Applying gaming techniques and strategies to other sectors and business models is another key trend to look out for this year

1. Social discovery
2. Curation
3. Social commerce
4. Gamification
5. Crowdsourcing and categorisation
6. Freemium and subscription models
7. Niche social networks
8. Location-based apps
9. APIs
10. Customisation

Gamification means applying gaming techniques and ideas – such as points, rewards and leaderboards – to other sectors and scenarios, typically to incentivise people to do something. Whether running, shopping, donating to charity or problem solving, the last 12 months have seen this trend becoming increasingly embraced by digital start-ups.

Take Fantasy Shopper, one of our top 20 start-ups of 2011. The company allows users to create their dream wardrobe – using clothes and accessories that are actually available in the shops – which they can purchase at the touch of a button.

Meanwhile, Kaggle allows companies to post data problems in the form of competitions online, often involving analysis of large data sets, which the world’s top data scientists can then compete to solve. Prizes range from kudos to, currently, $3m cash. It has already been used by big companies such as Microsoft and Ford, while winners have outperformed the betting markets in predicting the outcome of the 2010 World Cup, and advanced research into the progression of HIV. (This is also a great example of crowdsourcing).

We’ve also seen a number of very recent start-ups employing gaming techniques to encourage people to give to charity. For example, Guess2Give allows people taking part in an event, such as a marathon, to run a sweepstake on their finish time, while Blue Dot, another of our top 20 start-ups of 2011, is a new currency for good causes.


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