participate is also challenging. On average, 80% of studies
experience delays in enrollment and 20% of trials fail to meet
enrollment goals altogether. Bottlenecks at this stage impede the
trial and ultimately delay patient access to life-saving therapeutics.
In silico trials, instead, simulate the effects of a new treatment
using virtual populations with the goal of supplementing or even
partially replacing in vivo testing. Benefits include:
• Researchers can use modeling and simulation to predict trial
outcomes before advancing to real-world clinical trials and
ultimately design studies that are more likely to succeed.
• Virtual populations can diversify the biological variability
of traditional trials and enable exploration of irregular
phenotypes that would be difficult to recruit for.

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• Control or placebo arms in trials can be simulated so that
real-life patients who need treatment are guaranteed to
receive it. This helps encourage potential subjects to enroll in
the first place.
• In silico methods can lead to more exploratory research
outcomes that might not be feasible with conventional trials.
For instance, a recent in silico trial looked at the same virtual
population twice to see how the presence or absence of a
secondary risk factor affected treatment.

“You can run, for instance, an in silico
Phase II trial on 10,000 virtual subjects,
rather than being limited to let’s say 10 or
20 or 50 real human subjects.”
— FRANÇOIS-HENRI BOISSEL, NOVADISCOVERY CEO

The technology is largely early-stage, but it has recently seen
increasing adoption from medical device and pharma players.
• France-based Novadiscovery, backed by big pharma CVCs
Sanofi and Debiopharm, has partnered with pharma players
like Janssen and Takeda. The company allows clients to run
simulations of different regimens (using real-world data) and
identify optimal subgroups for a given treatment before going
to clinical trials.
• GNS Healthcare uses genomic data from partners like Tempus
to design virtual patients and simulate individualized drug
responses for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple
myeloma, and colorectal cancer. The company — backed
by players including Merck, Amgen, and Celgene — recently

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announced a multi-year partnership with Memorial Sloan
Kettering Cancer Center to accelerate development of prostate
cancer treatments.
• Unlearn develops digital twins — virtual copies of a real-life
entity, in this case human treatment subjects — to use as
control arms in studies. To achieve this, machine learning
models create digital representations that possess the same
baseline data as human subject counterparts.
Using statistical models of disease progression, researchers can
better simulate clinical outcomes for a given cohort of patients,
down to the level of how specific traits impact treatment. This could
result in a hyper-personalized approach to assessing a patient’s fit
for a given intervention.

Source: Unlearn

France-based Dassault Systèmes is making strides in shaping this
space through its multi-year partnership with the FDA, one goal
of which is to conduct an in silico trial testing new cardiovascular
devices’ efficacy and safety. Dassault plans to do this by using its
simulated 3D heart model and virtual patients.

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Source: Dassault Systèmes

This initiative, known as the Living Heart Project, will set the
groundwork for how digital evidence can be used in assessments
of cardiovascular devices. The project includes 130 organizations
across 24 countries, including pharma giants like Bayer and Pfizer,
as well as medical device companies like Medtronic. Given the
scope of the project, progress here could encourage coordinated
adoption by healthcare stakeholders across the industry.
In silico technology, though, is not without its drawbacks. For one,
using computer-generated patient populations relies on real-life,
historical data for modeling, which can make it tricky to test for
unexpected or novel side effects to treatments. Instead, in silico
trials might be more suited to test a treatment’s efficacy (i.e., to
validate “expected” results).
Further, these techniques need to build more credibility through
proven applications and studies if they are to become a more
integral part of clinical trials. And so, in the near future, in silico
testing will primarily be used to augment or optimize traditional in
vivo testing, rather than replace it altogether.

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In 2022, we’re likely to see more pharma players incorporating
in silico tech into their pipelines as a layered approach to make
clinical trials more efficient and resilient. We’ll also see more
regulators like the FDA and the EU’s EMA outlining best practices
for collecting and analyzing data like digital evidence.
(Read about other ways technology is transforming clinical
trials here.)

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Net-zero or bust
Climate tech is becoming a VC darling, but high capital costs and
murky claims will pose tough challenges for investors.
Tackling climate change is becoming a massive industry.
Announcements of net-zero carbon output commitments from
companies and governments have picked up momentum.
Consumers are more and more eager to spend their money with
sustainability-focused brands. Government spending, such as the
recently signed infrastructure bill in the US, will push billions into
investments that could help combat climate change.
Reflecting this trend, sectors as diverse as food, energy, fashion,
transport, and many more are scrambling for ways to lower
their carbon footprint and cater to an increasing appetite from
shareholders for better performance across environmental, social,
and governance (ESG) standards.
These issues are increasingly top of mind for execs, with earnings
call mentions of “climate change,” “global warming,” or “ESG”
surging in 2021.

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VCs are quickly seizing the opportunity.
Climate tech — a broad term covering technologies that can
help tackle climate change, from low-impact protein to carbonsequestering concrete to emissionless vehicles, and much more
— became a hot VC space in 2021 and the trend is set to only
accelerate.
For the renewable energy space alone, funding increased last year
more than 4x compared to 2020. This momentum is being reflected
across other climate tech spaces, with startup funding smashing
records in sectors including energy storage, hydrogen, carbon
capture, alternative proteins, vertical farming, electric vehicle tech,
smart buildings, and more. (CB Insights clients can dig into this
funding data using our analyst-curated Expert Collections.)

