With a focus on consumer software, I’m constantly looking for new trends that will impact consumers’ behavior in the coming year. As my team and I begin investing from our newly-raised Maven Fund II in January, here are some of the trends we’re considering for investment in 2016:
  • Consumer Health: individuals are part of the healthcare industry like never before. Trends such as the rise of shopping for insurance and medical procedures combined with the dramatic increase of high-deductible plans are causing people to interact with their healthcare expenses in new ways. We are excited about new businesses that will make this easier, more transparent, and cheaper for consumers, as well as other consumer-facing healthcare companies that are changing the way healthcare is delivered.
  • Virtual Reality: 2016 will be a turning point for the VR industry. With the recent launch of the Samsung Gear VR and the highly-anticipated Oculus Rift release planned for early 2016, consumers will finally have the chance to experience game-changing social VR experiences in their homes. We’re constantly thinking about new products and applications that will keep them coming back every day. Maven Fund I invested in one VR company, Altspace VR, which we think will be one of those. We’re actively seeking more consumer VR software investments for Fund II.
  • Esports: this is already a massive category in other parts of the world, and well on its way in the US. The Maven team is interested to find new messaging, communication, or other software applications that enable or enhance the esports experience.

I’ve already shared what we look for in a startup and team. If these ideas resonate with you, or you’re working on something similar, please get in touch! We’d also love to hear what other consumer trends you’re watching for 2016.

Thanks to my talented Maven teammates, Sara Thomas and Robert Ravanshenas, for reviewing and editing drafts of this post. Follow us on Twitter @mavenvc. 

This guest post was written by Sara Thomas, Principal at Maven Ventures. Follow Sara on Twitter @saraannet.

Earlier this month, we held our second annual Maven Ventures Holiday Party, and it was great to welcome the holiday season with our Maven community — the Maven team, founders, limited partners, mentors, and many other friends and supporters. It was so great to bring everyone together for a fun night. My Maven teammates and I are thankful to work with such a quality group. When we debriefed after the event, we couldn’t help but notice that one of the reasons everyone had a great time was that the room was full of good people. That’s by design. It’s part of our Maven culture and values to work with good people. We shared a post earlier this year about what we look for in a team; here are the specific characteristics we look for in a founder:

  • Passionate: willing to spend 10+ years of their life working on this problem
  • Technical: has the technical abilities to build and scale the product
  • Coachable: open to new perspectives and advice
  • Driven and Persistent: is competitive and has a burning desire to win
  • Fundraiser: has the ability to convey the business opportunity to investors and get them excited to support it
  • Recruiter: can inspire other A-players to join the team
  • Communicator: can articulate the company’s vision and is a compelling storyteller
  • Likable: we’ll be excited to spend a significant amount of time with this person over the next several years
  • Humble: has the humility to lead a team and weather ups and downs
  • Transparent: shares the good and the bad news openly and tells the “real story”
  • Expert: has background knowledge that puts him/her in a better position in his/her domain to succeed

These characteristics can be hard to evaluate, and it’s not a hard-and-fast scorecard. Each individual founder and team is different and we value diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. Especially at the very early stage, where Maven invests, venture truly is a people business. The exact operational details of the companies we invest in are bound to change. Having a clear idea of what characteristics help a founder navigate the ups and downs has been one key driver of success in our investment strategy.