During periods of great chaos, comes great opportunities!
It’s as if the Yahtzee game of life was just thoroughly shaken up, and an entirely new set of rules was dumped onto the table for us to deal with.
As we stare at this new rule set, yes we can spend our time complaining about it, or we can seize this golden opportunity, reinvent business, and run with it. After all, calamity is a great way to inspire creativity.
The only problem, opportunities are hard to spot, especially in today’s environment. It looks different, feels different, and may come wrapped in a legacy of shattered hopes and dreams.
Pre covid success stories will seem vastly different than the ones that follow. Think of this as the end of business as we know it and the beginning of something else.
Suddenly the sharing economy is bad. Stadiums are bad. In-person events, airports, crowded expos, parades, professional sports, movies, and comedy clubs have all been touched by the social distancing wand of disapproval.
Every post covid success story will come from those who managed to cut through the fog of uncertainty, make the right decisions, and build a durable strategy that can survive the tumultuous times ahead.
So where should you look?
One way is to look for good entry points in emerging new industries like delivery bots, e-learning, blockchain, VR conferences, synthetic biology, 5G apps, AI robotics, and quantum computing.
Another is to look for new trends in old industries like online marketplaces, digital payments, electronic health services, ghost kitchens, reshoring supply chains, online grocery stores, 3D printing, and last mile distribution centers.
Entrepreneurs building new businesses need to understand how the pandemic is shifting behavior and adapt to that change. History has shown that the best companies and the best founders come out of a crisis like this.
Forming the Mindset of an Entrepreneur
The pandemic and looming economic recession do make for a more challenging environment, so it’s especially important to consider what products and services are in demand right now, like food delivery, fitness, financial services, pharmaceutical, and e-commerce start-ups.
Once you develop a great, timely, and relevant idea, consider the following questions:
- Who are your customers? In addition to deciding whether your product or service is targeted to consumers or businesses, ask yourself, “What sort of customer will want this, and is this the type of person I will enjoy working with?”
- Where do those customers spend their time? Immerse yourself into the social media platforms or online forums where your future customers are so you can gain a better understanding of their wants and needs.
- What are the best possible products for your customers? With a good understanding of who your customers are and what they need, you can fine-tune the product or service you intend to offer. That includes honing in on your pricing, defining what makes you different, and developing a unique selling proposition like a guarantee, bonus, premium, or exclusive deals to entice new customers.
1. Reshoring Operations
Reverse globalization trends are already emerging as companies seeking supply chain resiliency are starting to move manufacturing closer to the consumer and creating redundancy in manufacturing and distribution operations. This trend will pick up steam as leaders ensure that their organizations are never caught off guard like this again.
Working from home and an increased dependence on internet connectivity are creating a perfect storm for cybersecurity issues. We’re seeing a growing need for improvement, both for our systems and to protect the personnel that could fall victim to phishing scams and other social engineering attacks. But the increased awareness of these attacks could be a boon to cybersecurity solutions providers.
3. AI Facial Diagnostics
Facial recognition tech is already being used as a tool in the fight against COVID-19. In China, companies like Hanwang Technology have rolled out apps that can recognize faces, even if the person is wearing a surgical mask. By employing temperature sensors these systems can also flag citizens with an elevated body temperature in a crowd since having a fever is one symptom of COVID-19. With additional tweaking, potential carriers of the coronavirus can be flagged and identified even in public spaces.
4. Electronic Health Services
Up to this point, telemedicine has not been the success story many were hoping for. Health-related services such as monitoring, advice and education between doctors and patients online over a secure connection, promised to be the forefront of the future of medicine. The overarching goal was to make state-of-the-art healthcare more accessible without waiting for hours at the doctor’s office. However, since only a handful of countries and regions have adopted telemedicine, this could easily become a golden opportunity for the right entrepreneurs.
