100,000 new micro industries to be created over the next two decades

by | Jan 16, 2018 | Future of Work

Thomas Frey Futurist Speakers00000 new micro industries to be created over the next two decades
Every major industry today was started as a micro industry. Everything from steel, to photography, oil, airlines, electricity, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and search engines all worked their way into existence from a tiny starting point.

Many of the oldest ones like steel, automotive, and pharmaceuticals took centuries to grow into the massive global industries they are today. But those created with digital technologies like search engines and smart phones sprang to life in only a few years.

Countless businesses are already feeling the first waves of disruption as industry veterans are hoping to navigate the turbulent waters ahead. As always, it much easier to visualize what goes away than what comes next.

In his 2006 book, Long Tail, author Chris Anderson said, “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.”

While much of Anderson’s thinking was focused on 3D printing and flying drones, virtually every emerging technology offers an innovative playground for makers, inventors, and startup junkies.

100,000 New Micro Industries

Over the coming two decades we will be witnessing an unprecedented wave of innovation and creativity driven by new tools of production. During this time we will see an explosion of over 100,000 new micro industries that will employ hundreds of millions of people.

As example, the global market for shoes is 21 billion annually. Within five years, 5% of these will fall into the category of smart shoes. That means in just a few years we will be producing over 1 billion smart shoes every year.

During that same time we’ll begin seeing a new era of industrial grade scanners, 3D printers, thousands of new printable materials, and an equal number of new sensors and data collection devices.

This means that virtually anyone with a passion for shoes can launch their own micro footwear industry. Even carving out a tiny niche selling 2,500 smart shoes a year at $200 each is enough to launch a sustainable half-million-dollar micro industry.

In the shoe industry alone, 10,000 startups selling 2,500 shoes a year will only amount to 25 million shoes in a 21-billion shoe marketplace. That’s little more than a rounding error for the current industry.

With our evolving new pallet for shoe designers, we will likely see super niche markets for diabetic shoes, lacrosse players, steel-toed occupations, hockey players, sailors, sleep apnea, mountain climbers, gymnasts, amputees, window washers, and organ players. There may even be special shoes for every known allergy, self-navigating shoes for the directionally impaired, dog shoes, cat shoes, and shocker shoes for correcting certain additions.

The smartest of smart shoes will even come to you when you call them by name.

Since it will soon become easy to summon a driverless car, it will no longer be necessary to own one, leaving the garage empty. An empty garage tends to be a magnet for all the junk that accumulates over time, but it also represents an opportunity, an opportunity to become something else. And this will lead to a number of possible micro industries.

One option is to remodel two and three-car garages into AirBNB rentals that you operate yourself, allowing you can make a tidy extra income on the side. Another option is to work with Marriott, Hyatt, or Wyndham and create a branded rental as part of the new distributed city experience they’re working on.

An empty garage can also be rented as a startup space or creative space for painters, sculptors, inventors, or musicians. Much like a distributed hotel operation it can also be part of a distributed storage operation.

Thomas Frey Futurist Speakers emerging micro industries

88 Examples with our New Tools of Production

The following examples are intended to give you a creative launchpad for how to think about these emerging micro industries.

Every micro industry will be defined by a few key startups that define and demonstrate a functional business model and prove a specific market segment.

Driverless Technology

1. Speed dating – Random people enter a driverless vehicle and speed around while getting to know each other.

2. Mobile retail storefronts – As an owner of a mobile retail store, you write your own rules about store hours, location, products, and service offerings.

3. Mobile grocery stores – Niche food selection services such as bread shops, fruit shops, vegetable shops, etc.

4. Mobile banks – As branch banks disappear, mobile banks may very well take their place.

5. Mobile repair businesses – Our repair culture is set to go hi-tech with things like an Apple Genius Bar on wheels, IoT installations, hacker-proofing of houses, etc.

6. Mobile medical services – Urgent care on wheels.

7. Mobile conversation salons – Lonely people are always looking for a way to fit in. With mobile conversation salons, you sign up for whatever discussion topic you’re interested in and the driverless RV will let you know how soon it can pick you up.

8. Mobile gaming teams – Gaming moves to a whole new level when 6-12 rowdy players team up in a mobile setting to play Destiny, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed. Much like flight attendants on an airplane, roving waitresses will offer an assortment of food, snacks, and cocktails to the participants.

Flying Drones

As we move past the hobbyist era of flying drones we will witness an eruption of niche startups that will serve as the anchors for trailblazing new industries.

