A year ago, Cheddar conjured up a look into our crystal ball to see what would lie ahead for 2019 in the worlds of business, tech, politics and culture. Some things we got right. Many, though, we got wrong, or didn't see coming at all (WeWork? Seriously?!). It's time now to grade our prognostications to see how we fared in a year that was chock full of news, from the White House to Sand Hill Road.


Cheddar's Tanaya Macheel, knower of all things crypto, had this to say last year:

Institutional investors changed the cryptocurrency market in 2018, veering away from their blockchain-not-bitcoin attitudes and trying out strategies for entering the new crypto asset class… But in 2019, institutional money won’t be flowing into crypto as quickly as many expect.

In 2019, the wait for the proverbial blessing from the institutional investor class mostly continued, as Tanaya presumed. According to Crypto Fund Research, almost 70 hedge funds around the world focused on crypto closed their doors this year, and the number of funds that launched was just half of what it was in 2018.

The space remains hugely volatile, with Bitcoin prices swinging back and forth to such a degree that many institutional players would rather stay on the sidelines. And the biggest crypto event of the year ー Facebook's Libra Project ー now appears to be at risk of death-by-regulation, with EU finance ministers nearly unanimously opposed to the idea of the digital coin and what it could do to global currency markets (and U.S. regulators not exactly excited about it either). Facebook and its partners will face a critical test in the coming year over whether they can address those concerns and simultaneously build a global, blockchain-based digital currency.



Last year brought few major advancements in consumer tech, but 2019 was a bit more exciting. Our predictions, though, were mixed. We rightly anticipated Google's continued push into the health-and-wellness space (though we didn't call the Fitbit acquisition), but thought Apple would wait until 2020 to introduce the next-gen AirPods. We were right on seeing the first foldable phones, but didn't foresee Samsung bungling its first try. And we correctly assumed the hype around 5G would continue, without widespread adoption.



Cheddar's Nora Ali predicted that 2019 would serve as an "existential moment" for the retail industry. She was right; the question is whether the sector has reached an inflection point in the changing ways we shop. She had this to say:

Look out for more experience-oriented brick-and-mortar shops in 2019 as online retailers try to build customer awareness and boost loyalty through physical spaces.

It would be hard to argue that an ironic trend that began in earnest in 2018 hasn’t become even more popular this year, with the lines between brick-and-mortar and direct-to-consumer retail continuing to blend. Traditional big-box retailers Target and Walmart both credited solid quarterly earnings on their push into e-commerce, while DTC heavyweights like Casper and Warby Parker are now on their way to 200 and 100 physical stores, respectively.

Meanwhile, Amazon said last year that it wants 3,000 cashier-less Go stores by 2021, but judging by the latest numbers it has a ways to go. The e-commerce giant has built out just 21 Go concepts since it opened its first in Seattle two years ago, according to Bloomberg. If it wants to hit that 3,000 target by 2021, it better start moving.

Nora did jump the gun on her prediction that image-recognition shopping ー where you buy a product by taking a photo of it with your smartphone ー might become commonplace in 2019. That technology exists ー as I saw firsthand at the National Retail trade show this year ー but it's not quite ready for primetime.



When New York's Hudson Yards city-within-a-city complex opened earlier this year, it unveiled some bells-and-whistles that show where the future of the smart city may be headed. The development has its own smart microgrid that constantly collects data on energy use in order to be as efficient as possible. Workers at the gleaming skyscrapers that dot the neighborhood use their palms to get access to their offices, and residents in the high-end condos use their smartphones to unlock their apartment doors.

Meanwhile, the Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs has stumbled in its redevelopment of a major Toronto neighborhood, dubbed Quayside, that it hopes will be the smart city of the future. Last year, we mentioned concerns from Toronto residents that the Quayside project was essentially a massive data-grab from Google, but we probably didn't anticipate the backlash that would ensue this year. The hashtag #BlockSidewalk proliferated online, with Toronto residents wondering what, exactly, Google planned to do with the huge troves of data it plans to collect in order to provide services like robotic garbage collection and adaptive traffic lights. For its part, Sidewalk Labs now says it does not plan to monetize that data and wants it governed by a public trust. The project remains mired in debate and delays, and is still a ways from being shovel ready.



At the end of 2018, anything seemed possible in the world of mobility.