Robotics will see an acceleration due to COVID-19 as companies look to implement more automation into their operations. New supply chains will emphasize local manufacturing, reshoring, and more lights-out productivity. This all requires new forms of robotics. Tech companies are being encouraged to rapidly adopt new tools and quickly iterate on their products and processes to bolster their manufacturing and logistics. Companies are turning to early stage startups for answers, and this will become more common as businesses struggle to stay ahead of the curve.
6. Funeral Industry
The entire funeral industry has moved to more of a “cremate and wait” approach to dealing with deaths during Covid-19. For those wanting to wait for a casket/cemetery burial, being able to find refrigerated storage for bodies has become particularly challenging. Virtual funerals are now being produced with mixed reviews. While funerals have been integral to the overall grieving process, families and friends of the deceased have had to make do. For all these reasons, the funeral industry has become a prime candidate for disruption.
7. Buying Businesses Out of Bankruptcy
Over the coming months many businesses will use the coronavirus as an opportune time to throw in the towel. Some will do it out of necessity, others are simply tired of the daily grind, and still more will reach their end due to a variety of circumstances. A few will become available through bankruptcy while others will show up on other posting sites. But rest assured, there will be tons of businesses for sale. The primary challenge will be for you to assess the true value of the business and turn it into an ongoing profit center.
Retail comes in many forms ranging from online shopping, to mobile businesses, custom design shops, ghost storefronts, and traditional bricks and mortar. Whatever form the seller may take, our appetite for buying things has not gone away. Entrepreneurs trying to build a retail business will have to understand how the pandemic is going to shift user behavior in the future and adapt.
Healthcare is transitioning from an industry driven by pharmaceuticals to an industry driven by data. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-life physical product, building, or person. It can take the form of a chair, desk, lamp, house, or even your next-door neighbor. With enough sensors, any item that exists in the physical world can be replicated with a digital twin. So how long will it be before doctors can monitor some’s health remotely through their digital twin? This example is just one of many opportunities in our future healthcare industry.
10. Assisted Living Centers
Retirement villages, including walled, gated, and separate senior living enclaves have had their day. Eight in ten senior living executives report that residents are moving out faster than new ones are moving in. The inability of family members to visit residents during a lock-down over the past few months, coupled with high costs at a time of widespread economic distress make this a perfect storm for disruption. Some of these short-term challenges will fade over time, but many will not.
The coronavirus pandemic is thrusting our work-life into the spotlight, revealing some of the fundamental problems that define work for the 57 million Americans, or 35% of the country’s workforce that make their living by being self-employed. Freelancers contribute $1 trillion annually to the GDP, and they operate largely without benefits, meaning no sick leave, no unemployment, and no paid time off. As the pandemic progresses, it’s becoming clear that demand for freelance workers, whether they’re writers, performers, ride-share drivers, or hospitality workers, is increasing. Self-employment could easily become a safer option than full-time jobs in the future.
12. Portable Charging Units
The world’s electric-car infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds. But there are still gaps – places without chargers that could be served if EV charging was portable, flexible, and put on wheels. Colorado-based Lightning Systems today became one of the latest companies to introduce a mobile DC fast charger for electric vehicles. As electric cars become increasingly common, the demand for battery failure solutions in odd locations will become far more common.
It’s important to keep your peripheral vision intact while scanning the opportunity landscape.
It’s important to keep your peripheral vision intact while you’re scanning the opportunity landscape, because most that appear will look nothing like a possible candidate when you first see them.
Make no mistake, right now is a great time to start a business, because there’s a tremendous opportunity to provide new versions of products and services that people want and need.
The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalization. Prime candidates to focus on are businesses that can be improved by making either a structural change or where a change that was already anticipated has just kicked it into another gear.
One important step is to test your product or service with prospective customers. Given some of the uncertainties now, it’s critical to start with a minimal budget to minimize the downside.
You will want to test it out on a small group first before you invest a lot of money into it. Iterate and test, rinse and repeat, will be the guiding principles for startups. Once proven, you can pour a lot of gasoline on the fire and scale it as quickly as you need to.
Be patient, be persistent, innovate, and realize that nothing happens overnight.
As always, please feel free to weigh in and let us know what you think.