Predictions for Startups in 2021 – What The Experts Say

  • TechRound has collected 2021 startup predictions from industry experts.

  • Health, wellness and fitness industry according to Emma Jones, CBE – Founder of Enterprise Nation 

  • 2021 will see many innovative startups building tech platforms according to Tae Hea Nahm – Co-Founding MD of Storm Ventures and Author of The Survival to Thrival book series

 

There are not many positives to take out of 2020, but many have taken advantage of the time to start their own company. With people confined to their homes for much of the year, people have had more time to think about what it is they want to do with their life, and this had led to people investing time in themselves and their ideas.

These businesses have been built according to the current climate, with startups prior to the pandemic adapting.

So, what exactly will 2021 bring for startups? We’ve collected a list of 20 industry expert predictions into what we can expect from startups during the course of this new year and what advice startups should follow.

 

Our Panel of Experts:

  • Emma Jones, CBE – Founder of Enterprise Nation
  • Tae Hea Nahm – Co-Founding MD of Storm Ventures and Author of The Survival to Thrival book series
  • Andrew Laxton – CEO of Mixology
  • Tim Mills – Managing Partner of ACF Investors
  • Andrew Pringle – VP of Scoro
  • Sukhy Cheema FRSA – Founder and CEO of Branding London
  • Rafael Rozenson – Founder and CEO of Vieve Protein Water
  • Lee and Kate Johnson – The Smiling Entrepreneurs
  • Nick Braund – Founder of Words + Pixels
  • Andrew Roughan – Managing Director of Plexal
  • Ben Hawley – Business Start-up Advisor at SCR Launchpad – Barnsley
  • Gillian Pickard – Investment Manager at Finance For Enterprise
  • Glenn O’Grady – Co-Chairman and Founder of GuideSmiths
  • Andrew Conway – CTO at Proteus
  • Linda Smith – Founder and CEO of BetaDen
  • Julian Fisher – CEO and Founder of jisp
  • Victoria Ferguson – Partner & General Counsel at MMC Ventures
  • Martin McKay – CEO and founder at Texthelp
  • Simon Menashy – Partner at MMC Ventures
  • Ryan Walton – Founder of Aura Ads

 

 

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Emma Jones, CBE – Founder of Enterprise Nation

 

Emma Jones

 

“When people join Enterprise Nation, it’s generally because they want help starting or growing a business.  They are hungry to learn and absorb good business practice. 

Sector trends over the pandemic have seen food and drink and wellness brands come to the fore – and we have seen existing brands pivot and start-ups boom in the areas where they can see opportunity. 

Here’s what we expect to see more of in 2021:

  • Digital food and drink innovation.  Expect to see fresh digital drive-throughs, pop-ups and gourmet take-away firms enter the market as we all indulge in great food experiences safely – and get used to it. 
  • Health, wellness and fitness online. Peleton has a waiting list that is months long. Huel is now valued at more than £200m.  With success comes innovation and development.  Look forward to even more players in this field. 
  • Virtual meet-ups.  While we’re all sick of staring at a screen all day, haven’t we also attended events we would normally never do on a cold January evening in the city?  We think meeting online will continue to innovate.  Look at Hopin, which has now been ranked a tech unicorn in 2020. 
  • Make and mend. Fixing things and repairing stuff rather than chucking it out is becoming more of a thing.  Expect to see the empty shops on our high streets populated with geeks holding a screwdriver. 
  • Local economy.  It’s not an actual business for sure but haven’t we all been spending more locally and been so grateful for the tiny independents that have saved our skin.  We think there will be more innovation in regions so that we won’t have to resume all our old ways.”

 

Tae Hea Nahm – Co-Founding MD of Storm Ventures and Author of The Survival to Thrival book series

 

Tae Hea Nahm

 

“A few years ago everyone was talking about the importance of ‘digital transformation.’ Covid (and the lockdown) has accelerated the digital transformation through the adoption of Software-as-a-Service (Saas) by many businesses to ease their processes (tech platforms like Zoom is a typical SaaS company).

