This week we had our Morning Coffee with Guillermo Cortina, GP of TheVentureCity Fund.
Contxto – Considered a Black Swan by many, Covid-19 (“Covid”) will have significant effects on the way the modern world operates politically, financially, socially, and individually, to say the least.
The extent of the impact of Covid on the economy, the shape of the curve, the development of medication, or a vaccine are not the main topics of this article. There are numerous articles and opinions being published every day to this effect and, to be honest, nobody knows the precise answers to these questions.
What we can say is that the world will find its way to make Covid a thing of the past and emerge stronger yet different.
Survey of which activities will emerge victorious
We ran a survey across our experts with 25 generic activities to evaluate how each economic activity has been affected by Covid. The results are as follows:
Accelerated Growth after Covid
- Digital Contactless Payments
- Online Learning/Training
- Voice Activated Apps
- Wearable Health Monitors
- Smart Robotics (assistance care for elderly)
- Virtual/Augmented Reality
Increased demand during Covid with continued high growth afterward
- Remote Working Tools
- Online Entertainment
- EcommerceWellness (Health and Nutrition)
Increased demand during Covid, reverting to prior levels afterwards
- Cleaning Supplies
- Food and Beverage (Grocery Stores)
- OTC, Flu Medicines, and Vitamins
- Sterilization Products
Significantly slowed demand due to Covid with recovery to prior levels afterward
- Gyms and Outdoor Activities
- Theaters and other live entertainment
- Travel/Leisure and Hospitality
- Beauty and Grooming
Significantly slowed demand due to Covid with no recovery to prior levels afterward
- Office Space
- Long Commutes
One obvious conclusion is that online activities and the extent of their usage will expand significantly. A significant and sudden influx of online activity requires massive infrastructure developments, pronto!:
- Computing power (cloud computing)
- Bandwidth (distribution)
- Cable, satellite, wireless (last-mile delivery)
All of the above will all receive major investment flows.
Furthermore, given that even more is going to be done online, cybersecurity will have to step up to the plate. Contactless technologies (voice, robots, mind commands) will receive a good dose of investment, as well as distant participation facilitating technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality.
Also, the marrying of health and technology will be extensively developed through wearables, telemedicine, and digital identity to combat healthcare fraud—something long overdue.
Online entertainment, e-commerce, and remote working tools will continue to show strong growth while their counterparts (movie theaters, physical retail stores, and corporate office space) will struggle.
In sum, the smart money will bet on these trends in the foreseeable future.
Licking their wounds
There are a host of activities that will bloom again although with uncertain timeframes.
These are social activities that give us that joie de vivre. Restaurants, gyms, live entertainment, travel and leisure, personal care, etc. It is difficult to say which particular businesses will survive and who will be the last man standing.
Many of them will adopt technologies to help them be more efficient. But, in the end, cooking a magnificent piece of fish to perfection needs a human to prepare it; it needs a human to eat it, good company and a great place to enjoy it.
Investments in these activities will be mostly for restorative purposes, not for long term growth.
Glimpse into the post-Covid world
Without attempting to be all-encompassing, we will take you through some aspects of everyday life that will be rearranged by technologies emanating in the wake of Covid:
Several large scale events have been forced to cancel or postpone due to the pandemic including annual events music festivals (Ultra and Coachella) and industry conferences (South by Southwest and Mobile World Congress), while others have gone “virtual” (Formula 1, College Basketball, Soccer, amongst other sports).
The economics around these events have a significant impact on their host cities. Also, attendees look forward to these events—seeing them as opportunities rather than obligations.
Given the magnitude of the financial impact of these events on their host cities, these will not go away in a post Covid-19 world. Once medical treatment and vaccination allow for people to re-gather, these events will flourish again.
However, there will be a wider audience that can be “incorporated” to the events in a virtual manner. One thing we know is that Covid-19 will move brilliant minds, in addition to finding a cure/vaccine, to develop virtual and augmented reality features to existing remote attendance (TV broadcasts) tools.
