Ones to watch: The top tech startups and personalities of 2017

Here are the smaller names you'll want to watch out for in the year ahead...

Innovation

While the big players like Apple, Facebook and Google tend to make the most noise on the tech scene, it's worth taking time to examine some of the smaller names that may end up being the disruptors of the future.

With that in mind, here are the top startups and tech personalities that you may want to watch out for over the next 12 months.

Blockchain

Bitcoin, and the distributed ledger technology that underpins it, is currently one of the most interesting areas of the industry. Fintech startup Blockchain (which confusingly takes its name from the system that powers the Bitcoin currency) is a company that is making some serious noise in this area.

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The firm recently snagged ex-Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins to sit on its board of directors, which will give it some added credibility in its target markets. Blockchain is going after fintech in a major way - co-founder and CEO Peter Smith claims that around a third of the company's projected $50 billion of transactions for 2016 will come from financial institutions.

In addition to offering conversion and wallet software for consumer Bitcoin transactions, Blockchain also provides tools for businesses, including other Bitcoin firms. As more enterprises become wise to the benefits of using Blockchain technology, expect this company to be one of the ones riding the wave.

Deliveroo

Although it's been operational for a few years, Deliveroo only really started to hit the mainstream this year. An expanding delivery footprint, extensive marketing campaigns and growing word-of-mouth has seen the up-scale take-out company growing significantly.

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It's not without problems, though - it's rivalled by UberEats (as well as older online ordering services like JustEat). It's also faced with the challenge of continuing its push into more cities and locations.

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As one of the poster children for the on-demand economy, it's going to be interesting to see whether or not Deliveroo can sustain this level of growth, particularly in the face of stiff competition from rivals.

Monzo

Another fintech startup, Monzo wants to revolutionise the way consumer banking is conducted by creating going all-in on digital. Rather than waiting to be sent a monthly statement or having to manually check a banking app that takes days to update with transactions, Monzo wants banking to be as seamless as other apps.

You get a notification every time you use your card, the ability to add receipts to purchases and detailed analytics for your spending, including location information and purchasing history.

Currently, Monzo's service is only available via prepaid cards, but the company is working on offering more traditional banking features such as current accounts, direct debits, overdrafts and more. As the company rounds out its portfolio, it could well become a genuine competitor to legacy financial institutions.

Panos Panay

Panos Panay was this year promoted from vice president of Microsoft's Surface division to being in charge of the company's entire devices portfolio. This includes responsibility for the HoloLens headset, as well as wearables like the Microsoft Band.

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Panay has overseen multiple product launches as part of this role, with the most recent being the Surface Studio's unveiling. His lively and engaging presentation style has drawn wide praise from the tech community, and he is one of the best-known figures within Microsoft.

As the company continues to expand and promote its premium first-party hardware, we're expecting to see a lot more of Panos is 2017. His successes throughout 2017 could even see him taking on a position as Microsoft's design guru, in the same way Jony Ive is for Apple.

Waymo

Previously being developed within Google's moonshots division, the company's self-driving car project is now mature enough to fly the nest. Last December, it was spun out into its own company with a new name - Waymo.

While still under the broader Alphabet umbrella, Waymo is now an independent entity, and as such it will have to be much more open about its business plans and successes. This means that consumers and investors alike will likely get a much more detailed look into how close we actually are to the technology becoming commercially available.

However, it also means that the company will need to stand on its own two feet. If it can't provide a viable business model early in its lifespan, the fledgling company may end up being sold off, or axed altogether.

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