So now the focus turns to what happens after the digital transformation. More specifically, businesses are striving to determine how best to use all that data generated by their digital transformation to become what I call a “data company” in the new data economy. Amazon and Google are examples of early data companies. For example, Amazon has a years’ worth of data about their customers’ search habits, products they buy, films they watch, books they read etc. It successfully uses that data to drive up sales and profits by predicting their search habits and more. That’s what businesses in all industries need to emulate.

So, this opens up an opportunity for startups. We will see many innovative startups building tech platforms to help businesses to become data companies with “SaaS + AI” software. So they need to add AI into the SaaS offering. At Storm we have already invested in several of these, such as Blueshift, which is a marketing platform that uses AI and customer data together so its users significantly improve their customer engagement.  Or Syte, which uses visual AI to help online shoppers discover the right product. We will see many more startups like this – incorporating AI with SaaS.”

 

Andrew Laxton – CEO of Mixology

 

Andrew Laxton

 

Having an ESG story is now critical to business success

“2021 much like 2020 is still fraught with uncertainty. The roll-out of vaccinations will no doubt help us get through the pandemic, but no one knows what the other side of this will look like. However, one thing startups can bet on in 2021 is the need to have their environmental, social and governance (ESG) story straight.

Going back just a few years and every business was rushing to tell its tech story. This has not changed, and whether you are a startup looking at engaging new customers or investors, having your tech story finalised will still be key to success. However, now a company’s ESG story needs to be thought about in just the same way. The trend has been evolving for some time but became clear during the past two elections in the UK and US with both the winning parties having sustainability and green business high on their agendas. Data from McKinsey also underlines how important it is to consumers, with Millennials and Gen Z customers now viewing areas like sustainability as a status symbol and something these profiles are keen to advertise to one another.

In the B2B space we are seeing a similar focus on sustainability too. While businesses too are keen to promote their ESG credentials and want to work with brands that match them, regulator pressures are also driving this change too. This is leading to an increasing number of RFPs including a focus on it and steps that suppliers are taking with their ESG initiatives.

Simply put, startups can no longer afford to not have their sustainability story sorted. The changes we have seen already make it clear that whatever the business goal is in 2021, it won’t be achieved without a clear, authentic ESG message.”

 

Tim Mills – Managing Partner of ACF Investors

 

Tim Mills - Managing Partner of ACF Investors

 

“This year has shown us how rapidly working practices can change in order to maintain business continuity. Some of these changes will carry through to 2021, like increased access to regional investments and talent pools. For years ACF Investors has been investing in the regions, and I think this year has seen many investors catch up to that way of thinking.

Continuing access to the regions, and specific expertise that was previously out of reach due to geographical restrictions, will be a trend here to stay in the coming year. Technology has, in essence, given investors a way to connect with different companies, accelerating the process and offering them a foothold in the market that previously wouldn’t have been available.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a regression to the mean. In 2021 we shouldn’t get sucked into the remote access-bubble. 2020 forced us all onto Zoom, and with that came extraordinary benefits – like more access to the regions. It also had its downsides: you may be able to get people to adopt virtual conferencing in large numbers, but the experience offered through platforms like Zoom can never match that of face-to-face interactions. In addition, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the investing and tech cluster in London. The decades worth of work has turned London into a hub for talent, technology and investment funds needed to hire new people, grow companies, and to scale a business, won’t just go away. Next year we’ll rather see a hybrid approach: with continued remote connections to previously overlooked investment areas, with London still being the hub for startups.”

 

 

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Andrew Pringle – VP of Scoro

 

Andrew Pringle

 

“The rapid shift to remote working in 2020 meant startups built up an array of communications apps and other tech tools to enable collaboration at a distance. The problem is that they often become weapons of mass distraction for staff, and undermine their ability to concentrate on work. Additionally, using multiple apps simultaneously can create confusion and increase the chances of mistakes as employees have to keep track of data across a variety of different channels.

As 2021 has come around, and a hybrid form of office and remote work looks set to be in place for the foreseeable future, startups are likely to reconsider their surplus tech and focus on the productivity benefits to working at a distance, such as asynchronous communications – or communication on a slower time frame – that means fewer interruptions for staff and more time for considered decision-making.