Last year was also a big year for climate tech-dedicated VC funds.
US-based Lowercarbon Capital raised $800M in “just a few days,”
according to its founder Chris Sacca. In Europe, climate techfocused World Fund launched last year having secured about
$400M, and 2150 said in October that it had raised over $300M for
its sustainability-focused fund.

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The returns could be sizable. For instance, sustainable shoemaker
Allbirds went public at a $2B+ valuation in November. Meanwhile,
battery recycling company Li-Cycle went public at a $1.7B
valuation in August.
Larry Fink, the CEO of investment management giant BlackRock,
even said in October that he thinks the next 1,000 unicorns will
come from climate tech. (See how his prediction pans out using
our real-time unicorn tracker.)
But the path ahead will be difficult. Climate tech competition is
heating up, just look at the rising number of alternative protein
contenders and electric vehicle players, and investors have their
work cut out for them to weed out “greenwashing” — superficial
climate-friendly talk or ill-conceived sustainability projects.
Companies can approach climate tech from a broad array of
perspectives — from carbon-sucking products to resource-saving
business models to low-impact supply chains and manufacturing
— but actually assessing a startup’s sustainability credentials
requires weighing a product’s impact from its raw inputs to
eventual disposal.

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This can be vexing as difficult trade-offs quickly emerge. For
instance, the energy needed to manufacture a new “energy-efficient”
item may far outweigh any likely gains from day-to-day use.
Climate tech also raises the dreaded “hardware is hard” challenge.
Some of the most potentially impactful — and potentially lucrative
— climate tech innovations such as better electric vehicles,
vertical farms, geoengineering tech, and new energy sources can
be astoundingly capital intensive to even get prototypes off the
ground.
Fusion energy startups, for instance, saw a massive jump in
funding this year as climate tech boomed. The approach mimics
the reactions powering the sun to produce carbon-free electricity.
Get it right and it could provide enough clean power to keep human
civilization humming along for eons.

Fusion reactors are very complex and capital intensive — but they could be a key (and
lucrative) power source of the future. Source: Commonwealth Fusion Systems

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But building a mini-star isn’t cheap. Commonwealth Fusion
Systems, an MIT-spinout, raised a $1.8B Series B in December to
continue developing its demonstration “SPARC” reactor.
That’s a lot of risk to take on. But VCs are built for risk. And the
growing number of enormous mega-rounds ($100M+) going to
startups across the globe indicates that VCs are better placed than
ever to move the needle on even capital-intensive climate tech.
With climate-friendly technologies maturing across a broad array
of sectors and investor demand booming, the coming year is set
to be a breakout moment for sustainability investment. Watch for
an increasing number of high-valuation exits and announcements
of advances across several climate tech areas. Some high-profile
startup failures in the space are inevitable — but, at least for now,
don’t expect them to do much to dent investor sentiment.

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Ultrafast convenience
Retailers will join forces with cash-burning ultrafast delivery
companies to help win over consumers.
The ultrafast delivery space has never been hotter.
Urban consumers’ preferences for instant gratification, combined
with a shift away from physical retail amid the ongoing pandemic,
propelled US ultrafast delivery sales to an estimated $20B to $25B
in 2021, according to Coresight Research.
Now, the e-commerce model of “speed is king” — which Amazon
kicked off in 2005 with 2-day free shipping — is being pushed to
the limit. Funding to startups offering delivery in 10 to 20 minutes
surged nearly 10x year-over-year in 2021 to approach $8B.

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But many are still scratching their heads at how these startups —
which operate under a “dark” store model — can reach profitability
with full-time delivery drivers, little to no delivery minimums or
fees, urban real estate rents, and no significant markups on already
slim grocery margins. NY-based grocery delivery startup 1520, for
example, shut down in late 2021 after failing to acquire customers
and running out of funding.
2022 will prove to be a “do or die” year for ultrafast delivery. Players
looking to survive — and retailers trying to get in on the future of
delivery — will increasingly seek out partnerships with each other to
win customers and differentiate their offerings.
Grocery retailers and ultrafast companies have already started to
link up, especially in population-dense European cities:
• In October 2021, Carrefour announced “Carrefour Sprint,” a
partnership with Paris-based startup Cajoo and Uber Eats to
deliver to customers in 15 minutes. The retail giant previously
took a minority stake in Cajoo in July 2021.
• Also in October, Tesco announced a partnership with Gorillas
to pilot 5 UK-based dark stores using Tesco’s products and
Gorillas’ app.
• Aldi Nord partnered with Glovo in April 2021 to test a
30-minute delivery service in Spain and Portugal.
• Meanwhile, Kroger said in September 2021 it would partner
with Instacart to launch its “Kroger Delivery Now” service.
But reaching the 10- to 20-minute delivery standard will
require continued investment on retailers’ part. Smaller-format
convenience-oriented stores like 7-Eleven and Walgreens, for
example, have already launched delivery services in partnership
with companies like Uber, Instacart, and DoorDash (which also
launched ultrafast delivery via its own “digital convenience store”
DashMart) in the US.

