From carbon capture to clean meat, PitchBook tracks 85+ nascent but growing areas we call “emerging spaces.” Rolled out as part of a feature that helps our customers discover niche spaces on the rise and identify promising investment trends, we define emerging spaces using a set of criteria developed by our analyst team. Awareness for and interest in emerging spaces are on an upward trajectory, but they are not considered an established, more time-tested vertical—at least not yet.
Autonomous shipping companies use technologies like computer vision, LiDAR and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the shipping of goods in the maritime industry. Autonomous ships could decrease the risk of collision, as well as reduce crewing costs.
Example: Wilhelmsen Group
Autonomous trucking companies use technologies like computer vision, LiDAR and AI to automate the long-haul trucking industry. Self-driving trucks typically have well-defined routes, making full autonomy a more realistic option relative to other vehicles.
Blockchain real estate
Blockchain real estate uses blockchain and the underlying distributed ledger technology to increase transparency in real estate transactions.
Example: Resaas Services
Cannabis breathalyzers are tools law enforcement agencies can use to test for impairment of drivers potentially under the influence of marijuana.
Example: Hound Labs
Commercial space launch
Commercial space launch includes companies launching satellite payloads, organizing and providing satellite launch capabilities or developing infrastructure for launch.
Election technology companies design systems to engage and empower voters to participate in democratic elections. These companies aim to make the process of voting more transparent and inclusive to combat disenfranchisement.
Example: Democracy Live
Food service robots and machines
Companies in this space develop automated machines to assist food service in relation to preparation, food running and vending. These robots and machines save on labor costs by automating food service tasks like food portioning, food prep vending and more.
Ghost kitchens are stripped-down commercial kitchens with no dine-in option. Although several varieties of ghost kitchens exist, they all share a common feature: they’re focused exclusively on food delivery.
Indoor mapping technologies use floorplans, indoor positioning systems (IPS), and other private data to build comprehensive maps of any indoor space—digitally positioning people and objects in offices, venues, and other buildings.
Example: HERE Global
Industrial workplace safety
Companies focused on industrial workplace safety develop technologies to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents, which kill an estimated 6,000 people each day. These tools also give employers better ways to monitor the health and safety of their staff.
Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN)
LPWAN is a type of wireless communication network designed to enable long-range communication at a low bit rate between various sensors. The technology is lucrative because it allows owners of sensors to deploy them in a wide geographical area without having to invest in other gateway technologies.
Microweather forecasts give up-to-the-minute weather conditions for your exact GPS location. These forecasts have applications for individuals and organizations, like farmers who are trying to decide when to plant crops.
Sports technologies include wearables, biometrics and artificial intelligence technologies for those in pursuit of increased athletic performance or a better fan experience at sporting events.
Supersonic travel allows air travelers to travel faster than the speed of sound to reach their destinations in half the time. Though this has not been an option commercially since the Concorde was retired in 2003, companies in this space are competing to develop improved modes of supersonic transit.
Example: Boom Supersonic
Warehouse management tech
Warehouse management technologies aid in various form of warehouse management and include autonomous robots, warehouse management platforms, wearables to improve worker safety and health and asset tracking sensors and scanners.
3D printed foods
3D printed food is a way of preparing food in an automated additive way using 3D printers custom-built to handle food ingredients.
Companies in this space use AI to develop better educational materials for students. Artificial intelligence can be used to create more personalized learning experiences at-scale for students who lack consistent access to one-on-one instruction.
Air taxis refer to transportation in vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft across short distances, generally bestsuited for urban environments. Companies in this space include both air taxi service providers and eVTOL manufacturers.
Q4 2019 Emerging Tech Research: Mobility tech
Auto commerce companies simplify car ownership by digitizing processes related to purchasing, leasing, and selling, as well as maintenance and repairs.
Cannabis beverages are CBD- or THC-infused drinks that range from tea, soda, and juice to beer and wine. They are often marketed as health and wellness products and are gaining popularity because of their convenience and potential health benefits.
