I like to bookend the New Year holiday with two posts, one looking back at the year that is ending (What Happened) and one looking forward to the year ahead (What Will Happen). This is the first of these two posts. The second one will run tomorrow.
I ended my What Will Happen In 2023 with this advice:
Buckle up, hang tough, and be smart.
What I did not predict in that post, although we had been discussing the possibility internally at USV for several months at the time I wrote it, was the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and several other banks that focused on the startup and web3 sectors.
I feel like that moment, which hit us in March, marked the bottom of the downturn, although it has taken at least the rest of the year to work through the carnage and there is still a bit more to come.
That look-forward post also missed the biggest new thing in tech, Chat GPT, which had initially launched about a month before I wrote it. That was a big miss as 2023 will most certainly be remembered as the year that AI went mainstream with consumers, thanks to Chat GPT and other consumer interfaces to large AI models.
To some extent these two things are related. The end of the 2022/2023 tech/startup downturn happened when two things came together. The first is the end of a period of rising interest rates that had sent the stock market and broader capital markets reeling. The second is the emergence of a new tech megatrend, AI, which has been developing in front of our very eyes for as long as I have been in tech, so that is over forty years now.
But before something can become mainstream, it takes a consumer interface that allows everyone to see the power of the technology first hand. That thing was Chat GPT and it will rightly take its place along with the iPhone, Netscape, the Macintosh, and other consumer products that brought a new technology into the mainstream and provided for a wave of technology innovation that followed.
Of course, a lot of other things happened in tech, startups, and web3 in 2023, but these two things are the ones that matter the most. Markets have settled down and are poised to move higher and we’ve got a new megatrend that will drive innovation, investing, and the economy.
So while it was a very difficult year, I also think 2023 was an incredibly important year and sets us up for an exciting new period in tech. More on that tomorrow.