And, as mental health becomes a bigger priority in startup  life following the fallout from Covid-19, working practices themselves are also likely to shift for good. For example, startups  will increasingly allow their staff more flexibility because the experience of remote working has taught us we don’t need to be in the office from 9am to 5pm to be effective. In reality, the startups  that empower staff to balance their personal and working lives better in 2021 are going to have healthier, happier and more productive teams.”

 

Sukhy Cheema FRSA – Founder and CEO of Branding London

 

Sukhy Cheema FRSA

 

“2020 presented a new challenge for us all, with both consumers and employees spending most of their time at home. As a result, remote working has never been so important and there is a demand for it globally. The general protocol to meet or hire someone in person has completely changed, and using Zoom or other similar platforms is the way to move forward. I believe that we will not go back to meeting in our traditional way, as this will be perceived as inefficient and wasteful. 

This leads to the importance of advancement in high-speed broadband, as employees and business owners look to move to more rural areas and some even more exotic locations abroad. Companies will need to think about managing their technology and rethink their long terms policies for hiring new employees and staff who work remotely. 

As we look to recover from the pandemic, never before has mental health been so important. Providing good leadership alone is not enough, so companies will have to incorporate new measures to raise awareness, provide support and improve well-being. Other considerations which will also be prioritised will be diversity, equity and inclusion for all industries. 

2021 will be a big year where integrating data ethics into brands will be vital. This is because consumers increasingly use their buying power to make a positive contribution to the world. Businesses will need to align themselves with these values, showing consciousness and transparency to build trust and drive a real competitive advantage.

Moving forward, regardless of what industry you are in, it’s simply not enough to just make and sell a great product or service anymore. You will need to create a sense of community and a marketplace that will allow consumers to interact with each other and the brand. Companies who share their story with investors and the public will build a successful brand.”

 

Rafael Rozenson – Founder and CEO of Vieve Protein Water

 

Rafael Rozenson - Founder and CEO of Vieve Protein Water

 

“2021 will be a year when we can expect to see a lot more start-ups as people look to redefine themselves in the post-COVID world.  As people look to find new meaning in their lives, they may question their career choices and look to create their own paths which means they forsake the traditional 9-5 for something more adventurous.   Also, there are those whose career prospects (or lack thereof!) may force them to choose a new path, so expect to see some people look to starting a business as the next likely route for employment and self-fulfilment.

Conversely with the flurry of start-up activity, expect to see a lot of start-ups will fail driven by COVID and the challenges of starting a business at anytime but especially during the pandemic.  Although there are many government supports schemes such as start-up and bounce back loans, some of which my own business Vieve Protein Water has taken advantage of that should help some of these businesses survive.

In terms of sectors,  I expect to see a lot of Vegan, agro-tech and fin-tech as being the most active.  I would especially look for an  abundance of start-ups across all sectors promoting eco-friendly credentials regardless of the industry.”

 

 

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Lee and Kate Johnson – The Smiling Entrepreneurs

 

Lee and Kate Johnson - The Smiling Entrepreneurs

 

“The most successful start ups in 2021 will be the most innovative businesses that offer new solutions to problems caused by the pandemic in key areas including logistics, events, entertainment and human connection. Those in the bio tech and enviro tech space will also be the ones to watch. Video will play a massive part in 2021 particularly in marketing and communication. This medium was already well on its way to becoming the most dominant media but thanks to 2020 and our new comfort with video technologies it will be unparalleled. Personalisation is an important trend to pay attention to in 2021 as consumers crave a more personal approach by businesses in our increasingly isolated world. Companies will also need to be innovative within their own organisations.  With funds tight and working environments challenging, those with a scrappy attitude that can do more with less will be the ones who prosper in 2021.”

 

Nick Braund – Founder of Words + Pixels

 

Nick Braund

 

“The pandemic has undoubtedly affected many careers, ending some too early whilst opening doors to others. Although some were potentially forced into this situation, we have however seen an increase in startups launching over the past year, bringing so many more exciting ideas to market than we would have seen otherwise.

This rise of the startups and new founders will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the market. We’ll see increased competition for the best talent, investment and media coverage, which I believe will result in the standard of startups being much more advanced and impactful, with established competitors being forced to innovate that much quicker.