Cashierless checkout is a collection of technologies that make the retail checkout experience faster and easier by relying on computer vision and camera technologies to track what a consumer picks up in a store.
Clean meat is meat which has been grown in a cell culture rather than harvested directly from an animal’s body after slaughter. Also called cell-based meat or cultured meat, it has the same characteristics as conventional meat but can be made by growing only the cell types that humans consume—like muscle and fat cells and connective tissue.
Example: Memphis Meats
Income share agreements (ISA) education
Income share agreements (ISA) education include technology-focused educational institutions that allow students to pay a percentage of their future income in lieu of upfront tuition.
Insect-based food companies use insects as a key ingredient to produce food and drinks like beer, pasta, energy bars and more. Growing insects for human consumption is touted as sustainable, cheap and nutritious, all while having a smaller environmental impact than conventional meats.
Example: Entomo Farms
Smart clothing uses micro-sensors embedded into traditional clothing items, typically to track biometric data. This tech-enabled clothing allows people to monitor their physiological functions conveniently and discreetly.
Example: Under Armour
Smart home assistants
Smart home assistants are platforms that integrate with smart home device application program interfaces (APIs) to enable home automation through a universal control platform.
Example: Oura Health
Space tourism companies offer recreational space travel. Space tourism is in a nascent stage with trips remaining infrequent and highly expensive. Many of these companies hope to make recreational space travel available and affordable to more people over the coming years.
Sustainable tourism is the idea that travel should have a positive impact on the environment, culture and economy of the place being visited. Companies in this space encourage a sustainable ethos by curating tours and experiences, giving some proceeds back to local communities and causes, and by practicing and encouraging environmental stewardship.
Example: Intrepid Travel
Alternative battery tech
Alternative battery technology is an industry based in the development of improvements or alternatives to the traditional, lithium-ion battery. Companies in this space are typically working on improvements and alternatives that involve new materials incorporating advances in chemistry and material sciences.
Batteryless IoT sensors
Batteryless Internet of things (IoT) sensors draw power from their environment—either through electromagnetic signals or small solar cells—and enable IoT sensing in low-power environments. Companies in this space are developing batteryless and no-maintenance sensing solutions for the fundamental limitations of batteries.
Carbon capture and removal
Carbon capture and removal refers to the process of actively capturing carbon atoms and removing them from the atmosphere via storage or utilization in other forms. Technologies in this category are centered on climate change mitigation and include afforestation, biochar, carbon sequestration and direct air capture.
Example: CO2 Solutions
Energy storage technologies improve our ability to store energy for use on-demand, especially as sources of energy expand into renewables. Companies in this space use many approaches, like batteries, thermal, pumped hydropower and other mechanical storage methods.
Fusion energy is a proposed form of power generation that would use heat from nuclear fusion reactions to generate electricity. It has the potential to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels, but the core technology is still theoretical and many startups in the space are focused on finding pragmatic applications of the underlying theory.
Companies in this space are developing methods, machines and materials to harness the power of hydrogen to generate energy. Its zero-emission output and high energy density make hydrogen a promising energy source, but companies are still looking for a way to reduce the cost of production.
Example: Plug Power
Lithium extraction technology
Companies in the lithium extraction technology space are developing novel solutions to the problem of mining lithium. Historical approaches are too slow and use an unsustainable amount of water, but newer solutions propose to mine at greater yields with less water and often in areas previously considered inaccessible.
Example: Lilac Solutions
Renewable ocean energy
Renewable ocean energy describes efforts to generate electricity from the ocean using waves, tides, salination and temperature differences. The movement of water in the world’s oceans offer an untapped source of kinetic energy that companies in this space hope to capture. Currently, companies are testing competing iterations of technologies while working toward bringing costs of ocean power down to compete with wind and solar.
The smart grid refers to digital technology that allows for two-way communication between power utilities and their customers, enabling the more efficient transmission of electricity.
Example: Power Ledger
Small modular reactors
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear reactors designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times. The small size of these reactors makes them easier to construct, safer and more easily deployed to remote areas that have intense energy needs.
