By Alexey Chalimov, CEO, Eastern Peak
With handshakes banned, travel restricted, and in-person meetings canceled, large businesses already feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the disruptive quarantine effect. For face-to-face service industries, this effect is the most devastating: if people stop eating out, going to concerts, fairs, and football games, the situation is likely to drive many out of business. The quarantine though, is a huge incentive to adopt a flexible remote-working style favored by startups.
The limitations imposed by the quarantine are also changing consumer behaviour and thus are opening doorways to a number of business opportunities, namely:
1. Remote collaboration tools
If your startup offers tools for remote collaboration, you’re likely to benefit from the impending pandemic. Businesses, including large established companies, will be increasingly shifting to remote work and will need technologies to support new collaboration methods.
Finally, immersive technologies like AR and VR will be finding vast applications. We are currently working on a project for a virtual conferencing startup enabling customers to join events by putting on a VR headset. The service will allow them to visit the company stands, talk to other visitors, subscribe to updates, and buy services. The fairs and conferences postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak will now take place in a virtual environment, a practice which is likely to become mainstream in the years to come.
Healthcare startups are also likely to find themselves in a good position because of increased government support. The startups that have emerged in the months following the outbreak are the ones that have been leveraging emerging technologies like robotics and AI. Some of them, like the UK-based firm Benevolent AI, are already offering working methods for fighting COVID-19. The company uses predictive tools and machine learning to suggest existing medicines capable of resisting the coronavirus. For example, a baricitinib, a newly developed medicine for rheumatoid arthritis can prevent the virus from infecting lung cells.
Healthcare robots have also been in high demand throughout the outbreak. Blue Ocean Robotics, a firm located in Denmark, produces self-driving hospital robots that disinfect and kill viruses with UV light, which helps impede the spread of the pandemic.
3. Online education
With global edtech spendings expected to reach $252bn in 2020, the educational technology industry was steadily developing even before the outbreak. The pandemic is now giving it an added boost: quarantine or not, school and college students have to study. With distance learning becoming a persistent trend, startups offering tools for video lecturing and online learning are likely to attract the most investment.
The recent trend is also towards microlearning and personalized learning, so startups bringing customers AI-based and data-driven education solutions are also likely to become investor magnets.
4.Online grocery shopping and fresh produce delivery
Another industry, which is obviously here to stay, is fresh produce delivery. Customers can request product delivery via smartphones; moreover, Machine Learning algorithms will remember their choices, make predictions about their future purchases, and offer products they may enjoy most.
Obviously, there’s nothing new, as these services were already available before the outbreak. Yet, with the spread of coronavirus making shopping a dangerous endeavor, online shopping and delivery businesses are set to flourish. Thus, we can predict the increasing amount of online ordering and fresh produce delivery services to continue emerging.
5. Robots, artificial intelligence, and service automation
With quarantines restricting in-person visits, the restaurant and hotel industry will have to adjust. Automated systems will increasingly be replacing human workers, and such services are also likely to be in high demand during the pandemic.
For example, our client, a large restaurant chain has asked us to build a SaaS self-service system enabling clients to remotely order, pay online, and pick up their orders without engaging in face-to-face human interactions. Surely, a system like this may lack a ‘human touch’ – but instead, it has a range of other benefits: it’s fast, and most importantly, it is completely safe.
6. Online Entertainment
Admittedly, the thought of Netflix being your only entertainment option during the quarantine is daunting. As people start looking for new means of having fun while staying at home, we will definitely see the rise of startups offering more versatile opportunities. Immersive virtual environments seem to be a long-anticipated alternative.
On top of that, virtual environments have no physical limitations: imagine visiting a theme park on Venus or exploring the bottom of the Mariana Trench – something completely impossible in ordinary circumstances.
Driven additionally by the advent of 5G, bringing us improved multi-channel broadband Internet connections, startups offering VR, AR, or mixed reality entertainment experiences are likely to thrive in the new, changing market of today.
The COVID-19 outbreak has brought the global economy to the verge of a major crisis. Yet, high degrees of volatility and risk are a perfect match to a startup environment. Companies capable of changing on the go, adopting new approaches and mindsets, and thinking outside the box will ultimately benefit.