After some recent turbulence, we’re now seeing a lot of investment at the start of 2021. For the cream of the crop,  there are more funds available than ever before. With an abundance of new businesses wanting to grow and needing support now, investors can be that much more selective and demanding in their terms. As a result,  now more than ever, companies need to put their heads above the parapet to attract attention.

In terms of where we’re seeing these hotspots, a lot of innovation is coming in reaction to the pandemic, for example in healthtech. Previously new projects took years to make an impact, but through the will and need, significantly more resources and opportunities are being offered to those that can help. This is exactly what technology should do, help those in need by providing solutions that are faster, quicker, cheaper and, ultimately, better.”

 

Andrew Roughan – Managing Director of Plexal

 

Andrew Roughan

 

“As we’ve seen through our Plexal Startup Tracker, startups have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. Since lockdown began in March 2020, over 1,700 of them have filed for administration, dissolution or liquidation. Those raising funding for the first time have suffered the most, experiencing a 47% reduction in investment volume compared to the same period in 2019.

We’re seeing startup funding slowly pick up, but those numbers are unlikely to return to their pre-pandemic levels until later in the year – which will be too late for many early-stage companies. This means that the pressure on the government to support startups will continue, but we’ll also see larger businesses step up.

The UK has a connected business ecosystem in which more established corporate entities rely on innovation from startups – either through partnerships or acquisitions. But while the government has stated its aim of giving one third of its contracts to SMEs, the private sector has made no such commitment.

With large organisations undergoing major business and digital transformation out of necessity (and on far more condensed timelines than they’d normally be comfortable with), the pandemic had jolted them out of complacency. Now, as they emerge out of being in crisis mode, their attention will focus on futureproofing their business models and injecting new ideas, tools and solutions.

In this context, we’ll see a more concerted effort from large companies to give contracts, projects and pilots to startups and to find new ways of engaging with them. There’s a reason why large enterprises struggle to buy from SMEs, from their appetite for risk to insurance considerations and stringent procurement processes. At the same time the interests of the startup – including their cashflow needs – aren’t always protected. It can be a real culture clash when enterprises and startups work together but at Plexal we’ve seen this happen successfully when we’ve paired a large enterprise’s challenges with a solution from an SME. We will see more of this in 2021 – and it’s imperative that we do.”

 

 

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Ben Hawley – Business Start-up Advisor at SCR Launchpad – Barnsley

 

Ben Hawley LP Pic

 

“If 2020 was the year Covid-19 transformed the world, 2021 will see us all adapt to the impact of those long-term changes. The way we communicate, how we conduct our business and even building relationships with colleagues and customers all changed overnight. Like it or not, some of those habits are here to stay and for new entrepreneurs this will present both challenges and opportunities.

Watch the retail sector in 2021. Big brands will continue to disappear from the high street, but a new generation of dynamic, customer-centre start-ups will step up to the fill void. The key to understanding their success will be delivering both a strong online and offline customer offer; it’s no longer a luxury for start-ups to choose between an online or offline retail offer, they must do both and place a great customer experience at the heart of everything they do.

New start-ups will recognise retail is much more than a simple transaction, it’s shopper experience which counts. This, in turn, will not only help start-ups to build a loyal customer base, but brand advocates who are only too happy to share and recommend your services.

The ability of smaller businesses to embrace new opportunities, move swiftly to respond to changing consumer spending habits will make them a powerful force to be reckoned with in 2021. We’re all spending more time at home and some of the unlikely winners in 2020 were those working in the hobbies and gaming industries.

Companies providing items such as knitting supplies, modelling kits, and board games really benefitted from people being at home with extra time on their hands. Any start up looking at tapping into this market is heading in the right direction.

The way new business owners access help and advice will also continue to evolve. My advice would be to spend time looking at the free support which is readily available in your local area. For example, the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme provides access to a wealth of training workshops, as well as one-to-one support to support business owners across South Yorkshire. Similar programmes operate in many parts of the UK, and accessing help from the programme can help you to get the basics of running a business right from day one, as well as helping you to create a solid platform to prepare for future growth.

For most of us, home working became the norm and I think if we all had a crystal ball at the beginning of 2020, shares in Zoom would have been at the top of our shopping lists! Start-ups will benefit from the flexibility this brings. We’ll see more start-ups offering services to meet this need, whether that’s through virtual event management, or technical support to allow others to run their sessions more smoothly. Finally, watch out for the next big thing from the tech sector, you never quite know just how quickly it may change your working practices!

