Signals #17 – Post-COVID Trends

Context

During 2020 the world was shaken to its core. However, every crisis has also its opportunities and disruptive ideas. I collected and curated the ones that will likely outlast the pandemic. As the world is getting back on its feet, there has never been a better time to start a business.

Home Deliveries

Home delivered food became a norm during the pandemic. The 4 food delivery market leaders in the U.S. increased their revenue over 2x (even though their profitability is still questionable).

However, people are now used to getting restaurant-quality food to their doorsteps in 15-30 minutes. The demand will stay high even post-COVID.

And it’s not only food. CuratedInstaCart and Dumpling enable anyone to start a micro-service delivering anything. Average earnings vary between $7-$30 per order.

GorillasOda and Cajoo are new players that eliminate the need for a traditional grocery store entirely: they operate their own micro-fulfillment centers and promise deliveries in 10-15 minutes.

Upskilling

The new decade will require a new set of skills: data analysis & visualization, no code/low code, automation, machine learning and cybersecurity are among the core skills that many employees will be expected to handle (at least on a basic level) during the next 5-10 years.

A perfect time to start offering upskilling courses and bootcamps. See examples for datacybersecurityautomation and digital transformation.

Many are also fed up with the obscene tuition fees that many universities charge. The no-degree programs are a part-answer to this. They are built on the fact that all materials are already online or that core subjects can be taught at a fraction of the cost when compared to traditional education.

Examples:

This is Not a Real Data Science Degree

No CS Degree

Tiny MBA

Remote Work

Work will never be the same again. Work and location will unbundle: countries will compete for the best remote talent.

As remote work goes mainstream, many companies will reduce their office footprint. This creates demand for on-demand offices.

Zoom-fatigue will encourage many to try out virtual offices or async working methods. Even the events happening outside of the office can be virtualized.

Work-from-home kits make it easy to furnish a home office.

Talent Marketplaces

Talent marketplaces enable employees to work flexibly for multiple employers at the same time. Pay varies from $35/h to $200/h depending on the project, experience and the client.

Talent marketplaces will become a focal point of human resources management in the future. They also allow people not to be reliant on only one source of income.

Lemon.io is for developers.

Field Engineer is for engineers.

99designs is for designers.

More platforms here. The catch is that the professional platforms usually have a vetting process and typically only let 1-10% of the best talent in.

In the future most companies will maintain a small core workforce and hire the rest of the talent on-demand. And not just individual talent: it’s already possible to build entire teams on-demand as well.

Remote Fitness

Traditional gyms have weaknesses: they are usually packed with people, vulnerable to shutdowns during a pandemic and always located at a distance.

Remote fitness solves those problems. You can exercise when it fits your schedule and from the comfort of your home.

While people will unlikely abandon traditional gyms completely, 75% of people say that they will retain a virtual component in their training even after the crisis.

Example opportunities: remote boxingremote fitness programsremote yogainteractive training equipment and healthy meal subscriptions.

[Pro] Domestic travel

As the world opens up, domestic travel is likely to rebound faster than international travel – domestic travel will likely reach pre-COVID levels already in 2022.

People still have the desire for adventures and to discover new places. For now, it’s more convenient to do that closer to home: fewer travel restrictions and more substitutes for air travel.

Example opportunities in the domestic travel space include local tours, motorhome rentals, and last-minute cottage holidays.

[Pro] Cleaning & Disinfecting

Demand for better hygiene is here to stay. For example, global sales of surface disinfectants surged 30% in 2020.

Properly disinfected and sanitized environments became a minimum standard during the crisis. Cleaning methods have shi[1]ed from reactive to preventive.

Plenty of opportunities for specialized cleaning and supplying disinfectants in different industries: healthcare, restaurants, offices, movie theaters, festivals and so forth.

Equipment trends include air purifiers, contactless tech and UV-light sanitizers.

[Pro] Virtual Events

Virtual events were a $78 billion market even before 2020. Year-to-year growth is expected to be 23.2% annually between 2020-2027.

It’s the same phenomenon as with remote work: a[1]er the crisis no one will even remember that events used to be mostly on the spot.