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This kind of interest could signal a ripe partnership opportunity
for quick-commerce startups that focus on speed, and even an
acquisition avenue as these retailers look to bring ultrafast delivery
services in-house.
For retailers and ultrafast delivery players, inking business
relationships offers mutual benefits:
• Real estate savings: The ultrafast delivery model, which relies
on warehouse space to house goods for delivery, can entail
high real estate rents and set-up costs. Tesco and Gorillas’
“co-location” pilot, where dark stores are housed in Tesco
supermarkets with extra space, indicates a new avenue for
making ultrafast delivery more economical.
• Tech stack development: Ultrafast delivery players’ proprietary
inventory tech — which enables them to accurately track
and predict inventory fluctuations — combined with retailers’
supply chain expertise will help these startups better respond
to customer preferences and even personalize their online
grocery experience. Retailers looking to stay on top of trends
in online grocery and e-commerce will be keen to up their
inventory, warehousing, and customer marketing capabilities
— all strengths of ultrafast companies.
• Customer acquisition: Partnering with startups will enable
retailers, and grocers in particular, to enter new urban markets
and capture more small trips in areas with high population
density. Whether through co-branding or white-labeling
their services for grocers and convenience stores, ultrafast
players stand to gain name recognition and a vital customer
acquisition avenue with retailers’ backing.
• Diversified product options: Fast-track delivery apps offer
another channel for retailers to get their products in front of
their customers, especially as consumers shift more of their
spending online. For ultrafast startups, which already sell at

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grocery retailer prices, adding private-label items through
a retailer partnership would appeal to price-conscious
shoppers.
As regional leaders become established and consumer demand
proves strong enough to make dark convenience stores successful,
even retailers beyond grocers and convenience stores could look to
partner with these startups to offer fast-tracked last-mile delivery.
Recent partnerships in this vein include Uber and Indigo in Canada
to deliver books and gifts, as well as Gopuff and Hyatt Hotels in the
US to deliver travel essentials.

Source: Hyatt

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We expect other retailers to experiment with ultrafast delivery
through strategic partnerships — and potentially M&A — as the
space matures. For example:
• Fashion chain C&A has partnered with Glovo to offer delivery
in under 30 minutes in Spain and Portugal for a selection of
in-demand clothing items on Glovo’s app. Moving forward,
more fast fashion retailers will likely explore ultrafast delivery
to boost sales.
• Gopuff is piloting a prescription delivery service in
Philadelphia for birth control, acne, and erectile dysfunction
medication. Gopuff’s pharmacy ambitions could extend to
drugstore chains like Walgreens or CVS — which currently
offer same-day or 1- to 2-day delivery — to deploy more
convenient fast-tracked delivery for their customers.
Ultimately, the future of both ultrafast delivery players and brickand-mortar retailers in the highly competitive online grocery and
e-commerce spaces will depend on their ability to differentiate
themselves and engage customers over the long term. An
increasingly diverse set of partnerships will be key to their success.
For more, clients can check out the “Ultrafast Delivery” sheet of our
Food & Meal Delivery Collection to compare provider delivery fees,
delivery minimums, and geographies served.

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De-risking supply chains
Manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders will turn to digital
twins and the microfactory model to bolster their operations.
Long-standing cracks in global supply chains came into sharp
focus last year, as pressure from forces like the pandemic, weather
events, labor shortages, and port congestion mounted.
This has created a swell of demand for tech solutions that can
provide a step change in the resiliency, agility, and efficiency of
logistics networks — and allow manufacturers, suppliers, and
retailers to shift toward more proactive business models.
Key market drivers in supply chain innovation include:
• Digitization: Technologies like digital freight matching and
blockchain-based asset-tracking are better matching supply
with demand and improving data access and value.
• Visibility: Demand forecasting and visibility platforms are
helping businesses identify and respond to inefficiencies and
potential disruptions.
• Automation: Robots are proliferating across the supply chain,
enabling capabilities like robotic fulfillment, autonomous
ground and drone delivery, and more.
The opportunity is massive. For one, the retail industry lost an
estimated $1.14T to out-of-stock items in 2020. On top of that,
being able to deliver a product in 2 days, rather than 7-10, can
boost sales by 40%. Making it happen in 1 day leads to sales
growth of 70%, according to Deliverr.

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While advancements to mitigate disruptions and enhance
efficiencies across supply chain operations are already being made,
a few areas are gaining more traction as we move into 2022.
Digital twins are one of the most promising solutions here. The
$32.2B market is shaking up supply chain management, enabling
simulation of an organization’s supply chain, including potentially
thousands of vendors, warehouses, logistics processes, and more.
Augmented by AI, the tech can help predict what will happen in
a virtual environment if, say, a severe weather event or a labor
or parts shortage hits any part of the chain. From there, it could
automatically propose and implement a solution, such as procuring
a part from elsewhere.
Per a fall 2020 Grant Thornton survey, around 1 in 5 manufacturers
are planning to invest in supply chain digital twins, suggesting the
tech is still early-stage. But businesses that have already adopted
the tech are seeing benefits such as reduced total inventory and
capital expenditure, as well as increased throughput, according
to BCG.

