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April 30 - May 1, 2025
North Javits Center | New York City

The Next Unicorn? Our Experts’ Guide to Emerging Data-Driven and AI-Enabled Business Models

In recent years, new technologies have enabled a whole load of new business models – from “bricks and clicks” to “bundling” to “freemium” and plenty more besides. Now we’re firmly in the data decade, what’s next? Ahead of their sessions at Data Universe, we asked five experts what they think might be the emergent business models of 2024/25?

“I think we’re on the cusp of what I call ‘You-as-a-Service' (YaaS),” says data and analytics strategy advisor, speaker, author, and instructor Doug Laney. “Generative AI leveraging data about an individual and their environment, including documents, emails, photos, etc., will enable someone to be effectively replicated—their knowledge, capabilities, persona, image, facial expressions, and perhaps even their creativity.

“Who hasn’t exclaimed, ‘I wish there were two or three of me!’ Well, we’re just about there. I for one look forward to when I can be in multiple places (at least virtually) simultaneously. I expect individuals with a ‘digital replicant’ will be more employable than others within a couple years.”  

“There are certainly a few trends worth considering as we look at the evolution of business models enabled by new technologies,” says Flavio Villanustre, LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ CISSP, CISO and SVP of technology. “The move to ‘renting vs. owning’ software licenses and, more generally, X-as-a-Service as opposed to building in-house, has been quite successful and is here to stay. But because machines have always been essentially automatons, which require human beings to operate, this trend fell short of substantially changing the labor model that we have been using for centuries.

“AI, and generative AI in particular, are bringing a disruptive new approach to our relationship with machines; one where machines are more than mere automatons, and this has the potential of disrupting the established principles behind organized labor, with the potential of more significantly displacing humans out of the marketplace.

“In sum, the X-as-a-Service trend will continue – and generative AI-based ‘Copilots-as-a-Service’ will account for a relatively larger percentage of these services, which organizations will use to gain competitive advantage. More importantly, this will create a large, new industry of companies with generative AI offerings tapping into this new need. Expect the next Silicon Valley unicorn to be one of these.”

Anees Merchant is head of global growth and client success in digital, applied AI and research at Course5 Intelligence. He believes the next business model is consumer collaboration.

“Until today, most companies have built their product in a cocoon. They push it out in the market and hope somebody buys it, whether it’s free or freemium or whatever the business models are,” says Anees. “But now, the way the technology is evolving, it’s gonna be way more collaborative. And when I say collaborative, I do not mean like a Slack or Teams or any of that. It’s almost like a code development, which will happen with the customer.

“The end consumer doesn’t need to know how to write a code, but they can give a prompt. The machine writes it, makes it part of the future product, and everybody can use it. So it’s Code-development-collaboration-as-a-Service, right? That's the new business model.”

API enabled
“Different actors look for ever higher levels of customisation and personalisation in how they use AI models and data,” says Emili Budell-Rhodes, LexisNexis Legal & Professional’s lead evangelist for engineering culture. “People want to benefit from the extraordinary capabilities being developed externally and, at the same time, get the most (and best) out of their own internal data and tech ecosystems while protecting them.”

Emili’s business model forecast? “I believe API offerings will become even more significant and diverse.”

The large language (business) model
David Boyle, director at Audience Strategies, also sees the future in generative AI, and in the themes of collaboration and copilots.

“Emergent business models will see large language models deliver services nearly on par with humans, but drastically faster and cheaper,” he says. “Consider market research. We’ve shown AI can provide 70% of the insights from a $50K, three-month project in just hours. ‘Good enough’ will displace high-cost services across industries reliant on the written word, like PR, content, and consultancies.

“Simultaneously, new hybrid models will arise where AI turbocharges human capabilities rather than replacing them outright. The best writers, CEOs and therapists will leverage tools like ChatGPT to communicate even more clearly and efficiently while having more fun in their roles. This collaboration is the most exciting part for me.”