How entrepreneurs can bolster their company and emerge from the pandemic as new market leaders

IBM women in leadership
Prepared leaders can make decisions by seeing market opportunities that are invisible to the untrained eye.

  • Tough economic times are opportunities for leaders to evaluate their company’s trajectory and reach.
  • To survive market uncertainty, leverage your unique advantages and stay competitive.
  • Start with a flexible framework, allow room for failure, and keep your leadership team in sync.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

No one ever said it was going to be all smooth sailing. We’ve all been in a boat that’s gotten a little rocky, and some of us have even experienced a full-on capsize. In my experience of weathering the storm, there are one of two things that happen to your company: You either go out of business or you stay in business. If you are leading a team, you need to figure out which of those two positions your company is headed towards. Chances are, it won’t be difficult as a lot has already happened and shaken out in the marketplace. That’s good news for entrepreneurs, and even better news for leaders. The companies that weren’t strong enough to survive have already failed. And while we mourn their loss, we also have to recognize that it’s leveled the playing field. This is also a good time to take stock of where competitors have landed and where you currently rank in the pack.

The difference between those who survive and those who thrive

The companies that will win are those who learn how to leverage market uncertainty for their unique competitive advantages and leapfrog their competition with a period of rapid growth. On the surface, this sounds like a brilliant strategy, but there are thousands of ways it can fail if not executed well. A bad bet could take a company down, just as quickly as a good bet could pull it to the front of the line. This is where we’ll see a second round of companies fail, which will set the stage for the winners to double down once again and secure their seats at the top.

Competition is about to get fierce as companies start to position themselves for market dominance. We can expect market sectors to start to shake up and shake out over the next two to three years as the full market impact of the pandemic unfolds.

At the same time, the potential gains are big. With market sectors in flux, the potential to take on the market leader spot has never been greater. This is the kind of opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime, so I recommend paying attention to your industry competition, closely. Technology is accelerating faster than Corporate America can adopt it, creating a fertile ground for start-up and mid-sized companies to innovate their way into the top seat. However, all bets are not created equal and entrepreneurs need to understand how to weigh bets and when to push the accelerator.

Creating a framework for success

Framework is important. It should be flexible and allow for rapid failure. The best way to win is to fail faster and in smaller chunks. It should also empower winners to make their way to the top faster. Oftentimes, winners lose because they can’t even see they are there. The framework must prevent that from happening, and should allow for rapid experimentation. We never know which idea is a winner until it has a chance to win. So often our strategies are mired in complexity and complicated execution plans. That isn’t going to fly if you want to take the top seat. Instead, you’ll need a space for ideas to be planted, to grow and to reproduce. In execution, this often looks like an idea lab with a budget and a team who knows how to get stuff done at the helm.

So how can leaders understand the chessboard so they can call checkmate on their competition? They have to settle into discomfort. Prepared leaders will be able to make clear-headed decisions while seeing market opportunities that are invisible to the untrained eye. And they will be prepared to move even when it isn’t comfortable to do so.

The road to the top is rather arduous and requires massive levels of organizational flexibility that can’t be taught overnight. The leadership team must be in sync and know how to make the right decisions that are right for the business and its people, even if they are tough or risky. Employees need to feel appreciated, valued for their contributions, and celebrated every step of the way. Customers also need to feel satisfied and delighted by their entire experience. That’s a tall order for a company of any size, but especially challenging for industry behemoths. That’s why it’s a market ripe for the market leaders to fail and the market innovators to succeed.

Taking advantage of future innovation gaps

These are evolutionary times. We’ve never seen a combination of events with such a broad brush of impact. Every industry is primed for rapid transformation and realignment as the full market impact of 2020 continues to unfold. Technology is accelerating faster than it can be adopted by industry leaders, which is opening the door for innovation gaps. These gaps create an opening for new startups to come through and disrupt entire markets.

There’s no telling what innovations will pop up and be the next market leader, but this market is ready. We’ll get excited about the innovation, and before you know it, it will become the new norm. This won’t be the first time we’ve seen industry leaders fail and get overtaken by an unnamed competitor and it won’t be the last. As markets have it, there’s always a play that can win. Will it be yours?