Source: Google

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Big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are in a
position to lead the market, given their advanced cloud platforms
and computing capabilities. In fact, all 3 big tech giants announced
digital twin offerings for enterprises in recent months.
• Google announced its Supply Chain Twin cloud offering in
September 2021. Customers like Renault are reportedly seeing
reductions of up to 95% in the time it takes to analyze data
using the platform.
• Microsoft launched a preview of its supply chain digital twin
offering in November 2021. Daimler Truck AG is using the
solution to reduce downtime and parts shortages as well as
accelerate decision-making as, or even before, supply chain
issues arise.
• Amazon Web Services (AWS) began rolling out its IoT
TwinMaker in November 2021. The solution specifically helps
enterprises create digital twins of industrial operations, but
Amazon could soon look to expand its scope to the entire
supply chain.
Digital twins will take off in 2022 as organizations seek to hedge
against supply chain disruption.
Moving from the cloud to the factory floor, some manufacturers are
turning to a microfactory model, which relies on automation and
robotics to create more flexible manufacturing frameworks that can
be deployed in a fraction of the time and at scale.

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EV maker Arrival’s robotic, cell-based approach to manufacturing can adjust on the fly to
changes in product design. Source: Arrival

The model has been around for several decades, but a host of
forces are making it more viable and attractive — from the urgency
of slashing emissions to the decreasing cost of AI and robotics to
the growing demand for small-batch and personalized goods.
Startups are pioneering the model. However, corporates and
incumbent players are also exploring the technology via
investments and partnerships.
• Electric bus and van maker Arrival is currently building 3
microfactories — each costs around $50M and will produce
10,000 vans or 1,000 buses a year. To achieve this, the
microfactories employ just 200 people, occupy 200,000 square
feet, and can be operationalized in as little as 6 months.
(For comparison, Tesla’s gigafactories can cost billions of
dollars and occupy millions of square feet.) The company has
received investment from Hyundai and Kia, as well as UPS,
which has committed to buying 10,000 of its vans.

“It’s almost like the model of McDonald’s.
You get as many as needed to fulfill demand.”
— DENIS SVERDLOV, ARRIVAL FOUNDER AND CEO

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• Early-stage food tech startup Relocalize is developing
shipping container-sized microfactories that will be placed
near grocery distribution centers, with each microfactory
serving 100-200 local grocery stores. It launched its first
microfactory — designed to produce ice without any water
waste — in November 2021, with the goal of making and
storing 1.6M bags of ice annually.
• Bright Machines offers businesses a microfactory-as-aservice featuring lines of small, intelligent robots. Using Bright
Machines’ microfactory solution, point-of-care diagnostics
developer DRW reportedly increased production output by
10x and reduced unit assembly time from 2 minutes to 20
seconds.
Across current iterations of the microfactory model, automation is
key to making operations efficient enough that the cost economics
of micro-manufacturing make sense. As technologies like AI and
robotics become increasingly advanced, the microfactory approach
will become more lucrative — and could have major implications for
shoring up the efficiency and resilience of supply chains.
In the coming year, businesses will continue to face disruptive events
at every turn. Those that invest in technology to strengthen their
supply chains could not only avoid the worst but come out on top.

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The electrification of everything
Battery tech will make huge advances this year, bringing the
promise of electrification to everything from planes to basketball
shoes.
We see the move toward electrification every day. Buses amble
past propelled by silent electric engines, homeowners are installing
power-generating roof tiles, and some athletes are even wearing
electric shoes that adapt to the shape of their feet.
These examples still feel like novelties. But that’s not likely to last.
Mainstream electrification is set to reach new heights in 2022 as a
growing number of companies, investors, and governments place
big bets on the technology and cheap sources of clean energy
become more abundant. Meanwhile, a number of corporations
and well-funded startups are poised to make leaps in battery
technology that will set the stage for mass electrification across
countless industries.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a major driver of this momentum. EV
pioneer Tesla is currently worth more than $1T — more than the
rest of the top 10 global automakers combined. The US government
pledged in 2021 to electrify its entire federal fleet of about 645,000
vehicles. Many carmakers, including GM, Volvo, Honda, and more,
have announced plans to move their entire lineups over to electric.
More and more corporations are taking notice of this burgeoning
electric revolution and are making their own plans — from airlines
edging toward electric planes to logistics incumbents pushing
to be carbon-neutral. Today, industrial companies could electrify
up to half of their fuel use with existing technology, according
to McKinsey.

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Mentions of electrification in earnings calls soared to record levels
in 2021 as execs talked up sustainability goals and ways to tap
into electrification opportunities. Expect a torrent of electrification
announcements in 2022.

