A challenge of a generation

Aside from climate change one of the most daunting trends facing us in the Western world is the thought that for the first time in generations, there is every chance that our kids are NOT going to be better off than we were compared to our parents and the generations before that.

In the US, which has always been the land of hope, dreams and opportunity, this has long tilted, and it is happening in Europe too (article in Danish) with the Mediterranean countries ‘leading’ the pack; growing economic wealth and prosperity as a function of time is by no means a given anymore.

As if that is not bad enough in itself, we’re at the same time filling our kids and youth with the exact opposite story: Everything is available for you, you choose, and your choices are (almost) free – except the luxury items and experiences you can also get and which you can get due to costs saved in other places and the access to cheap capital.

So in reality you could argue that our youth is living a lie, we helped them create, and that one day they will wake up to a staggering bill. When that happens, and consequences need to be reaped, there is no telling what will happen.

Now, this is not a doom’n’gloom piece even though I admit it looks like one. It is – as most of my other writings – a piece about opportunity for creative visionaries to take stock of the problem, go back and figure out how we’re going to solve one of the biggest generational challenges, we have probably ever faced.

I will admit I don’t have the answers. If I did I would probably be busy trying to set the right things in motion. But what I do know is that the opportunity is there for people with products and services that look to galvanize our youth and limit the future impact of the trajectory we’re seeing.

It could be in terms of new kinds of savings products. It could be about education ensuring an ability to ride the development and be presented with new opportunities. It could be about simple living and making that into ‘cool’ living. The list of opportunities are endless.

And there will be a huge need and market for it, once reality hits. An excellent way for the right people to combine a very strong purpose with a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Time your own luck – now

Getting a business off the ground of course has a lot to do with the idea and what pain you’re looking to solve for customers. But it is also about timing and luck.

Some people say that you can make your own luck. And perhaps that is true. To an extend.

What you certainly can do is look around you at what’s going on. And if you look at the world right now, there are at least 3 good reasons, as I see them, why this might be a great moment to time your luck so to say and venture into something new.

First of all, a lot of incumbents in different industries are busy elsewhere handling the fallout from the pandemic with disrupted supply chains, increasing prices on goods, lack of talent etc. They’re way to busy with that to innovate in earnest themselves let alone keep a keen eye on what you’re doing.

Second, there are a lot of change afoot after the pandemic. New trends have emerged, new patterns of behaviour – some of which we still need to see the resilience of after the pandemic eases, mind you – have got on the radar etc. And with that new pains, needs and demand for new, innovative solutions that you might be able to provide.

And third, there is the work-from-home thing. While some people yearn to get back to normal office life, there are also millions of people out there who feel the opposite. They are ready for a change. Maybe even for a move into entrepreneurship. So when I said above that incumbents might have a hard time finding the right talent, it could be an entirely different matter for you.

So what are you waiting for?

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)

Hyperlocal belonging

The other day I saw a survey that claimed that 44% of all Danes would like to know their neighbors better.

In a globalized world, where we’re so busy figuring out when and how to travel somewhere next, this is somewhat a mind-boggling number.

You may say that you’re global. But the fact of the matter also is that most of us (not me though) live alone – many even single. We venture out to meet people, but when we are at base, we’re most often alone.

To more and more people that turns into a feeling of anxiety and even depression. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped with psychiatrists reporting a large influx in ‘new’ patients who all have in common that just a year ago they would have been deemed far from in need of seeking help with their mental health.

So, having said all of that, it is comforting to see that once again there is a surge of interest in the hyperlocal space. In building local (mostly) digital communities, where people who might otherwise feel slightly isolated and alone can get a sense of belonging.

That’s the good part.

The not so good part is that for all the initiatives, I see being announced especially in Denmark, I have a feeling that they will be missing the target and the real opportunity.

Both Jysk Fynske Medier and JP/Politikens Hus have announced that they will be rolling out new hyperlocal mediainitiatives in select geographies in the coming months. It should be applauded. It not for anything else then for the jobs it’s going to create in a media industry that is by now more infamous for its frequent job cuts.

But is a hyperlocal NEWS site really the answer to the question of hyperlocal belonging? Maybe. But I am guessing ‘no’.

It will most certainly be able to fill a need to be informed about what’s going on around you. But is that enough to make you feel connected too? I doubt it. I think that in order to achieve that you need something more.