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The pandemic could accelerate job automation – here’s how the change would impact cities, the labor force, and inequality

automation
According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 40% of US jobs are at risk for automation.

  • Hyejin Youn is an assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University.
  • She says the pandemic may speed up job automation and widen gaps in wages, skills, and social capital.
  • This could lead to the downfall of many US cities, but Youn hopes it will instead spur innovation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For more than a year now, many of us have worked from home, pets on laps, children babbling just offscreen. The experience has been a revealing one. Some of us have learned to embrace the flexible hours, the five-step commute, and the relative dearth of pointless meetings; others have felt disengaged and burned out by the challenges of collaborating on Zoom.

But the pandemic has also exposed a more significant split in the labor market, one that has experts worried as they speculate on the long-term impacts of the crisis.

“What we now see very clearly is that some jobs can be done from home, and others simply cannot,” said Hyejin Youn, an assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. “Distinguishing between these types of work can help us track inequities in the labor market across cities.”

So far, the trends are worrisome. Those who can log on from home have been largely unaffected, whereas those whose jobs require a physical presence have either been laid off or faced with the choice of protecting their health or guaranteeing their next paycheck. And as companies look to cut costs, more and more jobs are now under threat of automation, which Youn fears may widen the gap between cities that flourished pre-pandemic and those that were already struggling.

“There’s always the hope that a crisis like this will spur innovation,” Youn said, “and nobody knows precisely what the long-term outcomes will be. But the concern is that rather than shaking things up, the pandemic might simply reinforce the system we already have.”

From “optimization” to automation

One consequence of remote work is that companies might accelerate the pace of automation, in part because they’ve had a chance to monitor more workers online and assess which tasks – or entire jobs – a machine might do more quickly.

With nearly 40% of US jobs at risk of automation, according to the World Economic Forum, the performance data from 2020 might have significant implications. When an employee’s every click, step, or delivery stop is recorded in digital form, a company can learn to optimize that work – and perhaps codify human routines into processes that are better suited to machines.

Using digital information, companies can identify and optimize certain task routines by finding better ways of arranging the tasks within the routine, micromanaging human workers, and developing machines to take on the tasks.

“This is the uncomfortable truth,” Youn said. “Recording an employee’s work is preparing for the day when you replace them with a machine. And this will lead to further gaps in wages, skills, and social capital.”

And while there will still be some tasks that are not codifiable – especially ones that require tacit knowledge or empathy and hospitality – certain jobs are sure to be streamlined and passed on to less-skilled laborers or organized into routines that can be handled by machines.

“Technology has always increased inequity,” Youn said. “Now we just have the means to make it happen even faster.”

The impact on cities

If these trends do accelerate, the effect on America’s urban landscape could be devastating. Youn has previously studied the ways in which automation affects US cities unequally, and she worries that this disparity will only worsen as businesses adapt to post-pandemic life.

“Cities might segregate further,” she said. It’s likely that wealthy, productive hubs like Silicon Valley will return to something resembling business-as-usual, given how valuable in-person collaboration can be for the kinds of breakthroughs on which tech thrives. On the other hand, the outlook for a small or medium city might be even more bleak than in 2019.

The impact of this geographic rift is hard to measure, Youn said, but it likely doesn’t bode well for the effort to solve the nation’s social and political polarization.

“It might make the echo-chamber problem worse, with certain kinds of high-skilled workers hermetically sealed from everyone else,” she said. Mountain View might come to seem even further away from Baltimore. And the prospect of remote-work patterns extending beyond 2020 is threatening to exacerbate the winner-take-all economy.

“It’s a well-known phenomenon in economics that social mobility increases after certain kinds of crisis, like war,” Youn said. “But this crisis appears to be different. It’s pushing us in the opposite direction.”

Reactive innovation

One source of hope is that the pandemic might spur new innovation. It’s certainly been a time when people and businesses have had occasion to reconsider their purpose and goals.

But Youn said we should distinguish between two kinds of innovation. The first is endogenous innovation, or change that evolves from within a business, society, or ecosystem. The second is reactive – change in response to external events.