9. Real-time terrain modeling

10. Policing drones

11. Gaming drones

12. Security drones

13. News media drones

14. Mixed reality recording drones

15. Canary in a coalmine drones

16. Bird herding drones

Ground-Based Drones

Most people tend to overlook the possibilities for the less sexy ground-based drones.

17. Night delivery drones – Delivery companies will be able to achieve a 10X increase in stops per hour based on off-hour delivery times.

18. Pizza prep, cook, and delivery drones

19. Drone delivery boxes – Large mailboxes for the package delivery industry.

20. Drone repair services – When drones break down in the field, they will require a mobile/drone repair service

21. Data collection drones

22. Invisible fence drones

23. Eyes-on-the-problem drones

24. Drone jousting matches

Drone Command Centers

As the drone industry matures, many organizations will transition from one-off drones to fleets of drones. These fleet of drones will require their own unique command center to manage the duties and tasks of these machines.

25. City command centers

26. Police command centers

27. University command centers

28. Farmers/agriculture command centers

29. Prison command centers

30. News station command center

31. Ski resort command center

32. Theme park command center

Sensor Technology

Every year the MEMs and sensor industry finds new ways to detect different aspects of the world around us. These sensors give us insight into the overall quality of the environments around us.

33. Thermal inspection sensors

34. Mold monitoring sensors

35. Personal mood sensors

36. Hair health monitoring sensors

37. Sleep quality sensors

38. Smell sensors (periodic table of smells)

39. Harmful animal sensors

40. Impending danger sensors

3D Printing

Over the coming decades we will find tens of thousands of ways to make micro improvements in all the materials, scanning, and printing processes associated with 3D printing.

41. Food printers

42. Ice printers

43. Select-your-ingredients candy bar printers

44. Shoe printers

45. Jewelry printers

46. Clothing printers

47. Purse printers

48. Pillow printers

Contour Crafting

Large-scale 3D printing used in the construction industry is called contour crafting.

49. Gazebo printers

50. Stage printers

51. Bridge printers

52. House printers

53. Commercial building printers

54. Statue (sculpture) printers

55. Storage cube printers

56. Park bench printers


Everything we do with money today will be reinvented in the emerging cryptocurrency era.

57. Crypto banks

58. Crypto insurance

59. Crypto loans

60. Crypto coaches and advisors

61. Crypto wealth managers

62. Crypto cops and fraud investigators

63. Crypto identity protection specialists

64. Crypto tax specialists

VR-AR Mixed Reality

The immersive and semi-immersive forms of engagement that takes place in mixed reality will begin to uncover thousands of seemingly little applications over the coming decades.

65. VR-AR therapy – Cure phobias, stress, anxiety, and traumatic experiences.

66. VR-AR education and training – Learn by doing, but with a teacher/coach to help guide you.

67. VR-AR news – Experience the news first hand.

68. VR-AR gaming – Thousands of new games will soon leverage the VR-AR experience.

69. VR-AR movies – Immerse yourself into the storytelling experience.

70. VR-AR haptic experiences – Feel the experience via sports, dangerous situations,

71. VR-AR vacations – Go there without being there.

72. VR-AR coaching – Having smart people looking over your shoulder.

Artificial Intelligence

If we think of AI as a talent-enhancing tool, we can begin to imagine entire new industries surrounding the creative arts.

73. AI-enhanced songwriters

74. AI-enhanced sculptors

75. AI-enhanced writers

76. AI-enhanced architects

77. AI-enhanced VR storytellers

78. AI-enhanced swarmbot management systems

79. AI-enhanced puzzle-makers

80. AI-enhanced performance artists


Most people have heard about blockchain in tandem with Bitcoin’s rise as the flagship of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is more than just bitcoin, it’s a method of tracking transactions using technology that could prove to be revolutionary.

81. Blockchain voting systems

82. Blockchain auditing systems

83. Blockchain quality assurance systems

84. Blockchain smart contracts

85. Blockchain supply chain management

86. Blockchain ethics management systems

87. Blockchain food tracking systems

88. Blockchain wealth management systems

Thomas Frey Futurist Speakers reinventing business in unique and different ways

Final Thoughts

Micro industries will range from manufacturing products, to collecting data, designing systems, advising, coaching, monitoring, building, disassembling, and reinventing business in unique and different ways.

With the help of thousands of collaborators, micro industries will spring to life around niches far too small for existing industries to care about. But it is in these minuscule advances that great opportunities take root.

A simple coffee mug can be redesigned in thousands of different ways. The same holds true for every toothbrush, piece of clothing, ink pen, lamp, chair, and hundreds of other frequently bought consumer products.

We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace change on a massive scale will be best equipped to flourish during the coming decades.

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