Considering all the issues with people feeling lonely and borderline depressed, the opportunity to find new ways to connect people and by proxy help build mental stamina and health seems both really good, worthwhile and as something that could have some interesting positive business consequences.

Because people are more than willing to pay for services and products that give them a feeling of being substantially better off on a personal level. And what is more personal than the sense of belonging, being part of something bigger, being seen, heard, appreciated and connect with likeminded people for various activities?

Not really that much.

So I will be curious to see who the first ones will be who make the bet to build a hyperlocal model not based on information as the primary thing but on the psychological levers to make the individual feel better as it’s core.

That’s a really intriguing and cool opportunity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

”iHealth”: Challenge or opportunity?

Rumors have been rife for some time that Apple is working on including sensors for blood pressure, blood sugar and alcohol levels in an upcoming upgrade of the Apple Watch-series.

“iHealth” – for the lack of a better term – seems to be on the horizon. And while nothing is certain at this point – and never is for Apple – the rumors should give Health- and MedTech startups in the consumer space some pause. Because a crux time for monumental decisions may be coming up.

For those focusing on consumer hardware and software the basic question is this: Should we continue on our hardware path, or should we double down on software and let the likes of Apple take care of the hardware part?

The question is a valid one for everybody working in the personal health space, and if the rumors hold true there is no reason to believe Apple is going to stop there. The giant will be innovating full steam ahead and include more and more sensors and features in their wearable devices with battery life most likely being the main hurdle to success.

And why will they double down in this area? Two reasons.

First of all while there is great need for consumer-related Health- and MedTech devices, there is probably not much love lost for any of them, if they went away – from a pure customer experience point-of-view. Very few people get that emotionally attached to more clinical devices, but they do to Apples slick design, and the Cupertino-based company will likely in general hold a huge advantage in moving from consumer towards Health- and MedTech rather than the other way around.

The other reason for Apples focus in this area is one that I have mentioned before: They simply have to to drive shareholder value at their current valuation. A company as big as Apple needs super big new opportunities to grow, and the health sector is one of the only ones left with an opportunity that is big enough to make a difference to shareholders.

What may end up helping some Health- and MedTech companies looking at this enlarged competitive threat is the fact that not every consumer is into Apple. While the companies products and design is popular in many quarters a lot of the less well-off customer segments, who may also very well be overrepresented in the health statistics, simply can’t afford Apple products or don’t see the value to justify the price tag.

In order words there may be room for an Android like ecosystem of products and services that serves specific purposes at an affordable price. But is that juice enough for a Health- or MedTech startup looking to make it big in the consumer space?

That’s a really good question.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Re-imagining the office

If you ever had to re-imagine the office post-Covid-19, how would you do it?

Personally, I think a very interesting opportunity lies in getting the answer right to the above question. And I am pretty sure, it won’t be easy.

Look at it this way;

Many companies have already stated that their going to offer work-from-home as an option going forward and as a result are letting go of office space. Some companies have even abandoned the office altogether.

At the other end of the spectrum, many people are reeling from being socially secluded and not being able to have in person interactions with colleagues and co-workers. While distance is great for some, closeness and togetherness is life’s salt for others.

Then add in the pre-pandemic office and it’s rather mundane interior design and commodity perks (fussball tables, Friday bar etc) seeming rather dated and boring by now and ready for the total revamp.

And then – and then – potentially add in some nifty new tech.

What you have is a super interesting cocktail of ingredients that could potentially make up a very interesting and tasty recipe for the Future of (On Premise) Work.

And my gut feeling is that the ones who get this right – probably from starting all over reimagining the experience, function and most important feeling of the future office – will have a golden opportunity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The battle for health care

One of the most interesting industries from a startup point-of-view is the health care industry.

Before the pandemic hit it was widely recognized that there are a lot of costly, structural issues afoot in the healthcare industry that technology can provide better and more cost efficient solutions for, but nonetheless newcomer struggled to really get inside the conservative system.

Covid-19 changed a lot of that for the sheer reason that suddenly the demand for telemedicine solutions and remote care skyrocketed. This meant that some of the old cultural barriers became if not irrelevant then at the very least less of a pain to startups.

I guess you could say that in a sense, digital health startups got their Covid-19 ‘vaccines’ early in terms of increased demand and opportunity to succeed in the market.

For startups operating in this space this is of course great news. And you could be forgiven for suggesting that we’re on the brink of a golden age for digital health to upend, uproot and improve our healthcare sector.

