Throughout the pandemic, tech has helped us to survive and thrive. While workplaces, traditional retail and leisure outlets were closed, many more people turned to technology products and services to keep them fed, entertained, learning and buying and tech companies like Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft made record profits in the last year. And it’s not just the big names and internationals that benefited – many businesses pivoted and start-ups have surged by meeting the challenges, consequently achieving accelerated growth.
Now that we’re approaching the end of the Covid-19 pandemic in many parts of the world – when temporary solutions fall by the wayside in our return to ‘normal’, which trends are here to stay? Here are my forecasts for four longer-lasting tech trends that are certain to survive beyond the pandemic – and in these sectors, some start-ups I’m going to be watching.
Employee Mental Health Support
After many months of lockdown, isolation, social distancing, health and financial fears for many, Covid has accelerated the global mental health crisis. On the upside, the issue is finally receiving the recognition it warrants, and increasingly, teachers, parents, carers and doctors are engaging in new ways to improve and maintain the mental health of those around them. Good mental health is also now firmly on the agenda for businesses and governments alike.
Companies are now spending far more time and money than previously on the mental well-being of their employees. As a replacement for, or complement to, traditional EAP programmes (where they existed) many businesses are now offering additional company benefits such as access to therapy platforms like Unmind, while others offer employees a week off with pay, to avoid burnout.
Relevant start-ups to watch:
i. Hello Self – providing direct access to clinical psychologists, assessment and therapies.
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ii. Spring Health – data-driven Precision Mental health Care for employees.
Virtual Community Software
One of the biggest tech trends of the last year was the wider adoption and use of platforms like Zoom and virtual video conferencing software, Hopin. In fact, this development drove Hopin to achieve a valuation of over one billion dollars within seventeen months of the company’s foundation.
Although it’s unlikely to remain our exclusive method of communication, I predict that people will continue to explore software that helps us build and deepen virtual relationships, only reverting to in-person communication for important meetings, difficult conversations, or for times when team-building or brainstorming are particularly important to conduct face-to-face.
Startups I have my eye on in this space are:
- Circle – a community connection platform
- Diem – an inclusive app and network of ‘social spaces for communities and live conversations’.
- The Stack World – a women’s membership platform and entrepreneurial community of innovators and changemakers, featuring events and content.
As people spent more time at home with their partners, the past year saw a resurgence in the sexual wellness market. In combination with that has been a higher profile for narrative around the dangers of pornography, particularly for younger people.
Start-ups are already capitalising on this trend. Two that I’m watching are:
i. HANX – selling products like condoms, lubricants and sexual health solutions
ii. Make Love Not Porn – curated videos showing ‘consensual, contextualized, and porn-cliche free’ sex.
Tools for entrepreneurs
A record number of new businesses were registered in the last year. In fact, the third quarter of 2020 showed the highest quarter of new business applications registered with the US government since records began in 2004. These new entrepreneurs need a variety of tools and tech: tax accounting tools, expenses management systems, bank accounts, payments providers, marketing software – and much more. Startups serving SMEs can be hugely profitable – for example, Stripe and Shopify have built massive businesses from serving small companies.
Here are a couple of recent growers I’m keeping my eye on:
i. Superscript – insurance for small businesses
ii. Charlie HR – software system for startups.
The convenience economy
One thing that became abundantly clear during Covid is that we valued convenience, safety and and accessibility over all else. We weren’t leaving home, so we wanted everything brought to us. We expected to have our groceries and takeaways delivered. And more than that: beauty treatments, cars, working out – you name it, we did it – all in the comfort and safety of our homes. We have grown to love that convenience. I don’t see this going away any time soon.
Start-ups I’m watching:
i. Dishpatch – restaurant-cooked meals delivered to heat at home
As well as enormous challenges, the pandemic has given rise to great opportunities – for wider development and use of tech systems, products and services, and an explosion of exciting and innovative startups.
As a result, consumers, founders and investors will benefit from the possible dawn of a golden age of innovation.