“The pandemic is clearly a major event that will force some kind of innovation,” she said. “But this doesn’t mean we will innovate in the direction we aspire to as a nation or society. It’s less endogenous, more reactive.”

And some of this reactive innovation – including the many creative ways companies learn to digitize jobs – might have negative long-term effects. In fact, the focus on maximizing efficiency may actually limit endogenous innovation: in particular, optimizing technologies to execute processes leaves little room to come up with the kinds of breakthrough ideas that reshape industries.

For companies that have the luxury of focusing past their immediate survival on long-term innovation, Youn advised bringing employees back to the office whenever feasible. Because in her view, the early work of endogenous innovation cannot be done remotely, at least not very well.

“When it comes to arriving at ideas that are not well defined, thinking far into the future, that’s tough over Zoom.”

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4 ways small businesses made changes during the pandemic to help boost their bottom line

small business owner man at bar restaurant
Small business owners are “persistent, innovative, and creative” when it comes to keeping their businesses afloat during the pandemic.

  • Many small businesses were forced to make adjustments during the pandemic.
  • These changes, such as increasing online presence and working remotely, have yielded strong benefits.
  • Owners were challenged to think outside the box and adapt quickly to keep their businesses afloat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Now that a year has passed since COVID-19 first made itself known across the US, many small business owners are taking a step back to process how the virus has impacted their business models. It’s no secret that it was a challenge to transform everyday practices into ones that met government mandates and kept people safe – but now, looking back, some entrepreneurs are recognizing that the changes they’ve implemented have helped their bottom line. Here’s how.

Small businesses have upped their digital presence

One of the toughest barriers small businesses have faced over the past year has involved brick-and-mortar operations: Specifically, businesses have had to close to the public, reduce occupancy or implement changes like frequent sanitization in order to comply with state and municipal guidelines. In response to these challenges, many businesses rapidly shifted operations to the virtual realm. Companies that were previously on the fence about refreshing their landing pages or starting social media accounts finally bit the bullet; storefronts began debating their ecommerce options; and service-based businesses found “contactless” ways to help their customers. And consumers shifted, too; now that just about anything can be done online, consumers are far more comfortable doing everything from telehealth visits to finding their next home on the web. Digital presence has always been a must-have even prior to the pandemic, but today, it’s a bigger opportunity than ever.

More teams than ever are working from home

Boutique firms, small creative agencies, rapidly-growing technology companies – you name it. If they don’t have to meet customers in person, they’ve likely found a way to let their teams work from home. Not only does this provide a slew of informal benefits for employees (like improved work-life balance, enhanced disability accommodations, and time and money saved on commuting), but it also provides major cost-cutting opportunities for the business itself. Businesses that know they’ll be working remotely for an extended period of time can avoid signing leases for pricey office space, and trendy startups can pause their snack subscriptions (for now). It’s a win-win.

A lull is a clean slate in disguise

Some entrepreneurs who have found themselves in a slow period during the pandemic have used deceleration as an opportunity to reassess and refresh. Though it’s always disappointing to see business decline, it can also be a blessing; companies that were previously in nonstop scale mode might benefit from a period of reflection on what really works and what doesn’t. While not a small business, GoDaddy notoriously took 2020 as an opportunity to reinvigorate its logo and renew its commitment to corporate responsibility. Other businesses are turning a break in brick-and-mortar operations into a chance to revamp their spaces and provide exciting updates to customers once circumstances dictate it’s safe to do so.

Many small business owners are stepping outside of their comfort zones

They say diamonds are formed under pressure, and the old adage rings true for business owners who are serious about helping their ventures thrive under unusual conditions. As contactless sales and services rose in popularity throughout 2020, many businesses found themselves capable of expanding into new markets and offering more customizable shipping options. Heightened social awareness has provided a catalyst for businesses to promote racial justice and gender equity, offset carbon emissions caused by shipping and delivery services and develop transparency in their daily practices. And because people tend to shop with both their needs and values in mind, this added level of consciousness has the ability to bring in waves of new customers and clients.

The obstacles presented by COVID-19 haven’t been easy to overcome – nor are they gone from our economy and from the world at large. But if time has proven anything, it’s that small business owners are persistent, innovative, and creative. Pandemic or no pandemic, that hasn’t changed.

