trendsAt the beginning of each year, I like to think about what the big trends are for startups that make it easier to build your business, raise capital or just make it easier for you to get going. To start –a trend that has been continuing for several years now is the decreasing cost of technology solutions from the cost of laptops to the proliferation of online business services such as Grasshopper, an online phone system that’s only $15/month. It works and I use these services for my own startup so I got rid of the expensive business landline, saving over $100/month.

This enables the startup to really get going with a home or virtual office that saves on expensive leases, office and telecommunications equipment but still gives you the feel of the ‘big guys’.

Back to 2012 trends— Overall I expect that the following trends are going to gain momentum and you’ll be hearing more about them.

1) Easier to market for less money– Think social media. Businesses with an online presence that are able to gather friends, fans & followers will also effectively get new customers while retaining older ones. Through newsletters, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other online community, you can connect with your base. Before this, you needed to stand on a corner and hand out flyers or put an ad in the local paper. Social media is not necessarily “free” as you need to spend the time of an employee or resource to connect and communicate but hey, you need to consider this part of your marketing effort. It can be more effective and less expensive than other types of traditional marketing since it’s very targeted.

2) Anything mobile– According to Gartner, in 2012 and beyond, the dollar growth will be in smartphones and tablets like the iPad. This industry is not dying out any time soon. People will continue to use these as a primary way to connect to the internet and web related services. Making life easier or accessible for consumers in their palm will dominate. Startups that leverage this mobile technology for their own products & services will win the hearts of their customers. I too will have to make my online business accessible on smartphones within the next 12 months— someone tweeted about it. (How great is it to get that kind of feedback in real time?)

3) Alternative sources of financing– With banks still reticent to lend- even with loosened SBA standards, what’s a startup to do to get $$? Besides breaking your piggy bank, and hitting up Uncle Buck, you can consider some alternative sources of financing. Consider crowd source funding using sites like ProFounder or IndieGoGo to raise money in the form of ‘donations’ for cool ideas; think Diaspora, the NYU student run, personal web server that combines social media which raised $200k in 2010. ProFounder offers a couple of options from a revenue share to selling equity in exchange for $$. I know the founder, Dana Mariello, and she’s brilliant so check it out.