Tech After Coronavirus

As I’m siloed in my home, I’ve been thinking a lot about how things will change - or not - due to this pandemic. My thoughts on various topics here:

Social Good

The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on the world, disproportionately affecting virus victims, healthcare workers, people who cannot work remotely, small businesses, and those affected by large scale layoffs. People are realizing the power of helping others and providing acts of kindness during these times. For example, just yesterday at my local Starbucks drive-thru, customers covered the bill for the car behind them. Nextdoor took advantage of this surge in goodwill, releasing a new Help Map feature:

Nextdoor has added a feature to help people coordinate all their offers of help. The Help Map, launched over the weekend, lets people say where they are and whether they need or can offer help such as picking up groceries or taking a dog for a walk for an elderly neighbor.

More than an acute destructive event, like a hurricane, this prolonged state of a pandemic that makes headlines every day for months, possibly years, will make people rethink how they can help. I think the main problem with donating today is that there are so many charities with different levels of impact that it’s difficult to choose, and further, it is difficult to see the impact your money is having. Products that can help people donate funds on a recurring basis with little to no friction like Momentum can provide value well past this pandemic.

Non-profits focused on social impact will move to support digital volunteering, where people can provide pro-bono services on the internet. Isolated Not Alone is a really cool service to provide free mental health care for those who need it.

Local Business

As people stay immersed in their local communities for months, the power of local business and the people who run them will become more apparent. After the lockdowns end, I think there will be a renewed appreciation for these local businesses. Tech that connects these businesses to their local communities, helps them increase digital presence, and offer customization to local customers, will strengthen the community as a whole. Solutions like Cloosiv will experience continued growth even after the lockdowns end.

Entertainment

Media consumption has greatly increased during this pandemic, and on this front, I think the biggest players like Netflix and Amazon will strengthen their position, as their high content diversity and volume will win over newer players like Quibi. Products that offer social consumption of these services, like Netflix Party, have much more room to grow as the streaming ecosystem becomes the norm. In the physical realm, its tough to say whether there will be a rebound effect, where people have increased fervor to go right back to bars, clubs, and restaurants. If this is the case, unique out of home products that deliver novel but digitally driven experiences could see explosive growth as people find new ways to escape their home. Regardless, In-home entertainment is here to stay as a valuable supplement when staying at home is necessary.

Education

Schools are being forced to confront the digital reality of education that will likely have permanent effects. It will become standard that a school needs to have a heavy digital presence to compete in the business of education; credentialism alone will not be sufficient. Furthermore, alternate forms of education like Lambda School or homeschooling will also grow in usage, as people start to question whether traditional institutions are providing optimal value for students. Products that help parents conduct homeschooling or help democratize online education will succeed in the long term, and this pandemic will catalyze these changes.

Earning Opportunities

A decade of job gains have been erased by the Coronavirus shutdowns. In the US, 22 Million (and counting) are out of jobs due to the halt in consumer activity and the inability for most people to work remotely. This will force people to explore digital earning opportunities that will provide more flexible and supplemental income. Products that create opportunities for creators and digital workers will be invaluable as people try to get back on their feet. During the 2008 recession, it was Airbnb and Uber that created these opportunities, but they rely primarily on the physical world. Who will employ millions in the digital world?

Communication

With increased social distancing and isolation, consumers will be more open than ever to try new products that will help social groups stay connected. I think products that foster genuine connections and communication between private groups will win here, as they will be used after the lockdowns end as well. Social apps like Houseparty and Clubhouse will succeed during the lockdown, but unless they pivot to focus on private groups, users will churn out after getting back to their lives.