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The case for a no-strings-attached monthly payment to help families get back on their feet after the pandemic, according to an economic security expert

Jobless claims
Guaranteed income helps stabilize people during difficult times such as during a pandemic.

Guaranteed income is a robust response to so many contradictions.

We see the benefits of divorcing work from worth playing out in Stockton, California. Mayor Michael Tubbs, the first Black mayor elected to office at the ripe age of 26, is running a guaranteed income pilot. He makes the case that poverty comes from a lack of cash, not a lack of character.

We knew providing a stable income was important pre-pandemic, but post-pandemic it is a lifeline for Stockton families. Guaranteed income helps these families weather the crisis with more resilience than their neighbors.

I can’t help but imagine how this approach could have helped millions more if it had been part of our economic approach across the country. What would it mean to have this kind of an economic floor?

Named the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), the program gives 125 families in Stockton an income floor of $500 a month for 18 months. The income is unconditional. This means there are no strings attached and no work requirements.

Stockton is a city in the process of reinventing itself, with no shortage of challenges. It was the largest city to go bankrupt after the last financial crisis. It’s a city that is representative of America, with a majority of the population being people of color. One in four Stocktonians live in poverty; the median income is around $44,000.

book 553x677
The New Possible anthology.

The families participating in the guaranteed income pilot provide compelling data for how cash transfers allow families to remain resilient in the face of a pandemic. In these families, we see how no-strings-attached cash provides a way forward in economic uncertainty.

That resilience is the promise of the SEED project in particular, and the promise of guaranteed income more broadly.

To see the impact on people’s lives, let’s look at one recipient’s story.

For Tomas, the outbreak happened as he was getting his security clearance for a job at the airport. As with many companies, the pandemic caused a hiring freeze and halted the application process at the airport.

Suddenly finding himself out of work and without any jobless benefits, the guaranteed income became Tomas’ sole financial fallback.

Tomas can’t live on $500 or even $1,000 a month, but the guaranteed income is not meant to be an income on its own. It supports resilience. It works to stabilize the erratic ups and downs and to help people through difficult times in times of widespread destabilization. This is something we should all have, and our current political and economic moment makes it a possibility. We can make this kind of economic care and resilience part of our reality in the wake of COVID-19.

We are often asked, “What do people spend the money on?” The answer: People spend the money on food, general supplies, and utilities. But wanting to know exactly where the money goes misses the point. A more interesting question is: “What does the money do?” The evidence shows that meaningful psychological and emotional gains are embedded in providing people with the resources to take care of their basic needs.

Researchers Dr. Amy Castro Baker and Dr. Stacia West, who are independently evaluating the Stockton program, understand this point. Beyond tracking the basics of where the money goes, they are evaluating questions of wellbeing, including stress levels, hope, and feelings of belonging. The two researchers define hope in the way that they ask the question: “Do you want to wake up in the morning?” Hope is about goals, pathways, and agency. As Dr. Castro Baker puts it, “Keep in mind – the opposite of hope is despair. Understanding how economic security is linked to hope is key. Many would argue that change and justice are simply not possible without hope.”

They also ask interviewees, “Do you feel seen? Do you feel seen as a human being by institutions with power over your life?” If you don’t feel like you matter as a human, your capacity for hope is limited. Hope is one of the most significant predictors of whether or not you will engage with positive and healthy interventions when capitalism has already spit you out, or when it has communicated to you that you do not serve a purpose.

According to Dr. Castro Baker, “Hope is about saying: To what degree can a justice-based intervention such as a guaranteed income serve as a financial vaccine in a prolonged stressful environment with an unknown end?”

Early trends indicate that, with just $500 cash a month, people can move the needle on both hope and belonging.

Natalie Foster
Natalie Foster.

Better Ideas Aren’t Necessarily New Ideas

It has been heartening to see guaranteed income percolate into Stockton society as a possible response to the pandemic and the treacherous economic insecurity experienced by so many Americans. Giving people cash works. I

t’s not a new idea; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke and wrote extensively on the power of a guaranteed income. He was pushed in his thinking by activists such as Johnnie Tillmon, who played a critical role in the National Welfare Rights Organization.