But electrification presents its own challenges. Clean power
generation will need to be rapidly scaled up to meet a steep rise
in demand, complex processes will have to be rethought to suit
electricity’s strengths, and far-reaching infrastructure will have to
be installed to support it all.
A reliance on batteries can also cause issues. The need for mined
metals like lithium and cobalt risks supply chain bottlenecks and
raises its own environmental concerns. A shortfall in supply could
also set the stage for fresh geopolitical tensions and saber-rattling.
But many would argue that these are manageable problems
compared to what electrification offers in return, especially with the
ongoing rollout of renewables like solar and wind — leading to some
countries enjoying an abundance of clean electricity — disruptive
advances in energy generation on the horizon, and new tech
emerging for better supply chain management. A greater arbiter of
the electrification trend will likely be how good batteries can get.
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The more energy that can be packed into a battery, the more
applications it can be applied to. Lighter, longer-lasting batteries
could help emission-free planes take to the skies, boost the
applicability of commercial electric vehicles, make it cheaper
for property owners to install on-premises energy storage, and
much more.
Progress in this area has picked up momentum and more big
announcements and product launches could be on the way.
Apple is reportedly planning to launch an electric car by 2024
amid rumors that it’s achieved a breakthrough in battery tech.
Meanwhile, technologies that sprinkle silicon into batteries to
boost energy density are moving out of the lab and into consumer
products. For example, Sila Nanotechnologies — a unicorn that has
raised nearly $1B in funding — brought its silicon battery tech to
market for the first time in late 2021 via fitness tracking company
Whoop. Sila claims that it increased energy density by 20%
compared to typical lithium-ion batteries, helping bring the overall
size of the wearable down by a third.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ silicon battery tech was used in a commercial product in late
2021. Source: Sila Nanotechnologies

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Investors are sensing that a big jump in energy storage demand
is approaching — deals to startups in the space doubled in 2021
compared to the previous year, while funding increased 4x.
Investments are going to companies working on everything from
large-scale storage for power grids to battery recycling to novel
tech like solid-state batteries. (CB Insights clients can see 55+
startups transforming energy storage in this market map.)

As batteries advance in the coming year, we’ll see even more parts
of the economy go electric. Though a lot hinges on building out
capital-intensive infrastructure and pouring money into nascent
tech, more and more big players are betting that the shift toward
electrification is just getting started.

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The consumer privacy battle
Consumer privacy will take off as a strategic business priority
in 2022 — which could end up giving big tech an even greater
advantage.
Over the past 20 years, tech giants like Amazon, Facebook (aka
Meta), Google, and Apple have amassed unfathomable amounts of
user data.
While the increasing generation and collection of consumer data has
spurred innovation, it has also given rise to security concerns and
set off waves of consumer privacy regulation (like the EU’s General
Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR) over the past few years.
At the same time, consumers have also become more skeptical of
how their data is managed and increased their demand for control
over its collection, storage, and use. For example, three days after
the GDPR went into effect, NGO La Quadrature du Net filed a formal
privacy complaint — on the behalf of 12,000 individual consumers
— against Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. This
resulted in Amazon getting slapped with an $887M fine in July 2021
— the largest GDPR penalty administered to date.
Action taken by regulators and consumers has not been without
consequence. Rising executive interest in privacy and compliance
management reveals that the protection of consumer data has
increasingly become a priority for businesses across all industries.

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Investors have also taken note, increasingly backing consumer
privacy startups such as the following in recent years:
• OneTrust raised its fourth mega-round to date in 2021. The
company’s total funding now stands at $937M, and it was last
valued at $5.1B in December 2020.
• LogicGate — a provider of GDPR and California Consumer
Privacy Act (CCPA) compliance solutions — raised a megaround in June 2021, bringing its total funding to $158M.
• Data privacy platform BigID has raised 10 times since 2018,
bringing its total funding to $246M. It was last valued at $1.3B
following an extended Series D round in 2021.
These rising regulatory, consumer, and startup pressures have
elevated the profile and importance of consumer privacy over the
past few years, compelling big tech companies to move in two
different directions.

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Some have moved in step with these pressures. For example:
• Google announced that it aims to phase out third-party
cookies and launch a Privacy Sandbox by 2023 in order to
enable personalized ad delivery while protecting user privacy.
• In April 2021, Apple launched its App Tracking Transparency
feature via its iOS 14.5 update, allowing users to disable ad
tracking for certain apps. This update has forced developers to
not only allow users to opt out of tracking — which has been
possible in the past — but also to explicitly provide users with
the choice in a pop-up prompt before the app is even used.

Source: Apple

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“At Apple, we believe privacy is a
fundamental human right. We work
relentlessly to build it into everything we
make. It’s fundamental to how we design
and engineer every product and service we
put into the world.
While others are focused on making
customers the product, collecting evergrowing amounts of personal information,
we’ve kept the lens focused on how
technology can work for people. And that’s
meant introducing countless features
that give users transparency and choice
over how their data is collected, used, and
shared.”
— TIM COOK, APPLE CEO

Other big tech companies, like Facebook, have moved against
the tide, drawing investigative scrutiny and penalties over
privacy scandals. In July 2019, the company received a $5B fine
from the FTC for violating consumer privacy rules — the largest
placed on any company by any regulatory organization in history.
Additionally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denounced
Apple’s iOS 14.5 privacy update as well as Tim Cook’s postCambridge Analytica suggestion that the social media company
stop collecting user data outside of its main apps.

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Until now, it has been possible for organizations that rely heavily
on consumer data to largely remain neutral on the matter.
However, consumer privacy awareness is at an all-time high and
regulatory pressure is only set to increase as a deluge of more
stringent privacy legislation comes into effect this year. Together,
these forces will necessitate that consumer data-dependent
organizations — big and small — adjust their strategies and
prioritize consumer privacy as we head into 2022.
One of the most immediate effects of this shift will be an
acceleration in the abandonment of third-party data collection, as
this sits at the core of both Apple’s iOS update and Google’s move
to phase out cookies. The advertising and marketing industry,
already battered and beholden to big tech, stands to potentially
lose the most, but any B2B or B2C company that relies heavily
on third-party targeting to advertise is going to need to adjust
dramatically at the risk of facing massive losses. Publishers that
don’t take mitigative measures stand to lose 50%+ of their total ad
revenue, according to Google.

