📝 Five tech and social business trends to consider for 2024 📝
text by Marius Ghenea

2024 starts with high expectations but with a reasonably optimistic and informed view. Given all the issues we have seen in 2023 with startups and the VC ecosystem in Europe and across the globe, additionally impacted by the conflict in Gaza and the continued war in Ukraine, it may be a good time to list a few of the potentially major trends in business for 2024, as follows:

  1. Accelerated digital transformation of startups and enterprises alike: particularly in Eastern European markets such as Romania, Bulgaria and the other Balkan countries, 2024 is decidedly a major step forward in the digitalization of companies, creating a lot of new opportunities for tech startups to deliver them with the digital solutions they require. Part of the movement is being catalyzed by government and regulations, such as the new Romanian decision to make e-invoicing compulsory across the country, for all B2B invoices.

    This already took effect on January 1st and we already see a strong effect, particularly for the companies providing the adequate tools for e-invoicing, such as SmartBill, the national market leader, offering now the most frequently used e-invoicing solution in the Romanian market. Do not waste time, get in touch with them before the penalties and fines start to kick-in!
  1. Sustainable businesses are swiftly becoming “the name of the game” for any newly created startup, while the existing business, new or old, will have to quickly adapt to sustainability. With the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) requirements already agreed as standard by the European Union, the compliance calendar is now set not only for large enterprises, but also for small businesses, for the next years, into 2028 or so.

    This is not allowing a lot of time for all the EU companies to comply with the ESG regulations, and while some of them have started to implement the necessary policies, others have not even heard about the acronym yet! Prepare, big or small, as the sustainability agenda will soon be a common place, to be enforced anywhere in the Union!
  1. Diversity and inclusion have been important discussion topics in the media and in public policy-making for many years, while 2024 could represent a tipping point, particularly in those industries and verticals that still lack diversity in a big way, and the VC ecosystem is one of such monolithic industries, at least looking at the statistics.

    Of course, the matter will be approached differently in various geographies and contexts, but more and more regulators and decision-makers are starting to solve this real big problem by the numbers: we might be talking about quotas and percentages, if other routes are not proven successful.

    While I understand this default approach might seem less than meritocratic, I honestly believe this is a serious issue and it needs better solutions and more focus from all of us; I personally have seen in many companies and investment teams the value of promoting diversity and inclusion and I, for one, am a firm believer in these!

  1. Work from everywhere is already out of control, in my opinion, and 2024 will be a year when a lot of companies, a lot of employers, will have to make tougher decisions about where people should be working from! I believe there is no way for any of us to go back 100% to the pre-pandemic workplace rules and standards, but going now 100% remote I think would be a significant mistake for organizations in the long term, not only in terms of productivity, but moreover in terms of the alienation of the human capital.

    Moreover,  gradually, the risk of creating a new, dystopic society where social interaction will disappear, as we know it today, with aggravating results for most of the employees in terms of mission, values, the sense of belonging to an organization or a team. This needs to be avoided by all means, and I think a hybrid solution has to be quickly strategized and decided upon by employers, with buy-in from the employees, of course, and with the understanding that one size will not fit all organizations.

    On this topic, however, I think the employees and employers have never been more opposed in their views and maybe somebody else should be the decision-maker, somebody well informed on the idiosyncrasies of both parties.
  1. The AI disillusionment is also, in my opinion, a significant trend for this year! Other than understanding more and more that there is hallucination, there are bugs and flaws in this new form of intelligence, I am afraid a lot of people have considered AI as being quickly able to deliver things that AI surely cannot deliver (or at least, not yet).

    In the Gartner standard hype cycle, these issues would come together in a path to the so-called trough of disillusionment about these new technologies that we refer to as “generative AI”.

    I think the simple fact that all the buzz about AI, or 90%+ or it, is in reality only about this flavor of the artificial intelligence, namely the generative AI, tells us so much on how inflated the expectations were on this hype, at least towards the end of 2023, just before the troubles and disputes we have seen at Open AI/Chat GPT and around it…