We can envision 3D virtual attendance with a look and feel so real that we will be transported to the actual venue. The noise, the cheers, the chants. Diehard fans will still attend physically, yet the audience will expand many times over by using these technologies.
It will catapult audiences through the roof. The “new cell phone” will be the gadgets that will allow these 3D realities to materialize (headsets, goggles, what have you).
Virtual passes will be sold, thereby expanding sales. This format has been tried and tested for my years by the boxing industry through the use of Pay-per-view. There will still be fans attending the event but the non-attendee revenue is where the real money will be made.
The closer the technology comes to resembling the real event (and maybe one day we can experience the “smell”), the larger the audience it will attract, the larger the prize money.
Favored segments: Augmented and virtual reality tech companies, communication infrastructure/bandwidth.
Friends & Family Gatherings
With Zoom reaching 200 million daily users, people are hosting “friends and family reunions” at a distance. In the post Covid world, gatherings like these will not cease.
Families and friends will continue to get together, vacationing in bunches, and sharing good memories. However, collective video gatherings will stay for those occasions when distance is an issue. The US holiday of Thanksgiving is a perfect example of this—where geographically dispersed families can still get together.
This reminds me of the advent of Facebook, where people found old friends and distant relatives which then evolved into Whatsapp group chats and now into Zoom video gatherings.
This means additional opportunities to communicate. Interestingly, in this case, virtual reality and augmented reality may also play an interesting role but less than in the events world.
Friends gatherings are horizontal (similar age groups) while families are vertical (spanning ages from grandparents to babies). Grandparents will be less likely to use virtual reality gadgets than in gatherings amongst millennial friends.
Favored segments: Augmented and virtual reality tech companies, videoconferencing, communication infrastructure/bandwidth.
Work and Commute
We have experienced a massive push to adopt teleconferencing and remote working. We were thrown into a pool and told we had to learn to swim or else!
The notion of flex schedules and work from home has been explored by corporations for years. In the beginning came conference calls and virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect at-home computers to private, corporate networks. Then came video conferencing hardware which was very expensive.
Luckily Covid-19 came just at a time when videoconferencing tools had become very affordable and easy to use, and so, we learned to swim!!
There is no doubt that this technology is here to stay and will transform how people work. The relevant question is what is the mix of workers that,
- go to the office (a central location, face-to-face interaction),
- work from home, and
- go to a local coworking space.
The latter is what I believe will emerge as a new “family compromise”.
One of the learnings we had with being forced to work from home for a long period of time is that we do enjoy a change of scenery. This does not necessarily mean we enjoy commuting 45 minutes to an office. Here is where local coworking spaces may mushroom by providing a virtual office close to home without the commute.
If one lives in a suburb, this type of virtual office setup will be just around the corner leading to a massive improvement in quality of life.
Office spaces will be significantly different from what we have today. Much smaller corporate offices, an army of remote workers, and possibly the development of local outposts for people to “get out of the house” will become the norm.
Given that retail commerce will be heavily diminished in the post-Covid world, strip malls and other commercial real estate may be recycled into local coworking spaces, revitalizing the area with lunch-focused restaurants, gyms, and other activities that were previously located near corporate offices.
Affected segments: Commutes and corporate offices will shrink; hindered retail spaces could be refurbished. Video conferencing, communication infrastructure/bandwidth will be heavily favored.
Moving deeper online will require much more energy. A thorough analysis and expansive development of clean energy is mandatory and a matter of survival. This planet will not withstand the amount of energy production needed based mostly on fossil fuels. We should be very mindful of this.
By no means is what has been described above certain. Future events will likely reshape our lives into unimaginable scenarios. However, as our lives change and evolve, our hope is that we all become more united and in tune with Mother Earth.
Guillermo Cortina is an international banking executive. Born in Argentina, most of his professional life has been developed in the US. He was in San Francisco during the dotcom bubble. Renowned board member, his unique insights help startups achieve the next step. He joined TheVentureCity as GP of the Fund in April 2017.