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Many organizations will rush to collect first-party data (where
consumers provide their information directly to a business) in
order to continue targeting ads on third-party sites. However,
the use of this data will prove to be far more beneficial for large
enterprises and put smaller companies — that don’t have as much
data or the means to collect it — at a disadvantage.
With this scenario on the horizon, contextual targeting is wellpositioned to make a comeback this year, as it allows businesses
to deliver relevant and profitable ads without third- or first-party
data. For instance, GumGum — a contextual intelligence startup
— utilizes computer vision and natural language processing
technologies to analyze web pages, videos, images, and other
digital content to help advertisers place their ads in the most
relevant locations without tapping into their first-party data.

Source: GumGum

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Notably, in the end, this overwhelming rush toward consumer
privacy will likely benefit big tech companies the most. Although
some currently use third-party data to power their advertising
tools, in the long run, their first-party data stockpiles — which they
have amassed over 2 decades of high-profile acquisitions — will be
a competitive advantage in the advertising landscape. Meanwhile,
smaller companies will scramble to adopt new solutions to
redesign their advertising operations and adapt to a cookieless
environment.

That said, the year of the consumer may simply be a stepping
stone to multiple decades of digital giant domination.

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Killing the credit card
Buy now, pay later purchases will become more frequent and
higher value as millennial and Gen Z shoppers gravitate away from
traditional cards.
As the Covid-19 pandemic drove unprecedented levels of
e-commerce shopping, point-of-sale (POS) financing — or “buy
now, pay later” (BNPL) — saw a huge boost while credit card
balances dropped to their lowest point since 2017.
Currently, BNPL still reflects a small portion of the overall spending
on payment cards (including credit, debit, and prepaid cards), an
industry that sees roughly $8T in annual spend volume in the US.
But this could turn a corner in 2022.
BNPL startups — including Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay, which
was recently acquired by Block (fka Square) — saw record-setting
amounts of funding and deals in 2021. The industry is expected
to grow 10-15x to top $1T in annual gross merchandise volume
by 2025.

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Even big tech players are making moves in the space:
• Amazon partnered with Affirm in August 2021, allowing
shoppers to create a payment plan for items over $50. As
of November, Affirm is the exclusive BNPL provider for the
e-commerce giant.
• Apple and Goldman Sachs are reportedly working on a BNPL
offering called “Apple Pay Later.”
• Google Pay has partnered with Afterpay and Klarna to provide
BNPL services for in-store shopping.
Credit-shy millennials and Gen Z shoppers are driving this growth,
accounting for nearly 75% of consumers who use BNPL solutions.
Wary of debt and hidden fees, consumers in this age group are
hesitant to take on the interest and fees associated with credit cards.
With BNPL flexibility, customers can purchase items online through
installments (typically 4 payments) with no interest or penalties
if paid on time, or through fixed-rate interest-bearing loans at the
POS where fees are known upfront.
With longer-term financing or missed payments, these may still
be a more favorable option to credit cards: Klarna, for example,
charges 19.99% APR for month-to-month financing and a missed
payment fee of $7 per month — much lower than the $25-$40 that
credit card companies can charge.
Also, users often opt in for credit products from BNPL providers
because they may have a better chance of getting approved. For
example, Affirm’s proprietary credit underwriting model approves
20% more customers on average than comparable competitor
products. Its recently launched Debit+ card has zero overdraft
fees (which typically cost around $35 each), sign-up fees, annual
fees, or late fees — and allows users to convert their purchase into
installment payments within 24 hours of buying.

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On the other side of the equation, BNPL providers earn money
by charging the retailers who aim to attract more shoppers with
convenient payment plans. This gamble seems to be paying off —
Klarna now has 20M customers in the US alone, with an average
customer age of 33.
BNPL is typically used for smaller purchases, with an average
order size around $140. This is usually spent on apparel and
cosmetics products, according to Head of Klarna US David Sykes.
But this could begin to change in 2022.
Customers are already beginning to use BNPL solutions to finance
bigger-ticket items like furniture and household appliances. Fortythree percent of adults in the US are interested in using BNPL to
pay for goods and services ranging from cars to home remodeling
to medical treatment, according to an AWS study. Sunbit is already
making moves here: The California-based startup offers BNPL
financing for auto parts, healthcare services, dental services,
and more.

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For now, when it comes to major purchases, the vast majority of
customers do their research online and continue to close the deal
in person. This is partially because using BNPL services to make
big-ticket purchases online is still new, so there is still quite a bit of
consumer trust to build. Financing a $140 clothing purchase with a
new service is one thing, but using it to buy a new car is another.
At the same time, some verticals are seeing an increase in
customers making big purchases digitally. Online car dealer
Carvana sold 100,000 vehicles in Q2’21, yielding a nearly 200%
increase in revenue year-over-year. Similarly, Vroom reported that
its “e-commerce units sold surged by 172% to more than 18,260
units” year-over year. Both offer financing directly from their
websites.
As consumers increasingly rely on digital channels for many
interactions, and as BNPL becomes more familiar, it stands to
reason that more shoppers will choose these solutions for bigger
and bigger items in 2022 and beyond. BNPL providers are already
beginning to up their spending limits — Affirm now approves
payment plans for as much as $17,500.

