There's no question the U.S. economy took a beating in 2020. If that was the year you decided to open a 12-table bistro or a live music venue, chances are things didn't turn out as you hoped. But the news was far from bad for all startup founders. In industries ranging from telehealth to home fitness to outdoor leisure equipment, the past year presented a bevy of opportunity.
As vaccinations take hold and pent-up consumer demand looks for outlets, 2021 could be a banner year for startup activity. Here are the conditions that will make that possible.
Changing work expectations
The up-and-coming generation of entrepreneurs belongs to a new demographic: Generation Z. Having witnessed Covid-related layoffs and the abrupt, widespread shift to remote work, they have a different perspective on life in the modern workforce. Many will be prepared to skip the usual office norms and work on their own terms.
A recent Nielsen survey found that 54 percent of Gen-Zers want to start their own businesses. Why? This age group prefers the flexibility that comes with being your own boss. While owning a startup is hard work, knowing they'd be in control is a strong motivator.
Better access to resources and being productive with time
Entrepreneurs need substantial capital, physical and emotional support, and enough time to make their dreams a reality. Google calendar developed resources to save time, like speedy meetings, that I've seen more entrepreneurs use this year. The pandemic seemed to help entrepreneurs value their time more, so startups have more time to focus on developing the resources necessary to grow.
Easier ways to connect with customers
Today's entrepreneurial environment features two indispensable facilitators to would-be startup founders: multivendor platforms and social media. Both enable business owners to get their products into the hands of interested customers friction-free.
Once your choices for getting your organic lip balm out into the world ranged from selling it at local craft fairs to pitching it to drugstore chain (a steep climb). Now, you can access millions of customers in an instant via Etsy or Shopify.
Getting the word out about your offering has never been easier -- or cheaper -- either, thanks to social media. Establishing a presence on Instagram or Facebook costs nothing but your own creative input. Better yet, you can get your fans to talk you up via user-generated content. When food startup company Banza received 30,000 pieces of UGC as part of a social media campaign, it spread word of the brand and products far and wide.
Tons of talent looking for an opening
2020 saw the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression as the coronavirus fallout decimated businesses left and right. Companies let valued employees go as a short-term cost-cutting solution. While this may have helped them temporarily, it left a lot of people out of work who can now dabble in entrepreneurship to make ends meet.
Not only are there more people in a position to give entrepreneurship a try, but also existing startups can snap up these talented individuals to help grow their companies. The accountant who lost her job would make an excellent CFO for an emerging tech company or lifestyle brand.
Advances in technology
Nothing has impacted the startup world more than technology. Recently, I was able to interview several of the people listed on this most innovative people list for a survey I was doing. They came from different industries, but it was unanimous that 2021 is a year that innovation could have a dramatic effect on startup growth. One mentioned that during the beginning of the pandemic, companies were forced to become more technology advanced. It sparked a movement toward everybody's having to innovate with technology and not just digital companies.
Not that tech is critical to startups only on the operations side, as Silicon Valley so amply proves. Today more than ever, it's possible to create a market-capturing offering from little more than brains and bytes. Whether you want to use geolocation to help health departments track remaining Covid hotspots or enable A.I.-driven solutions for managing climate change, the needs of the moment are awaiting tech solutions.
While all of these factors can contribute to the success of startup founders around the country, the entrepreneurial spirit is what really pushes them to succeed. No matter how conducive the conditions are, only those who are willing to put in the effort will come out on top.