What Mattered in 2012: Howard Marks, StartEngine

For the last week of the year, we're featuring the thoughts and reflections of some of the movers and shakers of Southern California's high tech community. We asked the same four questions of a variety of top technology entrepreneurs, investors, and others, to hear what they're thinking about, and are sharing it here over the next week.

Howard Marks is co-founder of Activision, and head of Los Angeles-based startup accelerator StartEngine.

1. What was the biggest news for you/your firm this year?

I think that the biggest news for StartEngine this year is our productivity. We have had a huge year in terms of sheer quantity. As the founder of an accelerator, I'm constantly being approached by ambitious people with big ideas, and generally we invest in 1/100th of what comes to us. This year, we were lucky enough to find 40 great startups to invest in, growing StartEngine immensely. We were also about to build a really solid mentor network in a short period of time, pulling in about 250 CEO's and CTOs, from all backgrounds and locations. It was a big year for us.

2. In your opinion, what events, companies, or people made the biggest impact on the technology world this year?

2012 has been a remarkably interesting year in terms of developments in technology. I don't even know where to start. Obviously, I would start with Apple and their constantly growing revenue stream. They have become a juggernaut in so many ways and simply can't be ignored for any list of "biggest impact". I don't even think I need to name a particular thing - iPhone5, Ipad mini, the dock switch, the map fiasco, the constant battles with Samsung - the company's name alone carries with it infinite implications for the tech world.

Following that, I think Facebook is next and their staggeringly high IPO followed by their equally staggering drop. I think we're going to see a real shakeup in how people view social media. I also think that it spells out big consequences for the games industry.

Finally, Google. 'Nuff said. 12 major acquisitions this year putting it over 100 since 05. 7 years, 100 companies. That's huge. Google continues to shape our futures.

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned over the past year (good or bad)?

I'd say the biggest lesson I learned is that entrepreneurs need to have more contact with their customers and consumers upfront to build a better assessment of needs and priorities. Too often, an entrepreneur with a big idea will run head-first into a project without actually finding out if what they're producing fits the needs of the people they cater towards. It is the number one reason why entrepreneurs have to pivot on their ideas and why small businesses fail quickly. You have to listen to your consumers and customers.

4. What are the technologies, companies, or things we ought to watch in 2013?

Definitely Software as a Service (SAAS). Oh man this is going to be big. As we come to rely more and more on the internet for everything - and I mean everything - people who don't have the skills or time to produce what they need are going to turn to others to help them get their message out there. We are going to see a real explosion in companies offering software for a subscription price. I also think it's going to have legs - it won't be some passing fancy. SAAS is here to stay. Following that, I think mobile advertisement technologies. I have a couple of startups at StartEngine that are already working on this. I think it's going to be the next great revolution in advertising. Whether its through tie-ins with games or social media, I think that, along with the rise of big data, our mobile advertisement technologies are going to change in a big way. Get ready to see better ads in better places with better targeting.

See more insights from the Southern California high tech community in our continued series this whole week!