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But BNPL is not without risk. Consumers can still rack up a
considerable amount of debt. They may also make their BNPL
payments using credit cards, which could then be charged the very
fees they were trying to avoid. For now, BNPL’s debt performance
reporting is “opaque,” according to a recent Fitch Ratings report.
In 2022 and beyond, consumers will need to track their BNPL
spending carefully. Meanwhile, payment networks and credit card
issuers will likely partner with BNPL companies or create their
own in-house BNPL solutions to stay competitive. For example,
players like Splitit and Four are already partnering with Visa and
Mastercard. Capital One is also testing a beta version of its own
BNPL product.

Finally, watch for more white-label BNPL providers to emerge.
These companies — like Amount, Limepay, and Pledg — help
brands build out their own BNPL solutions, enabling them to keep
their own branding and have more control over their product.

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Lab-to-table
Regulations will finally allow lab-grown meat to hit restaurant
tables and grocery store shelves and begin competing against
traditional meat and plant alternatives.
Lab-grown (or “cultivated”) meat companies, which make meat
using animal-derived cell cultures, have existed for years — but to
eat their products, you’d have to sign a waiver. These companies
have been awaiting regulatory approval, and are not yet able to
bring their products to market.
But that doesn’t mean the market doesn’t have big potential. Some
estimates say cultured meat could account for a third of US meat
consumption by 2040, surpassing plant-based alternatives. In the
$2.7T global meat market, even a fraction of market share could
be massive. With regulatory bodies making overtures to bring
cultivated meat to the mainstream, traditional meat vendors and
leading plant-based alternative companies may soon be facing a
new contender.
Currently, only one company has the regulatory approval to sell
cultivated meat: Eat Just, which has received approval from
Singapore authorities to sell chicken breasts made with cell
cultures. Under its brand GOOD Meat, the company made the
world’s first sale of cultured meat in December 2020, serving its
“no-kill” chicken in Singaporean restaurant 1880.

GOOD Meat’s lab-grown chicken in 1880’s maple waffle dish. Source: CNBC

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Eat Just has raised $707M to produce its vegan and cell-cultured
food products, most recently earning a valuation of $2.6B in
March 2021. The company is part of an expanding market of meat
alternatives, which is estimated to hit $140B in the next decade, per
CB Insights’ Industry Analyst Consensus.
Israel and Singapore have been hotspots for cultivated meat
innovation due to favorable regulatory conditions. While most
companies can’t yet sell their products commercially, they’re
making strides to develop them. In Israel, startups like Aleph Farms,
SuperMeat, and Future Meat have raised funding to cultivate their
lab-grown meat products. SuperMeat has even piloted a test
restaurant, though the restaurant is not yet fully open to the public,
and requires guests to sign waivers to try their no-kill, lab-grown
chicken burgers.
2022 may be the year that US-based players materially enter the
game, with the cultivated meat industry poised to see regulatory
action and even early approvals in the region.
In the US, lab-grown meat is regulated by both the FDA and USDA,
with the FDA overseeing cell growth and the USDA overseeing cell
harvest and labeling. In September 2021, the agencies published
a public request for comments about labeling meat products
containing cultured cells. The USDA also committed to a $10M
investment over the next 5 years to establish the National Institute
for Cellular Agriculture, the first-ever US government-funded
cultivated protein research center.
A handful of cultivated meat companies have announced that they
hope to start selling commercially this year. One of them is Upside
Foods (fka Memphis Meats), a leader in the cultivated meat space.
In late 2021, the company opened a 53,000-square-foot processing
plant for lab-grown steak and poultry products — the largestever cultivated meat facility, with capacity to produce over 50,000
pounds of product annually.

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A lab-grown chicken burger. Source: Upside Foods

While awaiting regulatory approval, the company has focused on
preparing its facility, packaging, and branding, and offered tastings
to staff, journalists, and investors like Richard Branson. Michelinstarred chef Dominique Crenn has partnered with the company to
provide “culinary counsel” and eventually serve Upside’s chicken in
her restaurant, Atelier Crenn.
Eat Just has also expressed hopes that the Singapore approval will
be the first of many, and its cultivated chicken products may soon
join other products, like its vegan mayo and egg substitutes, which
are already on US grocery store shelves. Other companies to watch
in the space include Wild Type, BlueNalu, and Finless Foods, all of
which are working on cell-cultured seafood products like salmon
and yellowtail.
Benefits of lab-grown meat include that it’s less resource-intensive
than commercial farming and that it alleviates concerns about
animal cruelty and slaughter practices. One Oxford study found that,
compared to traditionally farmed meats, cultured meats could require
96% fewer emissions, using 45% less energy and 96% less water.