Nearly 50 years ago Johnnie Tillmon, a welfare rights advocate, wrote, “The truth is, a job doesn’t necessarily mean an adequate income. There are some ten million jobs that now pay less than the minimum wage, and if you’re a woman, you’ve got the best chance of getting one.” Tillmon’s words are still true today.

As a result of the pandemic, more and more Americans experience low wages, income insecurity, degrading interactions with benefits offices, and lack of protections. While these have been the consistent experience of many Black Americans, the blacklight is exposing others to this harsh reality as well. The extraordinary economic disruption is now moving beyond the segregated zip codes, where it has lingered untended for far too long.

While the impacts of the coronavirus mean that more people now experience economic inequality, people of color have been advocating for economic justice for decades. We now have an opportunity and a responsibility to advance new rules with old roots in a meaningful way right now.

Even in a short amount of time, we’ve made tremendous strides. When I cofounded the Economic Security Project, guaranteed income struck people as a far-fetched idea and even a pipe dream. But that just isn’t the case anymore.

The uncomfortable truth is that there will be future pandemics – whether they are the result of climate change, job automation, or something entirely unforeseen. We will find ourselves here again. But let’s make sure that, when that day comes, the economic realities of American families are in a very different place. Right now, we can begin to offer the economic resilience required to weather these changes and the turmoil they bring.

As a nation, there is still much reckoning to be done. But we can’t be an anti-racist, just society until we have safe and stable families and communities. And for this we need cash. Let’s first provide a guaranteed income to stabilize every family. Then we can get to the hard work of healing this nation together.

This excerpt is adapted from The New Possible: Visions of Our World Beyond Crisis, published by Cascade Books, an imprint Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Natalie Foster is the president and cofounder of the Economic Security Project, a network dedicated to advancing a guaranteed income in America and reining in the unprecedented concentration of corporate power.

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SCOTT GALLOWAY: Now’s the best time to start a business in over a decade. Here are the 4 industries I predict will soon explode.

Nazaré, Portugal by Getty
A surfer riding a wave in Nazaré, Portugal.

  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, that originally ran on his blog, “No Mercy / No Malice.”
  • In it, Galloway explains how the post-pandemic economy will birth a new generation of leaders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Post-crisis periods are among history’s most productive eras. London rebuilt after the Great Fire with grand new architecture, and Europe after the worst of its plagues underwent a commercial revolution. The Marshall Plan turned enemies into allies, fomenting peace and prosperity for over half a century. Leaders also emerge from crises. Ulysses S. Grant was a washed-up soldier without prospects until war broke out, but that war created the opportunity for Grant to save the Union and advance the cause of freedom. This is all to say: In the next 36 months, I believe our economy will birth a new generation of web 3.0 firms and leaders. Why?

I’ve started nine businesses. The best predictive signal for their success has turned out to be the phase of the economic cycle in which they were started. Put simply, the best time to start a business is on the heels of a recession. And while pandemic economics haven’t resulted in a garden-variety recession – in either its duration (short) or its recovery (K-shaped) – there are factors that make this the best time to start a business in over a decade. Specifically:

  • Unprecedented stimulus and savings resulting in a Nazaré-like wave of consumer spending.
  • A gestalt among consumers and enterprises to question the status quo, and be open to new products and services.
  • The emergence of new fields and the capital to disrupt traditional industries as immunities kick in and monopoles are broken up.

Nazaré

The massive waves of Portugal are a function of the Nazaré Canyon, a submarine valley 5,000 meters deep and 2,300 kilometers long that functions as a ripple polarizer. Ocean swells build up over thousands of miles and flow through this geological fault with a minimal dissipation of energy. I just read the last sentence and am wondering about the medium-term effects of edibles. Anyway, the greatest surfer in the world is just a freakishly strong swimmer with a fiberglass board – until the right wave comes along. The Nazaré Canyon generates the biggest waves, and therefore, the most potential for greatness.

Monster waves birth in the open ocean, but tectonic business waves begin with consumer spending. The combination of historic savings, government stimulus, and record asset appreciation is shaping a wave of consumer spending unlike anything we’ve seen since baby boomers decided consumerism was a virtue.

