Reading: Data, Decrypted: What We Learned From Analyzing 6 Years of Startups at Slush10 min
Data, Decrypted: What We Learned From Analyzing 6 Years of Startups at Slush
Soaked by Slush and Slush’s Research Team shredded data from 15,000 Slush startup applications into keywords and analyzed them. Here’s what we learned.
© Karin Gellman
“‘Platform’ was definitely the word of the 2010s and the most used term in Slush startup applications in 2019 altogether.”
Thousands of startups apply to Slush every year. Over the past six years, Slush has accepted around 15,000 applications. Put together, the application data from these startups gives us a pretty good reflection of the state of startups over the years.
What did we do? Soaked by Slush and Slush’s research team analyzed the startup application data from the around 15,000 companies accepted to Slush in 2014–2019. We shredded the applications into keywords and then calculated the percentage of applications that mentioned each chosen term.
Why? These accepted startup applications give a unique insight into the industries, products, and business models of some of the most promising startups of our time – and how these have changed over the years. This is the first time that Slush is sharing these insights with the public.
Without further ado… we’ll let the data do the talking.
AI and ML are soaring.
Following the breakthroughs in computer science in the 2010s, one of the strongest trends in startups applying to Slush has been the surge of companies integrating Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into their businesses. This trend has been reflected on the funding side as well — during the last five years, investments into European AI startups have grown from $1.2B in 2015 to $4.9B in 2019, according to the State of European Tech 2019 created by Atomico in partnership with Slush and Orrick.
AI and ML become more nuanced.
As the use of AI and ML has become increasingly nuanced, so has the language around them. This is evidenced by the rise of mentions of specific AI sub-technologies. Since the 2016 startup batch, the most popular AI term has been ‘deep learning.’ However, in 2019, ‘natural language processing’ surpassed it. Speech recognition tech has cooled off.
This development is backed up by investment numbers in European tech: Since 2015, investments in European deep learning and computer vision startups have grown 3x and 4x respectively, whereas investments in speech recognition technologies grew only 1.5x during the same period, according to the State of European Tech 2019.
The rise of IoT has come to an end.
Soaring 5G and the rise of companies that leverage both hardware and software are reflected in a modest upward trend of IoT. However, in 2019, both IoT and the related term ‘sensor’ experienced a small dip in the share of mentions. This same trend is also reflected in European investments, as noted by the State of European Tech: In 2019, investments in IoT decreased by 40% from 2018 to $626M.
VR and AR have seen their peak.
Mentions of VR peaked in 2017, and the same happened for AR in 2018. Both technologies have already passed the tip of the hype cycle, which could mean that early-stage startups are putting less emphasis on these technologies. This trend is represented in VC investments as well. According to the State of European Tech 2019, investments in virtual reality went down a hefty 80% from $677M in 2017 to $135M in 2019.
Everyone is building platforms.
‘Platform’ was definitely the word of the 2010s and the most used term in Slush startup applications in 2019 altogether. 30% of startups mentioned the term platform in their applications in 2019, and the growth of mentions has been one of the strongest trends in the past six years. Most likely, though, platform will eventually face the same gloomy fate as ‘mobile’ did in the past. Otherwise, we’d eventually end up with more platforms than users and companies building products around the platforms.
API is a growing trend.
As more and more entrepreneurs are building platform companies, Slush also witnesses a growing trend of API (application programming interface) mentions. An API allows a product or service to be interacted with by other products and services. The API trend could also mean that we are seeing an increasing number of companies whose primary business function is offering programmatic functions as a service – as Stripe does for payments, for example.
‘Mobile’ as a term has become redundant.
One of the most popular terms in the past six years, ‘mobile,’ has steadily decreased over the period. This could indicate the commoditization and redundancy of the term mobile in startups’ product descriptions.
The age of apps is coming to an end.
During the observed era, apps have been more popular than websites. However, the ‘app’ mentions have been steadily decreasing since 2017 – perhaps because mentioning that you are building an app has become redundant as most companies that need an app have one anyway.
Mentions of operating systems are declining.
Mentions of the two dominant mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, have been declining steadily since 2014. This trend goes along with the decline in apps and mobile.
‘Blockchain’ and ‘Token’ peaked in 2018, while ‘Bitcoin’ is steadily declining.
Even though blockchain hasn’t exactly lived up to its high expectations yet, the upward trend in the past six years is clearly visible. Now, after the cryptomania and tip of the hype cycle, we can see large corporations starting to bet on the technology: the real-world applications affecting our daily lives will most likely be here in the coming few years.
The share of blockchain mentions in the applications peaked in 2018 and experienced a small dip in 2019. The same happened for investments into European blockchain startups as they decreased by 18% from 2018 to $700M in 2019.
Increasingly many startups are working on payments.
The share of startups working on payments has been steadily increasing at Slush since 2014, supported by the flood of investments into fintech in Europe. Since 2015, fintech has received the most VC investments in Europe as an industry, a whopping $25B, according to the State of European Tech 2019.
UX is no longer worth mentioning.
Mentioning ‘user experience’ as a part of a startup's product description has been decreasing and was at an all-time low in 2019. It might be that nowadays, good user experience in products is implied, and not the unique selling point it has been in the past. Whether this implied increase in good user experience is actually true or not, we will leave for the readers to decide.
This was just a humble beginning to Slush leveraging its unique data sets to create insight for the ecosystem. There’s a vast pool of Slushy data waiting to be analyzed.
Meanwhile… If you have an exciting research idea for Slush in mind, please drop us a line at soak[email protected].
Insights and data visualization: Tommi Bergström and Elmo Pakkanen
Editing: Elsa Snellman and Pauliina Suominen
Art Design: Karin Gellman