2021 will be a year brimming with opportunities for start-ups. Entrepreneurs have long been the do-ers, the dreamers, the go-getters and the believers. I predict we’ll see many more people choosing to follow that well-trodden path over the next twelve months.”

 

Gillian Pickard – Investment Manager at Finance For Enterprise

 

Gillian Pickard

 

“If 2020 was a year dominated with uncertainty, 2021 will bring much more optimism for start-ups.

It may seem counter-intuitive to predict a boom time for start-ups, as entrepreneurs come to terms with new trading rules. Brexit, Covid-19 and both local and national lockdowns will continue to impact upon some sectors during the first two quarters of the year.  However, if history has taught us anything it’s that businesses which open their doors during times of economic uncertainty are often more robust and adaptable then those which open during the boom times.

During the past twelve months, the number of new business registrations saw its largest increase since the time of the global economic crash. This trend is likely to continue throughout 2021 as more people turn to their skills and expertise to build new businesses. Some will be inspired by hobbies or spotting new market opportunities, for others it will be a result of a depressed jobs market which will show little signs of recovery during the next twelve months. I suspect we’ll see more new graduates, fresh from university and bursting with ideas, attempt to make their mark on the world as entrepreneurs.

It’s likely that we’ll see a significant drop in new business creations in the traditional retail, leisure and hospitality industries, particularly where the start-up is dependent upon a cash injection. Finance in these sectors is likely to be difficult. They won’t be alone. High street banks will adopt a much more cautious approach when it comes to new business lending, forcing start-ups to look elsewhere when it comes to raising finance.

One of the perennial challenges facing new businesses is maintaining a healthy cashflow and this will be particularly important during 2021 – a year which could bring just as much uncertainty to business owners as its predecessor.

Lenders may expect to see greater contingency plans. For example, at Finance For Enterprise, we recently received a Start Up Loan application from an entrepreneur who provided three different cashflow forecasts. They explored different scenarios, looking at how factors like the Covid-19 pandemic would impact upon their ability to trade, and thus, be able to meet future loan repayments. High Street lenders are likely to look for greater reassurances when considering funding applications, but other forms of finance, such as those provided through the Start-Up Loans scheme, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending may offer a vital lifeline.

2021 will undoubtedly be a challenging year for some; it will present golden opportunities for others and for those thinking of launching a business this year, my advice is to spend time researching your idea thoroughly, keep an iron grip on your finances and be prepared to expect the unexpected!”

 

 

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Glenn O’Grady – Co-Chairman and Founder of GuideSmiths

 

Glenn O’Grady

 

“Enforced lockdowns have really changed the landscape of so many sectors, particularly education. The United Nations published an article late last year stating that, “We should seize the opportunity to find new ways to address the learning crisis and bring about a set of solutions previously considered difficult or impossible to implement.” I expect to see EdTech products take hold in 2021 thanks to all the unexpected usability data that came out of 2020. 

Environmental legislation is driving big enterprise to factor CSR and sustainability into their standard reporting, and businesses will be on the hunt for solutions to reduce waste and start their journey to ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. There are a number of companies helping to off-set carbon emissions, but I’m looking for more emphasis on startups to manage the holistic approach to waste management, oversight on energy consumption and of course, carbon emissions.

In terms of challenges, I suspect the biggest is simply ‘to be heard’, especially if you don’t have a marketing budget or plan in place. The modern consumer has a short attention span, therefore trying to get their attention for something outside of their current circle of interest is difficult. Companies such as Threads Styling jump out from the crowd by only interacting with their consumers on chat and leading the way in purchasing outside of traditional methods.

My personal wish for the second half of 2021 is that it will pave the way for a new generation of entrepreneurs who find ways of attracting us back into group settings, and our hospitality and leisure industries bouncing back quickly after all the pain they have endured. We’ll be looking for clever ways of finding the new balance between human interaction and home working, and I can’t wait to see how this evolves to the point where we can have a meal or drink with friends and family again. Onwards and upwards 2021……please.”

