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How Coronavirus will change the entrepreneurial opportunity landscape

Fist bump, footshake, or maybe an air hug instead of a handshake?

Many things will change as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. People will remember to appreciate their lives. Ideas for new societies will be introduced. New technologies will develop and they will play a larger role in decision making. Governments will be better prepared for future shocks. International and interdisciplinary collaboration will increase. And what not.

At the same time, this means lots of new entrepreneurial opportunities for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs.

While abusing the current situation could be ethically questionable and therefore not advisable, post-pandemic shifts in people’s needs will offer new opportunities for more long-term business.

Some of the resulting opportunities will be based on earlier trends that gain increasing attention by the public while others emerge as new ideas.

What exactly will change, how, and when, is difficult to predict and determined to a large extent by the outcome of the pandemic. How long did it take for us to overcome it? How many people died? How did it affect those who survived? How bad was it for the global economy? These are questions we can’t answer yet.

However, we can already see some trends emerging and can expect them to further change many people’s views. In the following, I discuss five trends that I believe are going be fueled by the current Coronavirus pandemic.

5 trends for entrepreneurial opportunities

Environmental activism and sustainability

Due to the global Coronavirus outbreak, millions of people are placed under lockdown and businesses around the world have been forced to shut down. This has led to a considerable decrease of both NO2 and CO2 emissions, which has been celebrated by environmental activists and nature lovers. The canals of Venice are now crystal clear and full of fish, while major cities everywhere in the world have experienced significant reductions of air pollution.

But what happens when the pandemic is over? Governments and banks are going to boost global economy by subsidies and by their monetary and fiscal policy, and then we’re back to where we were before Covid-19. The financial crisis in 2008-09 led to a 1.3% reduction of emissions, but as the global economy recovered, the emissions quickly rose to an all-time high. Depending on the magnitude of the overall damage caused by the virus, this could well happen again.

However, there will be more environmental activism than ever before. We want to breathe clean air, we want to drink clean water, we want to let the nature show its full beauty and prevent natural catastrophes caused by the climate change. And now with the “side effects” of the Coronavirus, we have gotten a little taster of all that.

In addition, a vast number of companies will or has already gone bankrupt, so this will be a new start for many to rethink environmental concerns. And while money will still be the main incentive for most people, there will be a growing number of those who believe in ecologically sustainable products, resourcefulness, and anti-consumerism. Maybe even governments will shift their focus on preserving the environment more than they have so far.

Work culture

Digitization of work is clearly going to continue and will most likely accelerate at a high rate. Companies and their employees have been forced to work remotely in the last weeks. Many existing tools have been taken into regular use and new tools have been quickly developed. People have learnt that those digital technologies are an enabler, not a threat. Therefore, overall the crisis is going to affect companies’ work culture in at least two different ways.

First, working from home (WFH) is going to become more common. While there are many professions and jobs where working from home is rather difficult (for example construction, food preparation, cabin crew), those office jobs that can, are increasingly going to be online.

This saves employees time and employers cost if they pay for their employees’ commute, and it reduces overall effort needed to maintain public transport systems. It may also increase employees’ work-life balance and affect their job satisfaction. Yet, it is also clear that employees must prove their productivity when working from home.

Second, business traveling is probably going to decrease significantly and permanently. We already have tools such as Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp that help us easily talk to anyone regardless of their location. The savings of organizing meetings or even whole conferences online can be immense. Companies can use this money for many other purposes instead. For example, it can pay higher salaries, invest in new technologies, or save the money and be prepared for exogenous shocks like epidemics and natural catastrophes.

Source: The New Yorker Cartoons. https://www.instagram.com/p/B94MyLFAWjP/

Ideas for new communities

The global Coronavirus outbreak has fostered discussions revolving around the future of the human race and even thoughts about “the end of the world as we know it” (TEOTWAWKI; see more here). Some, for example survivalists, go even as far as constantly training to survive a coming apocalypse by building bunkers and self-sufficient communities.

There will be enough people who believe that only major changes in our societies can save us. And there will be many more who believe that our systems need to be reconsidered, and that new types of societies should at least be tested and that people should have freedom to choose what kind of a society they want to be part of. Here, I briefly discuss three ideas that will probably gain increasing popularity.

First, self-sufficient houses and communities that allow people to be less dependent on the society are likely to become more popular when people re-evaluate their lives. This tendency includes many sub-trends like urban farming and even counter-urbanization.

Urban farming adds to sustainability and decreases people’s need to go to the grocery store. In turn, rural areas offer more space at a substantially lower cost for those who don’t feel the need to be surrounded by millions of other people and all kinds of (luxury) services around the corner. There is plenty of space outside of large cities, and in these places the quality of air is considerably better while cost of living and risk of epidemics are significantly lower.

Second, seasteading refers to the idea of developing self-sufficient and permanent dwellings at sea, outside the territory claimed by any government. These floating cities, also called startup countries or seasteads, (would) offer open spaces for experimenting with new societies and unregulated innovation and new models of governance. They (would) also provide alternative views to questions regarding overpopulation, rising sea levels, and obsolete technologies.

The Seasteading Institute, which was co-founded by Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, and Peter Thiel, one of the PayPal founders and renowned Silicon Valley investor, aims to create a seasteading movement and provide early testing of the concept. In 2017 it signed a contract with the government of French Polynesia regarding a prototype of a floating city that would be semi-autonomous. However, so far no action has been announced. The institute is currently assumed to be collecting more money, testing in small scale, and trying to reach popularity for the idea. Maybe their time has come.

Third, if seasteading sounds utopian, how about living in the outer space? Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and many others think it is possible that we begin new life on Mars and other places in the space like asteroids, the Moon, and space stations (like in the movie Elysium (2013)).