And you would probably be right. Because startups are not the only ones flocking to the health care sector to deliver new valuable solutions.

Big tech are there as well. Amazon is going in strong, and the same can be said about Google, Microsoft and Apple. And they have very good reasons to.

Forget for a second the market opportunity in itself. Big tech simply has to look this way. Why? Because the health care sector is among a very small group of sectors left, where big tech can drive the kind of top line growth they need to in order to sustain their hefty valuations.

Thus it is not as much an opportunity as a necessity for them to be in this space. And they need to win it.

This is not to say that startups shouldn’t look towards bringing new, exciting and value-driving digital health services and solutions to market. Of course they should. No doubt about it. They just need to be acutely aware that the battle for the market is going to be brutal, and that they are up against all the giants.

Realizing this before diving in and having the right frame of mind to take the competition on can make all the difference between success and failure.

No matter what it will be a super interesting space to watch.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The living room clinic

Have you ever tried going to a hospital for a consultation on something only to end up feeling it was a bit of a waste of time?

I certainly have. While I have the utmost respect for doctors, I find the format of a 20 minute chat that in essence can ruin an entire day somehow obsolete. And when I combine that with the financial strain the healthcare sector is under, I cannot help thinking that we should be able to do it in a much better way.

So here’s an idea:

What if we left the hospitals for the really sick? Those with such severe problems that they need to be there physically to receive the absolute best care. And then leave the doctors to focus on that?

What if on top of that we moved all the consultations – the chats, status updates etc. – to the comfort of peoples own homes. Moved the clinics into the living rooms so to say?

The technology is more or less there. And the readiness is getting there too.

On the technology side we have more and more point-of-care devices and services that we can use in the comfort of our own homes. Sensors get developed all the time enabling us to be always-on with the healthcare systems, if we need to be. And they are all getting easier to use effectively driving down the barrier of usage.

On the readiness side, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise. We all now realize that we need to find new solutions that are not based on physical presence, and in those terms the past year has done more for acceptance of telemedicine than the past couple of decades combined.

Maybe such a move towards the living room might also have some other unintended positive consequences?

Maybe communication between patient and doctors would improve? Coming into the hospital clinic on the doctors home turf might be a challenge to patients who may leave after a consultation feeling that they didn’t get to tell, how they were really feeling or what really bothered them, because they were somehow stifled by ‘the system’.

Maybe being able to communicate from your own living room based on your own observations and own readings would level the playing field more and – ultimately – lead to better outcomes?

It is certainly worth to take this unique moment in time to investigate the potential positive impact of the clinic in the living room more.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

From zero to hero to zero?

Is Clubhouse a fad?

I am on the fence. I just noticed that while everybody seemed to be doing rooms on Clubhouse before Easter, there was no mention in my feeds of any events after.

And when I asked on Twitter, the silence was deafening and in itself a verification that the red hot service might not be as red hot anymore.

This poses two questions of which the latter is the most interesting to me:

Is there a future for ‘live’ audio casting a la Clubhouse? I liked the idea at first and especially the part with having to be there in the moment versus leaving it for later and never listening in anyway. On the other hand I can also see that this dependency on time is the exact reason why I don’t use Clubhouse. So maybe it’s not so clever after all…

On a more generic level, if Clubhouse and it’s audio model turns out to be a fad, what does that say of the time span from hero to zero in our digital age? Normally we talk about how long it took for radio and tv to become mainstream versus digital services, and how things have speeded up.

But this is putting it in reverse; from zero to hero to zero again in no time.

Assuming of course that Clubhouse is a fad, which at this point in time of writing is very much debatable.

But if we follow through on this thought, what does that say about the risk of investing in building new innovative services? I mean, building Clubhouse has probably not been cheap, and the company has raised 110M USD so far from investors looking for a return. What if the party is over, before it started?

I realize there are lots of examples of cases, where investors have poured money into ambitious startups that has gone belly up – Quibi comes to mind here – but this is different.

Why?

Because this is not about investing in some new ‘me too’ actor with a slightly different take on an already well established model. This is about investing in a potential trend shift from ‘on demand’ to ‘live’ and ‘exclusive’ that might not be happening after all. In essence this is about reading the overarching trends in the right way or not, which makes it so interesting to follow.

Potentially also more interesting than the Clubhouse service itself.

(Photo: Screenshot)