 

Andrew Conway – CTO at Proteus

 

Andrew Conway

 

“Given the impact that Covid-19 has had on our lives, especially the various lockdowns and restrictions, the effect of Conway’s Law will be a key factor in driving this forward for startups in 2021. Conway’s Law is a theory that was introduced by a renowned computer programmer, Melvin Conway in 1967 and states that:

Any organisation that designs a system, will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organisation’s communication structure”

It is based on reasoning that suggests in order for a software module to function, authors must communicate frequently and efficiently with one another. While it excites me to share this adage that shares my name, Conway’s Law is truly more relevant now than ever. I’m eager to see how the change in communication strategies will manifest, specifically in software architecture.

For example, it is imperative for startups to recognise the benefits of reducing barriers within internal communication software in order to ensure that product excellence is delivered to prospects. Based on this I predict that more companies will look to adopt micro-service architecture this year. This is a trend that has been on the rise for a number of years, and one that allows software teams to break down previous monolithic systems into the more lightweight interoperable component.

Products are a reflection of the team behind them and this will be emphasised more so than ever in the coming year. The standardisation of software will be an area of focus as we settle into another potential year of remote working. We will see the optimisation of data and synergy of systems in order to continue to increase the efficiency of remote working to not just match, but surpass that of working in an office. I look forward to seeing how startups capitalise on the speed we have adopted systems within organisations to overcome locality challenges.“

 

Linda Smith – Founder and CEO of BetaDen

 

Linda Smith - BetaDen 2019

 

“There is no question that the pandemic forced early-stage tech businesses to adapt their businesses during 2020,” commented Linda Smith, founder and CEO of Worcestershire technology accelerator BetaDen. “Several of our current and previous cohort businesses pivoted their ideas to serve new and unexpected use cases during the pandemic – such as using drone technology to help the NHS deliver essential medical supplies and adapting environmental equipment to monitor cold stores used as part of food and pharmaceutical supply chains.

Early stage businesses are well placed to adapt to changing marketplaces as testing and refining their offer is a key part of defining their route to market. We expect more relatively unexpected changes of direction for start-up and early-stage businesses in 2021 as the pandemic continues to both drive uncertainty and create new opportunities.

Ultimately, this is a positive development for the longer-term commercial success of early-stage technology businesses as potential customers – forced to accelerate their uptake of new technologies by the pandemic – become more willing to test and adopt new ideas. It is also likely that those technologies, once proven, will become a key pillars of the way we live and work long into the future.

With greater understanding of the value of remote networks, monitoring and automation that the pandemic has brought, we also expect to see an acceleration in the development of 5G networks and applications over the next 12 months. This presents a huge opportunity for early-stage companies that have access to 5G testbeds to develop and prove their ideas.

With some more-established businesses finding themselves with relative down-time as markets take time to recover, we also expect to see more investment in R&D, with companies joining accelerators and creating spin-out companies whose sole focus will be on exploring the application of new technologies in their markets.

This combination of experience and entrepreneurialism promises to add real value to the early-stage tech eco-system, fostering greater understanding between both the technology development teams and their future commercial customers.”

 

 

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Julian Fisher – CEO and Founder of jisp

 

Julian Fisher - CEO and Founder 

 

“COVID has dramatically changed the world’s economy, creating black holes for some companies and incredible opportunities for others. Where change in some industries has typically taken a long time to manifest itself, suddenly due to the pandemic, things are moving at hundred miles an hour with everyone having to adapt to the “new norm”. Businesses had to adapt to support a remote workforce whilst consumers had to adopt contact-free payments and QR codes.

These changes, alongside many unfortunate redundancies, that were at their highest point since 1992, have allowed people to start their own businesses, exploiting new opportunities, to fill the gaps in the market. For example, we’ve seen a sharp rise in start-ups providing deliveries for the convenience sector, innovative styled face masks, a myriad of sanitiser gels and PPEs, whereas others have opened coffee shops or kited out kitchens to create takeaways. And this trend will only accelerate in 2021.

Specifically, in the tech industry we will see start-ups that create different payment solutions using mobile phones and wearables, especially whilst the virus is accelerating the fall of cash. With so many countries pledging to reach carbon neutrality and planning to ban diesel and fuel cars, we will continue to see start-ups exploring organic and recyclable materials, clothing, food options as well as car manufacturing.

