Cities and states across the country have begun to issue guidance on reopening businesses. While this is a major step toward restoring local economies, it is difficult to imagine things going back to the way they used to be before Covid-19. Our personal and professional habits are evolving as we become acclimated to a new normal. This means the rules are being rewritten across every industry, which presents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs bringing innovative products and services to market.
As it turns out, revolutionary companies are disproportionately founded during challenging times. In the last recession we got Airbnb, Uber, Square, and Slack. In fact 57% of today’s Fortune 500 companies were founded in a time of economic distress. This is not a coincidence. It is a result of new challenges that demand our attention coupled with a shakeup in talent.
Paying attention to the business opportunity does not minimize the significant challenges other people are facing face due to the pandemic. In fact, it’s impossible to think about building a new business in this environment without considering the unique needs of people in at this point in history. Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on how we operate, so there is a sense of urgency to create businesses in ways that are compatible with our new circumstances.
Since we announced Grid110 South LA a few weeks ago, we have heard from emerging entrepreneurs addressing so many new challenges. In many ways it’s hard not to be optimistic about what’s ahead when you see brilliance hard at work on important problems. Here are some categories that stand out to me as particularly ripe for change:
Physical Retail — Covid-19 has only accelerated the trend toward eCommerce in consumer purchasing. Retailers must redefine the role of the store. Brands will need to produce innovative in-store experiences in order to thrive.
Mental Health — The transition to telehealth has been swift, unfortunately attempting to replicate the in-person therapy session with a virtual session can result in a diminished experience due to not always having a quiet, private space. Fully digital interactions should open the door for entirely new ways to connect with the best therapist for you, then engage with them in-session and in between sessions to maximize impact.
Childhood Education — Even if schools are to reopen in the fall, there is the possibility that at some point Stay At Home guidance will be reenacted. Parents of young children struggle to keep their kids engaged in healthy activities throughout the workday. Parents, schools, and teachers are still actively looking for new remote solutions for education and engagement.
Engaging Seniors — Many of the products and services that have provided a little joy during this challenging time were purchased and/or consumed online. That’s great for the digitally native consumer, but older generations aren’t as adept in finding new apps or participating in eCommerce. Still, Baby Boomers are the wealthiest generation and control 70% of our country’s disposable income. There’s an opportunity to bring the new services to them.
Food & Drink — Another accelerated trend was more people eating meals at home. While grocery, meal kits, and delivery services reaped the rewards the benefits of a strong few months, it still appears there is room for new models across all aspects of the value chain.
Small Business Financing — More than 100k small businesses across the country have permanently shut down since May. We can assume that the number will increase and the ones that continue to exist still feel enormous pressure, despite the SBA directed loan efforts. In this volatile market SMBs still need to somehow forecast financial plans and find institutions willing underwrite them.
Outdoor Experiences — Spending so much time indoors creates increased demand for outdoor experiences. Beaches, state parks, and hiking trails are seeing a record number of visitors as they reopen. What new and safe ways can people engage socially or independently?
Path to Rebuilding
My hope is that some of the companies that go through Grid110 South LA can eventually become category-defining leaders. If you know a founder that’s building a business with a thoughtful perspective on how to thrive in this new environment, be sure to have them check out Grid110. The deadline for the application is this upcoming Monday, June 1st at 5pm!