High growth industries

High growth industries
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Launching a new business is all about timing. If you're considering pursuing your entrepreneurial dream, you'll want to consider the state of the industry you are preparing to enter. Old industries undergoing disruption from technological advancement could be ripe for the picking, or fledgling industries with big growth prospects might beckon you to enter on the ground floor.

Whether you're looking to innovate on old ideas or build something new, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in industries with exciting futures. We looked at some of the most promising industries with impressive growth prospects. Here are the five fast-growing markets to consider.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence
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Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming more and more common aspects of everyday life. Sometimes overt and sometimes behind the scenes, AI includes diverse applications such as virtual assistants (e.g. Cortana or Alexa), automated customer service representatives on live chats, and algorithms that analyze massive stores of data to deliver recommendations and real-time alerts.

Driven by its promise to enable better informed decision making and boost efficiency (and, in turn, profits) the AI industry is poised for explosive growth. While it's often difficult to pin down exactly what the AI industry encompasses and projections differ depending on the source, Statista estimates the AI industry will grow from less than $1.4 billion in value in 2016 to more than $16 billion by 2021. That would represent a massive compound annual growth rate of 63.78 percent.

Mixed reality

Mixed reality
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Mixed reality is an industry growing largely on the backs of both entertainment and business applications. For businesses, mixed reality offers benefits like the ability to more efficiently conduct a meeting with remote participants, train workers in immersive and hands-on environments without risking assets, and turn employees into mobile data gatherers on factory and plant floors. For these reasons, the mixed reality market is projected to hit $6.9 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research.

Lindsey Vontz, content marketing manager for graphic design crowdsourcing platform 99Designs, said mixed reality projects were among the fastest growing categories on the platform in recent years. She said startups in need of design services are most commonly found in the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, New York and Santa Monica.

"Really, I think, it's Oculus Rift and some other technologies becoming more mainstream, so we're seeing a lot of VR studios, labs and gaming studios," Vontz said.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency
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Following Bitcoin's explosion in value in the final quarter of 2017, topping out near $20,000 per coin, the major players in the cryptocurrency markets – Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and others – have become household names. While there are often warnings of the markets' significant volatility and the inevitable collapse of some coins buoyed only by speculation at this point, investors and entrepreneurs alike have flocked to the industry. While volatility is very real, there are coins that provide real use value, which are the ones serious businesspeople are banking on.

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) exploded both in number and funding value through 2017. According to CoinDesk, from January 2014 through 2016, the largest single month for new ICO funding was July 2016, when ICOs raised about $155 million. Through 2017 (excluding December, for which data was not yet available,) seven months eclipsed that number; the highest grossing month was November, where ICOs raised more than $743 million.

Vontz said 99Designs has seen a boost in projects related to the cryptocurrency industry. Crypto mining sites, exchanges, and investment tools were among the most common types of projects on the platform, and those were most commonly located in the cities of New York, San Francisco, London, Austin and Toronto.

3D printing

3D printing
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3D printing, a major pillar of additive manufacturing, is making huge inroads into the manufacturing industry, which is undergoing a widespread modernization effort known as Industry 4.0. With the right technical skills and equipment, just about anything can be 3D printed, from auto parts to kitchenware. One of the most famous examples of additive manufacturing is the 3D printed fuel nozzles in use on GE's LEAP jet engine.

Because of the promise of lowered costs and greater efficiency in fabrication and manufacturing, especially as the technology evolves, the industry has been growing steadily in recent years. The research group Markets and Markets expects the 3D printing industry to grow to $32.78 billion by 2023.

Legal cannabis

Legal cannabis
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The legal cannabis industry has continued its massive growth, spurred by the ongoing promise of newly legalized markets and a voracious demand for goods and services. According to cannabis industry market researcher ArcView, the North American cannabis industry experienced more than $10 billion in sales in 2017 and is projected to grow to about $21 billion in revenues by 2021.

99Designs also tracked a spike in cannabis-related projects, particularly for dispensaries, infused products, delivery services and vape brands. Cannabis startups in need of design services were most commonly located in the cities of Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, San Francisco and New York, said Vontz.

"It should be really interesting to look at [the industry's growth] between 2017 and 2018," she said. "My hunch is it will skyrocket."