It’s in our nature to evolve and search for something bigger and better – with technologies we have today and multiple fund-raising opportunities, start-ups are getting bolder and more inventive with their ideas. And, whilst bigger companies are taking their time to turn massive cogs of change within their borders, start-ups will quickly overtake and spearhead the disruption across every industry.”

 

Victoria Ferguson – Partner & General Counsel at MMC Ventures

 

Victoria Ferguson

 

“We expect to see even greater interest in responsible investing as well as broader environmental and social considerations in the tech space. In 2021 we believe we will see steps taken towards streamlining the mass of different benchmarks, standards and certifying bodies around this issue. Part of the challenge in assessing the credibility and credentials of companies making these commitments to date has been the raft of different metrics and systems by which they can measure themselves, making it a challenge to identify those that are making real, positive change and those that could be considered to be ‘green-washing’. As consumers and businesses are better able to compare like for like, so it will be easier to judge results and see where real impact is being made.”

 

Martin McKay – CEO and founder at Texthelp

 

Martin McKay

 

“In 2021, we’ll see edtech startups release a wider stream of developments as schools seek innovation injections to educate students from a distance. Without clear, consistent government guidelines, startups will handhold educators while delivering digitisation direction. Learning analytics for measuring pupil progress will dominate, as will development and usage of motivational aids to help teachers tackle problematic disengagement levels during remote classes. Startups specialising in emotional technology will not just appeal to disconnected students, but burnt-out teachers too. Even when going back to classrooms, until everyone is vaccinated, handling physical materials could be a vector for Covid-19 to be transmitted. Startups that enable teachers and schools in their adoption of digital learning and support them through the process will win customers for the long haul.”

 

 

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Simon Menashy – Partner at MMC Ventures

 

Simon-Menashy

 

Startups go hunting in the public sector:

“Throughout Covid, parts of the government and our health and education sectors have had to rapidly change, enabled by technology, in a way that has been rare in the past. There has been a sudden permission to experiment and innovate. Forward-thinking people in those sectors are going to wonder what else they can do better. In the second half of the year, with the virus hopefully under control, we might see this more entrepreneurial approach continue – creating fantastic opportunities for startups selling into those sectors.

More sustainable and traceable supply chains:

With the unwelcome coincidence of lockdowns and Brexit causing disruption in supply chains, there is a rush to put new processes in place at ports and warehouses around Europe. The smartest players in industry will go beyond paperwork, putting end-to-end digital technology in place. Once the immediate disruption is done, we might end up with an opportunity for a more sustainable flow of goods and a new level of traceability: from farm to fork, from waste bale to new product, or from metal mine to car battery.

Touchless finally goes mainstream:

Through Covid we saw a big shift in how people move about cities and interact with public infrastructure. One big theme was touchless: people don’t want to put their fingers on surfaces other people have been using or exchange physical cash. In 2021 this shift will go further, as technology catches up. We’ll see much more use of our own phones in retail and payments, more contactless and a greater spread of facial recognition technologies (some welcome and others less so).”

 

Ryan Walton – Founder of Aura Ads

 

Ryan Walton

 

“Over the next 12 months I would expect to see a rapid increase in pre-seed investment, with startups looking for VC money for one of two reasons… 1. They are looking for stability in a time where brexit and coronavirus are really rocking the boat. 2. They’ve rapidly reached scale up stage through great success through the lockdown which often demands more cash up front.

Lockdown has accelerated the move to online, so I would also expect to see entrepreneurs observing the change over the past 12 months and capitalising on this with new ideas around convenience. More marketing will be shifted from in person to online, and more use of social media will take place due to people expected to work from home a little more, therefore less travel time and more time to spend on themselves, which often involves scrolling through Instagram.

I also think there will be a big drive in Green tech / startups. We’ve had an abundance of time to read up on climate change and the issues that affect our planet and seen first hand what happens when industry shuts down (see lockdown 1.0 and the articles that came out about fish returning to rivers etc..) –> I think this will translate in to the startup and investment world. These ideas will become more relevant. Investors will look for them. Entrepreneurs / startups will innovate here.”

 

 

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