Eight Markets Poised to Help Tech Weather COVID-19 and the Economic Downturn
Sep 09, 2020 Jason Morris
I remember sitting in the lobby of my San Diego hotel watching the Obama-McCain debate in 2008. Lehman Brothers had already tanked, the financial crisis was in full swing and the question wasn’t if the tech industry was going to be impacted by the financial crisis but by how much. In the next two years, the tech industry would feel an impact like the broader economy but not to the extent of sectors like banking, real estate and automotive. Technology weathered better than most sectors due to increased investment into climate tech and healthcare technology boosted by the Obama-Biden stimulus bill, and the innovation of startup companies around mobile and cloud, driven by the smartphone revolution and the gig economy.
Fast forward 12 years and we’re again facing an economic crisis amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic. Again, people in technology are wondering how the industry will fare against an economic crisis. Will it be among the hardest hit? Or will a few sectors help ride it out?
At Inkhouse, we’ve already seen evidence that some sectors in technology are weathering the storm better than the broader economy. From venture funding and S1-filings, to continued investment in PR and increased media coverage, several markets saw their 2020 stories rewritten overnight bringing new relevance, interest, and urgency to certain sectors.
Here are eight markets that saw their prospects and stories change almost overnight in 2020:
Digital healthcare + telehealth
Healthcare technology has come a long way since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but the COVID-19 crisis has illustrated just how much further it needs to go. From antiquated back-end health information, billing and payment infrastructure, to the lack of regulatory movement around telehealth, major investments need to be made by providers, payors and other parts of the value chain to make digital healthcare a reality.
Cloud + digital transformation
The long tail of digital transformation -- small and mid-sized businesses, and some traditional industries -- were exposed in 2020 as lacking the ability to operate their businesses digitally and service a customer who might not be able to set foot in a physical environment. Cloud infrastructure companies are seeing an increase in demand as these businesses seek to accelerate their paths to being digital-first.
Remote work + HR tech
It’s been a while since virtual desktop infrastructure and remote work technologies like video conferencing and collaboration got the attention they have in 2020 and for good reason - COVID has forced many to work from home and many more are predicting it’s a change that could stick post-vaccine. And as more companies go remote, HR and operations teams are dealing with the new reality of recruiting, onboarding, and managing a completely virtual and, hopefully, more diverse workforce leading to new investments in software tools that help them do so more effectively.
Prop tech + smart home
The new “work from anywhere” mindset has consumers investing in bandwidth, home office and smart technologies as they look to make their remote work situations productive and tenable, and their homes a more comfortable place to be almost full time. It’s also accelerated the on-demand economy forcing multifamily and single-family home developers to not only change the way they show properties but also give access to package, food and grocery delivery services. Communities and homes are about to get a lot smarter.
Parents, teachers and school districts are struggling with the new reality of remote or hybrid learning situations, leading to new investments in remote learning and teaching technologies, as well as replacements to in-person instruction and tutoring. Parents are investing in new laptops, learning software and e-learning services to make sure their students don’t fall behind.
The cut in pollution has shown people globally what happens when you take millions of cars off of the road and cut fossil fuel consumption overnight. Wildfires, hurricanes, rotating blackouts and agricultural and food supply chain disruptions are also going to spark a new wave of climate tech innovations and investments not seen since the stimulus package in 2009. The renewable energy, electrified mobility, agtech, and energy infrastructure sectors are among the most talked-about categories.
COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on drug and vaccine discovery and development in a way not seen since the hunt for an HIV vaccine. Debates over the reuse of existing drugs and treatments and the importance of clinical trials for a vaccine has probably made the average person more fluent in drug development than they have ever been. This has led to a lot of air time for the custom-built technologies being used in the race to find treatments for COVID, including machine learning and big data analytics.
Early-stage venture investing
What do Instagram, Airbnb, Okta, Hulu, Zynga, Nutanix, Waze, WhatsApp, Uber, Venmo, Pinterest, Square, Cloudera and dozens of other iconic (or since acquired) tech companies have in common? They were all founded just before or in the throws of the financial crisis. We’ve seen many big and small venture firms close new funds in 2020 and the small bets they place in 2020 and 2021 could be the iconic companies we all know in 5-10 years. Necessity is the mother of invention, and downturns tend to create a lot of necessity.
There are no silver linings to COVID-19, only things we can learn from and use to help people and recover faster. Here is hoping that the aforementioned markets can teach us a lot about how to address real market needs and tell stories of hope that inspire.