Some events will remain 100% virtual. Most will likely go hybrid.

Virtual events can charge good money. Collision charges $149 for regular and $999 for VIP access. MicroConf offers video access to past event recordings for $35. Indie Worldwide sells a year of founder matches for $80.

[Pro] Household Plants

Household plants were already a rising trend before 2020. The pandemic definitely gave this space a boost. Some indoor plant businesses have seen 10x growth in sales since 2019.

There are many reasons which explain this trend. It’s a simple hobby which is easy to start but can take a lifetime to master. Indoor plants also act as a decorative element. There are also health benefits.

Plenty of opportunities here: plant deliveries, selling accessories or starting paid communities for plant lovers.

[Pro] Remote Health

Remote health providers have seen 50-175x the patients using their services when compared to pre-COVID era.

Examples of remote health services include SteadyMD, iCliniq and MDLive.

A branch of remote health is mental health. Example players: Ginger offers on-demand corporate mental health, Calm helps with meditation and Mantra Health takes care of student mental wellbeing.

Most companies have great physical healthcare benefits but still lack options for mental wellness. The strain of COVID-19 on mental health will only accelerate this demand.

Possible other opportunities:

  • Mental health services for solopreneurs.
  • A course to help new founders fight impostor syndrome.
  • Solve the problem of enormous amount of wasted time and lost focus on social media.

[Pro] Online Shopping

Think you missed the e-commerce train? Think again – things are likely just getting started.

The first half of 2020 saw an increase in e-commerce equivalent to 10 previous years. All in all, the world outside of the U.S. and Europe is just getting used to buying things online.

40% of the companies surveyed by McKinsey reported that they’re not even moderately prepared to capture the potential growth in e-commerce.

There are still countless of businesses with very rudimentary landing pages, no SEO, no optimized sales funnels or no possibility to buy online. Help these companies to untap the potential of online sales.

[Pro] Benefit Corporations

There are already 3,500+ officially certified benefit corporations globally and the number is rising. The idea of a benefit corporation is to prioritize social and environmental benefits in addition to shareholder profits and income.

Examples of benefit corporations: Kickstarter, Lemonade and AltSchool.

As interest in benefit corporations stays high, it might be a good idea to start a consultancy helping companies to go through the certification process.

One aspect of getting certified is having a plan for carbon neutrality. Start a carbon offsetting service or help companies create a comprehensive plan to achieve carbon neutrality 2030 or earlier.

[Pro] Refurbished Products

COVID-19 put millions out of work and lowered their income. At the same time, recycling and circularity are megatrends affecting all industries.

Refurbished electronics are no exception: if you don’t need the latest tech, you can get a smart phone, tablet or a PC 50-70% off.

Big players in refurbished electronics space include Back Market, Swappa and Gazelle.

But it doesn’t have to be just electronics. Circularity as a trend applies to all products. How about refurbished furniture, clothes or apartments?

[Pro] Creator Economy

COVID locked us up in our homes. Many side projects were started: newsletters, podcasts, art, music, video, ebooks…

This was an acceleration of an underlying trend: more and more ordinary people can earn a supplementary income from creating digital products and services.

But these people need help to stand out from the masses: only a tiny fraction (0.5-2%) of creators usually earn any meaningful money from their creations.

How to help people:

  • Create a no-design tool to help non-artistic creators to bootstrap their brand
  • Help people spread the word on the right platforms.
  • Start a paid creator community to elevate people to success and gather feedback from peers.

[Pro] Automation

Automation is a huge trend that is not directly related to COVID. But everyday automation has definitely been a trending topic during the pandemic.

RPA is the buzzword in the automation space. Tools like Power Automate and UiPath enable anyone to automate their routine work process in a matter of hours or days.

RPA consultancies have popped up in huge numbers during the last 1-2 years. But when thinking about the number of potential processes to be automated (hint: it’s an insanely high number), there’s no shortage of automation work in sight.

The cost structure of RPA can be a deal breaker for small businesses. Many licenses start from yearly fees of $2k-$5k. There’s a good opportunity to offer RPA services to micro businesses using open-source solutions or good old scripting.