While the idea sounds quixotic, space industries are actually booming, including space exploration, space travel, asteroid mining, and connectivity (satellites) sectors. There is a large number of (rich) people who want to make this happen, and while we are destroying planet Earth and suffering from disease such as Covid-19, new ideas like orbital colonies will pick up growing attention.

No more cash, no more paper

Cash is inefficient and extremely dirty. Bills and coins are passed between one another, and some people even lick their fingers while counting them. And where do we keep our money? In the wallet, purse, pocket, mobile phone case, or sometimes even in the underwear(!). We get the dirt from money on our hands and make the money even dirtier before we pass it on.

If somebody wanted to spread a disease, it probably wouldn’t be very difficult. Money is actually dirtier than our toilets and it is never cleaned. Or have you ever heard of someone washing their money (like really washing, not laundering)? Killer bugs and hundreds if not thousands of germs live on our cash. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below to learn more.

To fight the spread of Covid-19, Dutch banks raised contactless transaction limit last week from €50 to €100 so that fewer people would have to enter their PIN number on the terminal device or on the checkout touch screen. While Apple Pay, Google Pay, AliPay, Visa and others have enabled easy contactless payments, it is surprising how few consumers actually take advantage of these innovations. For example, Germans are known as heavy cash users. According to a study by Deutsche Bank, cash was used in 74% of all transactions in Germany in 2017. In other countries like China, you are the odd person if you don’t pay by phone.

So what is likely going to change is that contactless payment methods will increase significantly and cash will disappear. Also, online shopping will account for even greater proportion of overall consumption than it did before the pandemic. Use of paper documents will also decrease considerably as our technologies enable most paper work to be done digitally. Proxyclick explains nicely how to go paperless in the office.

Moreover, digital signatures in the form of face recognition will become the norm (it is actually unbelievable that those old-fashioned pen-and-paper signatures are still widely used – they are extremely inefficient and easy to fake). In fact, there will be a fair number of new contactless methods developed, for example, from doorbells and touch screens that recognize eye movements to doors and light switches that are controlled through voice recognition.

Rise of entrepreneurship itself

Millions of people around the world will lose their jobs due to the virus. While entrepreneurship and freelancing have already been globally increasing trends, the current situation gives them a giant boost that will realize once we have overcome the pandemic. Hundreds of millions of workers are currently at home, possibly with no job to return to. If ever, now is the time when people play with ideas, re-evaluate their lives, and make big decisions.

New ideas could relate to, for example, working from home or from anywhere (efficiency, technology), helping others in the form of social entrepreneurship (targeting vulnerable people in collaboration with the government), developing new tools and techniques for crisis management and prevention, or building new and better solutions based on whatever people were doing in their previous company jobs.

The online education sector was booming already before the pandemic and currently basically all university classes take place via the Internet. Novel hygiene and healthcare solutions, such as the hospital robots by CloudMinds, online doctor platform Babylon Health, and hand-hygiene monitoring service by GWA Hygiene, are most likely going to be in high demand, or at least seriously experimented with.

While sharing economy and related businesses may experience a temporary shock due to people’s decreased willingness to share their things (apartment, car, goods) with strangers, trends like sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and crowdsourcing will likely remain strong and even gain more popularity.

Moreover, ideas that can be implemented 100% online and allow for working from anywhere will probably take a huge boost too. Creativity has no limits. See for example the DJ who played online during the pandemic (video below). Even whole new forms of entrepreneurship and innovation may develop in new experimental societies that advocate novel paradigms.

Conclusion

In addition to my list, there are many more things that will change. Some of them will happen very soon or are happening already, others will happen after a few years. Some will happen overnight, others over a long period of time. Some changes will happen in only one part of the world, others will be global.

Moreover, different groups will ask themselves different questions. Individuals might ask themselves “Am I happy? Is this what I want to do? Is this who I want to be?“. Entrepreneurs and companies might ask “How am I helping the world? What value do we offer?” while governments might ask “How can we best organize our state and be prepared for unprecedented shocks?“. Some of the questions may be overlapping for different groups and lead to different types of actions. One thing is for sure; there will be action. If not, then we have failed to learn from this major incident.

5 replies on “How Coronavirus will change the entrepreneurial opportunity landscape”

Your article points to some very interesting and motivating trajectories for today’s society after Covid-19. I honestly believe that the time that takes us to overcome this massive medical and economic crisis plays a crucial role for which of those visions will finally realize. If this state of emergency persists for a longer period of time, we potentially will face an economic environment in which incentives for entrepreneurship (or even environmentally friendly and sustainable behavior) may no longer exist for a long term. However, I live in Germany and for my part I at least wish to never see paper cash and metal coins ever again 🙂

Xian, thanks for your insightful comment! I totally agree that there may be little or no incentives for sustainability if there is no money. At the same time, people and companies are now coming up with great ideas with very limited resources – when they have to! This just shows that can be very creative if there’s pressure. Maybe this pressure will come from the governments, maybe from somewhere else, however probably from the public and activists. And just like you say, it all depends on how long this crisis will last… Stay safe!

I’ve already came across several articles about this subject online, and they fall into categories: the apocaliptyc hopeless approach or the self-help sugar coated approach (neither of them are really helpful or insightful). This article does not fall into neither of those categories, much the opposite: is a grounded, insightful and fact-based text with a lot of useful information to sink in. Congrats, excellent stuff!

Felipe, thank you very much for the compliment! Makes me very happy to hear you liked what I wrote. It’s been about 2 months since I published the article and I’d like to add some things in it and go deeper in others, but overall I think it can give lots of ideas and direction to entrepreneurs and innovators.

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