While 2020 was an extremely difficult year, there were some silver linings. Many new opportunities were created for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship will likely play a critical role in the world’s economic recovery.
A number of new doors opened for entrepreneurs as business was suddenly taken online and remote. Moving into 2021, the trend of remote work is likely to continue and many entrepreneurs will likely position themselves accordingly.
In addition, many other trends are likely to define the entrepreneurial landscape in 2021, including:
1. Movement toward platform-based services.
Four of the top five most valuable brands are platforms. These brands are Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon. In recent years, there has been a clear shift toward creating community and a larger marketplace rather than a single product or service. With a platform, people have the ability to interact and transact, which drives learning.
With the rapid shift toward remote working, workplace apps are in higher demand than ever before, especially tools that can be used to drive collaboration and productivity. The recent acquisition of Slack by Salesforce points to the need for platforms that have these tools built in and many competitors are likely to emerge in the coming months. Moving forward, more startups are likely to embrace the platform format and offer customers a comprehensive solution rather than a single product.
2. Improved cross-border payment options.
The global financial system is remarkably poorly connected. Because banks have been slow to introduce financial solutions, many corporations struggle to execute cross-border transactions. Even major tech conglomerates like Google and Amazon struggle to get payments in and out of emerging markets like Southeast Asia. Issues include currency controls, compliance requirements, and the shift from hard currency to credit.
The growing popularity of cryptocurrency offers some hope for more effective payments in 2021. Cryptocurrency is reliable without the same currency restraints. PayPal and Square are already beginning to incorporate cryptocurrency, but other entrepreneurs are likely to enter this space and fulfill this need, especially given the global economic strain caused by the pandemic and the need for easier transactions.
3. Novel solutions for pandemic-related problems.
When COVID-19 forced people to become socially distant, virtually all sectors took a hit. People have been talking about a “new normal” for months. The truth is that a return to the old normal is likely for some industries that have struggled with a distance-based format. These industries include education, events, and fitness.
Investors put a lot of money into creating virtual counterparts for these industries. Despite this, the push to return to previous norms will be strong, especially with the promise of a vaccine. Some of these investors may lose out as industries revert more quickly than expected.
However, there will likely still need to be some changes to the old normal to make it as safe as possible for the people involved. This shift will create new opportunities for creative entrepreneurs who can offer solutions that bring people closer to the old normal without putting them at undue risk.
4. Stronger embrace of high technology.
The immediate rebound from coronavirus was fueled by new technologies. Moving forward, people are more willing than ever before to accept technology since they had to do so quickly once the pandemic began. Moreover, the availability of 5G technology will further fuel the development of high-tech industries.
5G has been generating excitement for a long time and is finally a real possibility as networks start to get rolled out across the globe. More than half of the world is predicted to have 5G within five years. With 5G, people have access to faster connection speeds and more capacity with virtually no latency. These opens new doors for the internet of things and edge computing, as well as autonomous cars, robotic surgeons, and more.
5. Greater emphasis on green-based operations.
One of the top trends of 2020 was impact investing. Altogether, investors put more than $45 billion into the sustainability industry in the first quarter of the year. The venture capital space has had a similar interest in green-focused businesses that will likely only grow as we move into 2021. After all, investing in green businesses has the potential for high returns while also address some of the biggest issues currently facing the planet.
Not long ago, sustainability focused mostly on energy and how to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Today, however, people are concerned with how green practices can be incorporated into a full range of industries, including transportation, manufacturing, construction, finance, and agriculture. Something as simple as integrating tools for offsetting carbon into consumer-facing applications can have a major impact and entrepreneurs are paying attention to this shift.