Chambers With A View

John Chambers’ 2024 Predictions

Written by John Chambers

One of my best skills as a leader is that I’ve been able to call market transitions right. In 2020, I predicted that COVID-19 would have more of an economic impact than expected; in 2021, I stopped investing in China and cautioned others to do the same; and in 2022, I said inflation would displace the pandemic as the biggest issue. Most recently in 2023, I said the Great Resignation would be overcome by the Great Recommit, startup funding would tighten, risk-taking would slow down and agility would be more important than ever before. My 2023 predictions – and the ones before it – ended up remarkably accurate. Now, with 2024 on the horizon, I’d like to share my thoughts for the next year.

I usually think about the year ahead with a ‘top 10 predictions’ approach, but for 2024, four main considerations  are top-of-mind and I have quite a few thoughts on each of them.

  1. First, the “decade of AI” truly begins. This will be the most fundamental tech change ever, greater than the internet and cloud combined. In doing so:
    1. AI will become mainstream – I said this back in 2022, and we’ve definitely seen this start in 2023, but 2024 will take it even further – cementing the move from the digital age to the AI age.
    2. 2024 will focus on AI-driven results for every company, which will impact everything from valuations to earnings. Startups that don’t use AI will fail quickly, and larger companies that don’t use AI effectively will fail slowly.
    3. Innovators (early adopters) and CEOs will make AI one of their top three business priorities to ensure efficiency and competitiveness in a rapidly evolving tech landscape.
    4. Generative AI will continue to drive buzz and even more market share than ever before.
    5. AI will accelerate overall tech regulation and compliance needs – especially for Big Tech – and I anticipate legislation to be in place by year’s end.
    6. Regarding social issues with AI, we will continue to see concerns about privacy and personalization, for Gen Z in particular.
  2. Cybersecurity will see a proliferation of good and evil, especially when combined with mainstream AI capabilities.
    1. After a surprising downturn in cybersecurity, the cyber market will accelerate due to an uptick in attacks and the related financial fallout. The 2023 Clorox breach is case in point, translating to almost $600 million in lost revenue.
    2. CEOs will become overwhelmed with too many cybersecurity options, so we will see a shift from standalone cybersecurity products to a more simple architectural approach, which will lead to consolidation in the industry – and solutions that can effectively provide this approach will thrive.
    3. Against many cyber threats, deep fakes will be the number one issue for individuals, companies and governments, particularly with the upcoming election year.
  3. 2023 has been a momentous year for the U.S.-India partnership, and I believe India is approaching a pivotal moment characterized by transformative growth and opportunity.
    1. India will become the preferred alternative for trade and tech partnerships with the U.S. – supporting the global supply chain and CHIPS Act, for example – as tensions with China and Russia continue.
    2. With time, India will become the number one economy in the world (as I predicted back in June, with the Prime Minister by my side), driven by initiatives like Digital India and further growth with the U.S. and other key global players.
  4. The economy and IPO landscape will experience a shift in tides, reflecting evolving market dynamics and a changing investor sentiment – and as a result, cash will be king for both public and private companies.
    1. While some indicators show signs of recovery, there’s still looming uncertainties, and I don’t think we’re out of the woods of a potential recession.
    2.  After a long dry period, IPOs will rebound – likely not in the first half of the year, but perhaps by the second half – though startups need to proceed with caution due to the risks associated with market volatility.
    3. M&A will heat up again, too, as there will be a lot of companies who see opportunities to acquire smaller products at attractive prices. This will be especially true for startups acquiring smaller solutions.
    4. 2024 will be the fall of the decacorn (i.e., startups with a $10B+ valuation). We saw this start in 2023 with unicorns falling back to regular horses.

In summary, 2024 will see a ramp up of AI, powering tech and business market transitions at a speed we’d never seen before. This will result in many winners and losers, ranging from countries and economies to corporations and startups. I am optimistic that we are going to bypass a recession, inflation will come back under control, and companies will start to invest in growth again – despite interest rates remaining higher for longer than desired. So, I think 2024 will be a better year than most expect but I caveat this with concern for the current geopolitical climate, as this is the real wildcard here, maybe more than any other time in recent history.

Former Cisco Executive Chairman and CEO John Chambers, was widely considered one of the best performing U.S. CEOs during his 25+ year tenure at Cisco, As Executive Chairman, a position Chambers held until December 2017, he led the Board of Directors and provided counsel to the CEO and leadership team on strategy, digital transformation and strategic partnerships, Chambers oversaw 180 mergers and acquisitions  during his tenure at Cisco and managed the company through multiple economic downturns  He currently runs JC2 Ventures as CEO and serves as an advisor to heads of state, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and India’s Narendra Modi. This is the 31st in a planned series of exclusive columns Chambers is producing for The Innovator.  

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John Chambers