Example: Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises
Banking as a service
Banking as a service (or BaaS) encompasses technologies that enable non-banks to offer core banking services like deposits, checking and savings accounts or loans to end-users. BaaS companies allow third parties to connect with banks’ systems via application programming interface (API) to build banking offerings on top of already regulated infrastructure.
Conversational banking includes platforms that facilitate consumer interactions through voice, text or other visual interfaces—typically with a non-human—to conduct banking queries and transactions.
Decentralized finance encompasses conventional financial tools and services built on blockchain. Companies in this space develop open lending protocols, insurance and investing platforms, decentralized prediction markets and other blockchain-based alternatives to traditional finance.
Microinsurance providers offer flexible, consumer-centric insurance products. Traditionally, modes of microinsurance—like microloans and microcredit—is thought of as a product for people in developing areas, but this space also encompasses companies innovating in personalized, micro-policy plans that cover international travel, cycling, fitness, mobile and other niche policies.
Anti-aging companies research and develop restorative treatments to combat the effects of aging and increase lifespan. Research areas include genomic instability, epigenetic alteration, stem cell exhaustion and more.
Example: Scholar Rock
Assistive technologies are equipment, software, or products used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. A new wave of companies in this space are using emerging technologies like VR/AR, AI and robotics to jumpstart innovation.
Fertility technologies are creating tech-oriented medical solutions for couples struggling to conceive. These technologies include sperm and egg freezing services, hormone testing systems and monitoring platforms.
Example: Future Family
Gene therapies insert sections of DNA into a patient’s cells to correct damaged or abnormal genes. Gene therapies are an exciting advancement because researchers in the space could eventually lead to cures for cancer, HIV and heart disease.
Example: Moderna Therapeutics
Medical exoskeletons and prosthetics
Medical exoskeletons and prosthetics companies develop mechanically powered prothesis and exoskeletons to be used for medical purposes.
Example: ReWalk Robotics
Medical robotics are robots used in healthcare settings with the benefit of providing services more precisely or consistently than human doctors could. Applications include surgeries, rehabilitation, telepresence, transportation and general patient care.
Example: Intuitive Surgical
Mental health tech
Mental health technology companies develop software and hardware solutions to help individuals take better care of their mental health and enable practitioners to better monitor the mental health of their patients.
Neurotechnologies seek to improve or modify our understanding of cognitive function, including consciousness and thought. In patients, its distinct technologies—including brain-machine interfaces, neural implants, neuromonitoring, neurostimulation, and neuroprosthetics—are used to restore, improve, or alter typical brain function.
Sleep technologies encompass a variety of technologies whose goals are to improve the quality of a person’s sleep. Examples of sleep technology include tracking sensors, smart mattresses and sleep-monitoring headbands.
Companies in this space use virtual reality (VR) to provide innovative therapies and treatments to various healthcare issues. Uses of VR in healthcare include education, therapy, rehabilitation and even mindfulness.
4D printing utilizes special materials and sophisticated designs that are programmed to prompt the 3D printed object to change its shape post-production. Companies in this space are developing 4D printing technologies and relevant materials such as chemicals, electronics, particulates or nanomaterials.
AIOps refers to the use of big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide visibility into the state and performance of the IT systems that businesses rely on.
Autonomous delivery involves the use of ground and air-based drones to facilitate last mile delivery in urban areas or other confined areas. These companies hope to save costs on human capital by managing a fleet of autonomous robots to complete deliveries.
Autonomous vehicle simulation
Autonomous vehicle simulation focuses on virtually simulating road, traffic and vehicle conditions in order to develop self-driving cars.
Cloud gaming is the hosting of video game-related content for a subscription fee, effectively decentralizing the local hardware normally required to play video games into the cloud. Though the technology requires a stable and fast internet speed, it has the potential to expand the gaming market.
Cloud workload protection
Cloud workload protection platforms enable threat detection and codebase hardening for applications in container-based, serverless and virtualized environments.
Cognitive computing companies develop platforms built on self-learning algorithms that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.
Computational storage is a new IT architecture whereby compute functions are added to the data storage layer, rather than moving the data up to the host CPU for processing as in traditional computing.
