I work in an early stage enterprise fund. As the Covid-19 disaster took maintain, we reached out to our portfolio to examine on how the virus was impacting them. We noticed an attention-grabbing sample emerge. Naturally, purely digital companies, those that transfer ‘bits’ round, have been doing properly, corresponding to edtech or content material performs. But so have been companies that transfer ‘atoms’, corresponding to grocery e-commerce websites that have been having their greatest weeks ever. But there have been some ‘atom’ companies corresponding to an actual property tech platform, or a marriage tech play that have been clearly shook.
Given the above, how ought to we perceive Covid-19’s affect on companies? It clearly favours most digital companies, although not all, and it additionally favours some bodily or atom companies, together with e-commerce and even hand sanitisers. Given this, a simplistic digital vs bodily or bits vs atoms framework isn’t a great lens to view Covid-19’s affect. Is there an alternate framework? Yes.
All companies hit by Covid-19 have one think about frequent: they convey individuals collectively in close to proximity — corresponding to journey hubs or airports, gyms, offline instructional courses and so on. Even in case you are a purely digital agency, say online journey ticketing or a rideshare service, your buyer will devour the service you might be selling in proximity to a different buyer. And if there’s hesitation to devour the services or products, then your gross sales take successful too. Uber and Ola have seen rides drop over a 3rd for the reason that disaster.
There isn’t a phrase in English to explain such companies — the place the consumption of the product ultimately occurs within the bodily presence of different individuals. I recommend ‘proximate’ as a moniker for such companies — faculty schooling, eating places, actual property companies, journey and hospitality, and so forth. Covid-19 has impacted proximate companies most. Then there are companies the place the ultimate product is consumed singularly — with out different individuals being current bodily. Online schooling, digital funds, video conferencing, e-commerce match the invoice. Let us name them singular companies. Covid-19 has been extraordinarily helpful to such companies, as there isn’t any risk to security whereas consuming these services or products.
In addition to singular companies, Covid-19 has seen two broad classes of companies increase — first, healthcare merchandise and particularly cleaning brokers corresponding to sanitisers; second, merchandise that help distant working or dwelling. Video conferencing is one. Zoom, the largest beneficiary of the Covid disaster, noticed its market capitalisation overtake Uber briefly. And it’s not simply Zoom: virtually all gamers within the video conferencing house have seen huge jumps in utilization. We are additionally starting to see merchandise which enhance communication amongst distant staff. And in fact, in case you are caught at home for lengthy, then video streaming companies corresponding to Netflix are an enormous assist.
How will online merchandise evolve in a post-Covid world? First, we are going to see extra social parts sprinkled into ‘singular’ merchandise. Take online schooling. By including gamification parts corresponding to leaderboards, or enabling interactions between customers, you make the product extra enjoyable to make use of in addition to drive higher engagement. Or take netflixparty — an ‘unofficial’ chrome extension to look at Netflix with your mates. Second, there’s the pattern of proximate merchandise shifting to turn into singular. An important instance of that is how gyms are utilizing Facebook stay or Zoom to livestream their courses, thereby serving to health companies, beforehand consumed bodily in a gaggle setting, turn into a solo exercise, pursued via linked units.
The health business has been an innovator right here, launching merchandise corresponding to Peloton (cycle), Tonal (weight coaching), Hydrow (rowing) and so on. All of them are single-person use units for the home which can be web linked and interactive. As we have now seen with bodily courses shifting online, and gymnasiums shifting to linked units, there’s a framework for going digital. Provide a product (app/system) for powering particular person consumption, however make the expertise social (leaderboards, messaging) and synchronous. Let us name it ‘singularisation’.
So, the place all may such ‘singularisation’ apply? What different proximate actions may go singular and achieve a post-Covid world? Apart from schooling and health, we may see spiritual worship and music or creative performances, each presently consumed in group setting, getting singularised. Imagine a tool — a display screen and even an app that allowed you to hitch for worship whereas being conscious of and having the ability to work together with fellow worshippers, and even to hitch them for group prayers.
Welcome to the post-Covid world. Where the merchandise are singular (or single-serve), social and streamed.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the writer’s personal.