Startup Opportunities Emerging from COVID

Non-Doomsday Pandemic Content

I’m a bit tired of negative news lately. COVID is solidly in the “second wave.” Political news is downright disturbing a lot of the time. However, I’m also a realist. While I appreciate puppies and kittens as much as the next person, I don’t want to bury my head in the sand. In planning today’s newsletter, I aimed for the middle ground of silver linings and opportunities emerging from crisis. In specific: startup opportunities emerging from COVID. 

The COVID pandemic accelerated a lot of things, not just remote work. The broader digital movement has also pushed demand for and awareness of:

  • Ecommerce

  • Freelancers

  • Mental health

  • Publishing and creating

  • Cloud usage

  • The power of governments (and how its wielded)

  • Digital education 

  • Telehealth

  • Baking (so much bread)

For the aspiring entrepreneur, there are many new opportunities that simply wouldn’t have had the awareness or demand pre-COVID. I want to be clear that I do not mean pandemic profiteering, like those a-holes that loaded up on essential goods before the first lockdown and sought to charge double, triple, or even more for them

Instead, here are a few good-hearted, genuine business opportunities that are opening up due to a few key changes in how our world operates. 

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Ecommerce

Reports are saying the pandemic accelerated ecommerce adoption by 5+ years. What exactly does that mean, though? It refers to more people being aware of ecommerce, more consumers demanding the ability to buy digitally, and more people preferring having both digital and in-person options available to them (also known as “omnichannel”). 

With that in mind, it’s basically never been easier to launch an ecommerce business. Whether fulfillment by Amazon, starting a Shopify store, or using another provider / selling directly to your audience though platforms like Gumroad, you can spin up a store in a couple of hours and start making revenue. 

For existing stores used to physical retail, the transition can be a lifeline. In some cases, you can even get government support, like the City of Toronto’s push to build Shopify stores - for free - for local small businesses.

Freelancing

The freelance economy has exploded by over 22% since 2019 and is set to become the dominant “career” by 2027. This is a mix of COVID but also more people feeling like traditional employment simply doesn’t live up to its promises anymore. 

So what does that mean for entrepreneurs? Well, you could start a freelance business (I did back in 2017 and am loving it). But you could also think about building a business for freelancers. You see, many popular freelance tools are built for enterprises (think Zoom, Docusign, etc.) but they have lower tiers with fewer features that they sell to individuals and freelancers. However, this doesn’t necessarily fit their needs - it’s just a pared down version of what a big enterprise usually needs. That opens up a world of “Business to Freelancer” or “B2F” technology. 

Mental health

We are headed for a huge mental health fallout from COVID, if we haven’t already hit it. That will manifest itself in loneliness, anxiety, isolation, and trauma from the deaths and other more horrible pandemic-related things. 

Solving this challenge could come in a variety of ways, from new innovative therapy options to supporting businesses in building authentic remote connections. There are a lot of existing and useful tools out there, but that does not mean the market is saturated. 

Publishing and creating

When I wrote about the creator renaissance, I meant it. More tools are coming onto the market now to support creators than I’ve seen in my entire career.

Just a few tools you can use: Podia, Teachable, Gumroad, Substack, Ghost, Patreon, Buy me a Coffee, and Shopify.

If you are a creator or maker, whether of physical or digital goods (or music, art, poetry, etc.), you can build and monetize your audience directly in so many different ways. Even if it may not bring you a full salary level amount of money now (or ever), the idea of being paid for your creations is amazing. You can even do what I did, and write a book (my book is called The 50 Laws of Freelancing).

The cloud

No, not the claw. But as more people want to work remotely and as more companies become distributed (whether hybrid or all-remote), there will be a myriad of issues around security, collaboration, data storage, sharing, and more. Cloud tools are a big part of the solution.

Image via Imgur

Government power and how its wielded

While some companies seek to stop political discussion, I’d like to propose an alternative: talk about the functions of government, not the functions of politics. In specific, thinking about how government power is exercised, leveraged, and what the point of government is. Ignore the people involved - do the hard work of thinking about your own ideas (“hard” here defined as not only exploring why your idea is right but also why your opponent might think their idea is right. You might learn something). 

From an entrepreneurship perspective, the opportunities open here in terms of digital engagement, protecting the integrity of elections, and creating more open channels to communicate and share your voice with elected representatives.

Telehealth and digital health

Surveys show a marked increase in telehealth usage during the pandemic, which makes intuitive sense as people are at home and many doctors are doing digital appointments first to reduce the flow of in-person traffic at clinics. 

Entrepreneurs, though, could look at this another way. It’s not about the demand, which could easily subside when we’re able to visit in person again. Instead, it’s about familiarity. The pandemic has forced millions of people around the world, including some of the staunchest opponents of digitizing medicine, to experience digital medicine and see what it’s good for versus what it can’t do. That alone is a huge wedge in the door for digital health innovators to get their ideas heard, perhaps for the first time, seriously. 

Digital education

I admit I’m a bit fussed by this one. If you’re active on tech Twitter, you’ve seen many people waxing poetic about the demise of the traditional college, all without a shred of irony for the fact that these people who decry education founded startups with their college roommates and hired their college buddies. 

But I digress. 

The future of education is absolutely more digital and more accessible than it was before. The opportunities I see here are for platforms that make digital education fun and engaging. On top of that, the opportunity to make sure those lines of accessibility actually reach further than the current college system. It’s not enough to say it’s accessible because all you need is a computer - what about the people who don’t have access to computers? For example, some 30 million-plus people don’t have internet access in the United States.

Baking (and other food making)

The number of sourdough starters I saw on my Instagram feed at the beginning of the pandemic - oh my. But as people take up more hobbies like cooking and baking, new entrepreneurial opportunities emerge. 

“My favorite white bread recipe” from @thebrowneyedbaker

I finally dealt with my yeast murdering problem and successfully made this light and fluffy white bread. This stuff is exactly what homemade bread dreams are made of. It’s perfect for sandwiches, toasting, or smothering in butter.

#amateurbaker #bakingtherapy #quarantinebaking #homebaker #gaybaker #torontobaker #bread #breadmaking #whitebread #loaf #amatuerbreadmaker
September 27, 2020

If you’re a smart cookie (pun intended), there are opportunities to educate people on baking niche things, product opportunities (packaged dry goods or cookbooks), and depending on audience size there are other monetization opportunities (sponsorships and the like). 

One more thing… 

I started Remotely Inclined to investigate running a business remotely, and now invest multiple hours per week researching different topics, interviewing experts, and putting together this content.

If you’d like to support that work, consider becoming a paid subscriber. You get access to everything I produce and you can have me solve your remote work problems for you - just send me a question. I’ll do the research and publish the answer.