Crowdsourced testing is an emerging type of software testing that leverages a large group of participants to remotely test websites, mobile apps and software. Using this approach, software can be tested from a variety of perspectives which makes it more reliable, cost-effective, fast and bug-free.
Database sharding is a type of relational database architecture that partitions databases into smaller chunks that can be spread across multiple servers and stitched together more easily than other monolithic databases.
DevSecOps encompasses platforms that enable software developers to embed security protections within their code, test their code’s vulnerabilities on a regular basis and deploy application updates securely.
Edge computing semiconductors
Edge computing semiconductor companies are developing novel semiconductor architectures enabling artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML) inferencing in edge devices. Edge computing semiconductors can be used in battery-powered and wired edge devices, as well as some datacenter applications.
FinOps is the integration of financial measuring software into the application development process. Companies in this space develop platforms designed to access and analyze the costs of cloud services, enabling firms to better plan, budget and forecast consumption-based spending on cloud resources.
Generative AI is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), statistics and probability in applications to produce a representation or abstraction of observed phenomena. This space is expected to make contributions auto programming, content development, visual arts, and other creative, design, and engineering activities.
IoT Security includes platforms that are designed to safeguard connected devices and networks. Platforms in this space increase the visibility of distributed assets and enable security policy enforcement at the network level.
LiDAR is a surveying method that measures distance by sending out beams of laser light and measuring the reflections with a sensor. Autonomous vehicles are a key end-market use case for this technology.
Example: Velodyne LiDar
Next-gen network security
Next-gen network security encompasses software-based secure networks that protect expanding enterprise perimeters. Companies in this space develop platforms for software-defined wide-area networking security, browser isolation and secure web gateways.
Q4 2019 Emerging Tech Research: Information Security
Post-quantum cryptography (PQC) techniques use software algorithms to encrypt messages on standard computers in a manner that is resistant to being broken by quantum computers. Companies in this space develop software and devices with encryption protocols that do not rely on the use of discrete logarithms.
Quantum computers utilize quantum-mechanical phenomenon to encode information into quantum states and process vast numbers of calculations simultaneously. Companies in this space develop and produce quantum computers, components and related emerging technologies.
Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR)
SOAR platforms utilize disparate technologies to gather data and security alerts from different sources and automate responses to security log data to remediate breaches. SOAR replaces slow, manual analyst intervention in conventional incident response processes with machine-speed decision making.
Service mesh is a software infrastructure solution that allows firms—who face increasing complexity in monitoring and securing independent services—to better manage microservices.
Swarm AI companies algorithmically analyze a group of real-time human inputs to optimize decisions or make predictions. The approach is based on swarm/hive mind behaviors in nature.
TinyML refers to the development of machine learning algorithms capable of performing on-device sensor data analytics at extremely low power. Today, much sensor data is ignored due to cost, bandwidth, or power constraints. Some applications include mobility sensors ingesting real-time traffic data to reduce congestion, monitoring retail shelves and sending immediate alerts for restocking and monitoring livestock health to prevent disease.
V2X (connected-vehicle-to-everything communication) technologies allow vehicles to communicate with the traffic system around them. It represents the next evolution of autonomous vehicles, where vehicles are not just observing their surrounding environment—but also communicating with it.
Cellular agriculture is the production of agriculture products from cell cultures to design and create new methods of producing proteins, fats, and tissues that would otherwise come from traditional agriculture.
Example: Impossible Foods
Desalination technologies focus on increasing efficiency or cost-effectiveness of desalinating ocean water into fresh water. With the increasing scarcity of access to fresh water, desalination technologies may be crucial to supporting populations in drought-prone areas.
Livestock health companies support farmers and livestock caretakers through solutions dedicated to animal monitoring, genomics, breeding, feeds and pharmaceuticals.
Example: Caribou Biosciences
Smart waste management
Smart waste management companies develop tech-oriented solutions that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of traditional waste management, including waste bins with sensors, database management and logistics platforms, and robots and computer vision systems that sort trash and recycling.
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