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Lab-grown meat also has the benefit of more familiar flavors,
smells, and textures than mainstream plant-based alternatives —
potentially making it more appealing to traditional meat eaters.
While plant-based alternatives mimic meat (like Impossible Foods’
“bleeding” plant-based burger, which is engineered to look and
taste like meat) or offer a substitute (think black bean burgers or
tempeh), lab-grown meat is real meat, with the same taste and
mouthfeel as traditionally farmed products.
However, the tech is not without its challenges. One major barrier
is cost, though prices may be trending down. For example,
Singapore-based Shiok Meats plans to start selling its cell-based
shrimp at a cost of about $37 per kilogram — double the price of
real shrimp, though down from the ~$7,400 price tag of a couple
years ago. Estimates by research firm CE Delft suggest cellcultured meats could reach price parity with some traditionally
farmed meats by 2030.
Still, companies will have to majorly fine-tune their technology
if they wish to scale operations enough to bring products to a
commercially appealing price point. Achieving success will also
require education and branding efforts to counteract any “ick factor”
associated with foods that may be seen as “fake” or lab-grown.

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In any case, 2022 is poised to be the year when leading plantbased meat alternatives like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat
could have to seriously contend with lab-grown competitors for
the first time. Lab-grown meat startups could also pose a threat
to traditional meat suppliers like Tyson, Smithfield, Hormel, and
Cargill, although some of these, spotting opportunity, have already
become investors in these startups.
While regulatory agencies may move slowly, they’re not stagnant
— and this year, regulatory changes could have a major impact on
what new foods we see in stores and on plates.

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Fusion energy
Advances in AI and a startup funding splurge will push the longsought clean energy source closer to reality.
The allure of fusion energy is easy to understand — it could offer an
effectively unlimited source of energy that’s safe to use and doesn’t
produce carbon emissions. It also could become a powerful tool
to help ward off climate change as a more reliable complement to
renewables like wind and solar.
So far, no one has been able to pull fusion off. But a handful of
fusion startups — backed by investors including Bill Gates, Jeff
Bezos, and Google — have raised billions in the last year off
the back of developing novel approaches to fusion. With ample
resources, the time has come to prove that their tech can deliver.
Fusion energy works by bringing the nuclei of two atoms together
to make a new single nucleus. In the case of hydrogen, the energy
holding together the resulting helium nucleus is less than that
required for the two originals. The difference is released as energy —
a lot of energy. This is the same basic process that powers the sun.

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Fusion reactions naturally occur in stars, but mimicking them on Earth is very
challenging.

That abundant excess energy is what fusion researchers have been
chasing, for the better part of a century, to drive a new form of clean
electricity production. The key challenge is getting out significantly
more energy than is put in — sparking fusion reactions on Earth
is intensive, requiring temperatures many times hotter than the
center of the sun and colossal magnetic fields. After decades of
toil, meaningful net energy gain from a fusion reactor has never
been achieved.
But that could be about to change.
Funding to startups in the space skyrocketed in 2021 as several
companies working on novel fusion approaches raised megarounds to build demonstrations of net energy gain. If they pass that
hurdle, then billions more will likely be needed to scale from there.

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That said, if a company can prove that its technology works, then
the payoff for investors could be enormous. Electricity is set to
become a $5T global market within the next decade, according to
CB Insights’ Industry Analyst Consensus.

The biggest round last year went to Commonwealth Fusion
Systems, an MIT spinout that announced a $1.8B round in
December led by Tiger Global, with other backers including Bill
Gates and climate tech-focused Lowercarbon Capital. A few
months before, the company said it had completed tests of ultrapowerful new magnets — a key enabling tech for fusion — which
would pave the way for it to build a demonstration fusion reactor.
Meanwhile, rival fusion startup Helion secured $500M in November
(with commitments for a further $1.7B if certain milestones are
met). The company takes a different approach to fusion by focusing
on efficiently converting the released energy to electricity and
deploying shipping container-sized reactors with low-power output
for use cases like powering individual data centers or factories.
This contrasts with approaches that aim to build mega-reactors to
make big dents in general demand for electricity.

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Other fusion startups General Fusion (backed by Jeff Bezos) and
TAE (backed by Google Ventures) have also raised hundreds of
millions of dollars within the last year.

Startups are working on a variety of new approaches to fusion energy.
Source: Helion Energy

This surge in funding doesn’t mean that commercial fusion is
imminent — even bona fide breakthroughs would take several
years to scale up. But it signals that fusion technology is entering
a new phase of maturity that may even see it contributing power to
the grid before the decade is out.
One driver here is the agility of fusion startups compared to nation
state-level research projects that can involve years of negotiation
and are sometimes hamstrung by changing spending commitments.
Another catalyst has been the emergence of new technology.
For instance, advances in AI have made it possible to improve the
design of reactors to optimize the conditions needed for fusion
to take place and better predict the behavior of the intensely hot,
swirling particles. Quantum computers are also beginning to be
applied to help simulate fusion reactions to improve a reactor’s
performance. AI and quantum computing are both advancing
rapidly — expect new modeling capabilities arriving in the coming
year to add extra heft to fusion’s momentum.
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Very soon, as cash-rich startups succeed or fail in overcoming the
countless challenges of building demonstration reactors, we may
get a good idea of whether the technology is likely to work.
Achieving net energy from fusion would change the future of
energy — and 2022 could be a make-or-break year for several
promising fusion approaches.