E-scooters were the hottest thing since the internal combustion engine. Autonomous technology seemed closer than ever. Mass EV adoption was a question of when, not if.

What a difference a year makes.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear that the wave of change that was supposed to drastically alter the industry is still in its infancy. Our team at Cheddar Rides predicted that 2019 could be the year that Apple revealed its self-driving car plans (nope). They also thought this could be the year a civilian finally goes to space (not quite, but we're getting closer). And they posited that 2019 would be the year that cities got serious about new mobility (Eh. New York City added 250 miles of protected bike lanes amid a spike in cyclist deaths; but a widespread electric charging grid still seems pretty elusive).



Was 2019 the year that artificial intelligence went from the realm of sci-fi to reality? We predicted we'd see the advent of open-source A.I. this year, which remains to be seen. But we did see the emergence of true machine learning at work, perhaps most creepily with the "deepfake" phenomenon (didn't you see the video of Bill Hader seamlessly morphing into Tom Cruise?).

But the big step forward this year was the announcement from Google that its quantum computer, codenamed Sycamore, reached "quantum supremacy," solving a calculation in three minutes that would have taken the world's most advanced supercomputer 10,000 years to solve. Many believe that quantum computing breakthrough is to the field of A.I. what the Wright Brothers' first plane was to air travel. It's only advancing from here.



Cheddar's cannabis expert Chloe Aiello made some calls that didn't come true, like assuming that either New York or New Jersey would pass a legalization bill this year. That didn't happen, but the overall legalization trend did continue, with 27 more states proposing some version of a legalization bill. The House approved the SAFE Act which would allow banks to do legitimate cannabis businesses in states where it it legal. Now the bill’s fate rests in the hands of the Senate. And a House panel even approved a federal legalization bill, though it has virtually no chance of becoming law ー at least not yet.

On the business side, the year in cannabis stocks can only be described as an unmitigated disaster. The six biggest publicly traded cannabis stocks have lost more than $20 billion in combined market value since the spring as the industry fights through growing pains ー from the patchwork regulatory environment, to a glut in supply. An arms race in 2018 of big consumer brands forging partnerships with cannabis producers has mostly given way to a more wait-and-see approach in 2019.

But the biggest thing we missed was the huge shift in public perception of the vaping industry, which spent 2019 under extreme regulatory and legislative pressure over a spate of respiratory illnesses that doctors believe are linked to black-market vape products. Still, Chloe says the industry continues to mature, and expects 2020 to be a rebound year for the fledgling sector. We're holding her to it.



If there's one place we whiffed big, it was in our predictions about (what was then) a red-hot market for tech IPOs. At the end of 2018, it seemed the sky was the limit for big floats from Silicon Valley darlings with sky-high valuations. Then came the triple whammy of poor debuts from Uber, Lyft, and Slack ー all followed by the most unpredictable debacle of the year: WeWork's disastrous attempt at going public.

We thought this would be the year Airbnb went public (maybe next year), and Pinterest would keep waiting (wrong again). Airbnb is one of a handful of unprofitable tech platforms that have punted their potential blockbuster offerings in the wake of the mess left in the wake of WeWork.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. The video-conferencing company Zoom had one of the best debuts of the year, though it lost some steam in the fall. CrowdStike did well too, as did Beyond Meat. Then there's Peloton, which had a nice debut that was cut short by that ad.



Oh, how innocent we all were this time last year. Bob Mueller was in the throes of his investigation into Russia's election meddling; Democrats were fresh off of taking the House; no one had to worry about pronouncing the name of Ukraine's president.

At the time, we predicted a handful of politicians would be the politicos to watch this year, with Mitt Romney taking the top spot. Would he be a check on President Trump from his new gig in the Senate? (Not quite.)

Little did we know that the political story that would dominate the year would not be the results of the Mueller investigation, but a midsummer phone call between the president and the leader of Ukraine. Since then, the politicos who dominated the year came mostly from the House, which was tasked with investigating that phone call: Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Devin Nunes, Elise Stefanik, Nancy Pelosi. With DC as unpredictable as ever, who could've known?


If 2019 will be remembered for anything, could it be the inflection point at which people began to push back against Big Tech and the monetization and manipulation of our personal data? Who really owns that data, and what is its value? Should there finally be some real data regulations with teeth? These are among the big questions to watch as we turn the calendar to the 2020's. I'm calling it now.

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