The Five Future Disruptions I’m Already Grateful For

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. And I want to wish all of you the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. I’m spending mine with the whole family and then some. My daughter, Rachel, is flying in with her husband from Atlanta, and my son, Nick, along with his partner, is hosting the event in their new house.

We have plenty to celebrate and a lot to be grateful for. Most importantly, everybody is healthy. Secondly, Nick just made sergeant in the local police force. I’m very proud of him (as is his mother). And third, Rachel successfully launched an Airbnb side gig. Her former garage is now a “tiny home” and is in high demand.

I’m also grateful for a number of disruptions that have made a big difference in my life. I can’t imagine daily life without Netflix, Uber, my smartphone and my smart TV.

But that’s the past. While I don’t want to lean too far over my skis, there are five upcoming major disruptions I’m already looking forward to with an increasing sense of anticipation and gratitude. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. My million-dollar mother-in-law: My wife has had both of her hips replaced. I’d estimate that half my friends have had at least one joint replaced. But nobody beats my mother-in-law. She has two artificial shoulders, two new hips and two brand-new knees. But joint replacements take their toll. My mother-in-law can’t stand up straight when she walks. My wife can’t do half the stuff she used to in her yoga class. One friend is pleased with his new shoulder but told me, “I’m never going to play tennis again.” I have good news for all of you who haven’t YET turned in an old joint for a shiny new one. Joint replacements will be making huge strides in the next few years in fit, post-operative recovery and flexibility. One of the startups leading the way is a company that we’ve recommended to our First Stage Investor members.
  2. Freedom: A couple of years ago, companies developing autonomous vehicles said they would have fully autonomous cars on urban roads by the early 2020s. That’s not going to happen. We’re now looking at the mid-2020s, and that could be extended into the late ’20s. Safety issues have proved more problematic than anticipated. For boomers, autonomous cars are a gift from heaven that can’t come soon enough. It means mobility. And mobility means freedom.
  3. Early cancer detection: Every week, I read about another important advance in cancer research and treatment. In the next five years, we’ll have an increasing number of effective treatments to choose from. And we’ll also have a much greater ability to detect cancer early. We’ve recommended one of the companies that makes this possible to our First Stage Investor members. Early detection is critical. The earlier cancer is detected and treated, the less serious the range of outcomes is.
  4. Taxis’ big move up: I can’t wait to take my first drone ride from downtown Baltimore to downtown Washington, D.C. It’s about a 40-mile trip that should take roughly 15 minutes. As for costs? Well, that’s going to depend on a lot of factors. But Daniel Wiegand, the co-founder and CEO of promising passenger drone startup Lilium, expects a 10-minute trip from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport will cost about $70. So my trip should cost less than $100. Like with driverless cars, I’ll have to be patient. Wiegand says his drones will be transporting customers by 2025, but doesn’t say where (he does say the New York City route is more of a long-term goal). Uber, which is also developing flying taxis (along with about 19 other companies), says it will be providing drone services by 2023.
  5. Home is where your pills are: I get my meds from Sam’s Club. Maybe not the best choice, since its pharmacy is closed on Sundays. If I miss a given Saturday, I’m usually forced to wait a whole week to get my meds. (It’s hard for me to make time during the week.) Meds delivered to my home would be the perfect cure. And if it’s same-day delivery and it’s free, what’s NOT to like? In a couple of years, the idea of going to your local CVS or Walgreens will seem as old-fashioned as going to a record store to buy a CD. We like this new disruption so much, we recommended that our First Stage Investor members invest in the leading startup offering this service.

The secret is out. I love highly disruptive companies I can relate to on a personal level. Not all my recommendations fall into that category. And I never let personal excitement override my vetting process and judgment. But when I find companies that are bringing these technologies to life that also make great early-stage investments, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.

And for that I’m very grateful.