Scott Galloway

Similar to ocean swells barreling towards the Portuguese coast, the commercial opportunities powered by consumer spending will be shaped by business dynamics. And, as with Nazaré, there is a deep canyon that will convert this energy into the waves of change. That canyon is Dispersion, a fancy way of saying the supply chain, or route through which a product or service travels, is changing. Today, there are three big waves forming in the Dispersion Canyon.

HQ

Remote work will fuel massive opportunities. Over the next decade, we are going to see the most radical transformation of the American landscape since the freeway created the suburbs. This set will have two waves.

First, we will see a significant investment in residential real estate and communities. Commercial real estate is a $16 trillion asset class. If gross demand for office space declines by a third, we could see the GDP of Japan ($5.1 trillion) reallocated from office to residential real estate. Sonos, Sub-Zero, Restoration Hardware, and Slack – along with everything else that enables or enhances work from home – should benefit.

In addition, we will see a great repurposing of office real estate. Many offices will remain, but no company will need the square footage they previously did, and companies will look for increased flexibility. In New York City, the amount of vacant office space available for sublet has doubled since 2019 and, as of December, the commercial vacancy rate in the city was the highest it’s been since the Great Recession. In 2020, San Francisco went from the lowest office vacancy rate in the city’s history to the highest.

Some office towers will be remade as residential, while others will be flexed for multiple tenants (coming soon: Airbnb Office). Cities aren’t going away – young people and inherently collaborative activities will still want/need to congregate in person. But cities will be cheaper, younger, and more diverse, all of which are inputs for startups. At $47 billion, WeWork was overvalued; going public via SPAC at $9 billion, it might be a buy. Prediction: Look for WeWork to rise from the ashes of COVID.

Higher education

The world’s most powerful lubricant of upward mobility (US higher ed) has morphed into a corrupt enforcer of the caste system. It has enjoyed 30 years of tuition increases matched only by the arrogance and self-aggrandizement of its leadership. COVID is the fist of stone coming for this chin. The pandemic moved 1.6 billion people into online education, and many will stay there. India’s largest edtech firm, Byju, is reportedly closing a $600 million investment, valuing the company at $15 billion, and Coursera is expected to go public at a $5 billion valuation.

Healthtech

The largest consumer industry in history is US healthcare. It’s also the most ripe for disruption. Imagine: Walking into a Best Buy to ask for help buying a flatscreen TV, only for the salesperson to hand you paperwork, for the 11th time, and ask you to wait 20 minutes before someone will help you. Only, you don’t have to imagine it, just think about the last time you went to a doctor’s office. At the doctor, you have to put up with this BS, because your health literally depends on it. Similar to higher ed, the healthcare industries have been sticking out their chin for years, raising prices while delivering worse outcomes. Healthtech startups raised $15.3 billion in 2020, up from $10.6 billion in 2019, according to Silicon Valley Bank.

Crypto

This is a $1.7 trillion asset class that could be $130 trillion (the size of the bond market), disperse trust (eliminate the need for inefficient intermediaries), and reduce human bias in the financial supply chain. Every generation gets its gold rush (social media followed the web, which followed the personal computer). Young people have the edge when it comes to transformational opportunities, as their brains still have the plasticity needed to comprehend new models. In my fifties, it feels like the part of my brain that I need to understand this sector is dying – along with the part that can mimic my father’s Glaswegian accent. Strange, right? But that’s another post. For now, I’m taking fish oils and speaking to experts. This week on the pod, we spoke with crypto investor Raoul Pal, and a few months ago, Michael Saylor lobbied me to buy bitcoin despite its recent rise to $19,000. Note: I didn’t buy.

How can I help?

A year ago, it would have been harder to be optimistic about entrepreneurs addressing these opportunities, as Big Tech was likely to move in and dominate every open space. But at the tail end of the last administration, we registered serious movement on antitrust enforcement. And now, the Biden administration has signalled that it will double down, bringing two of the most compelling voices for enforcement, Tim Wu and Lina Kahn, into the administration. The breakup of Big Tech – and the limits on its offensive efforts – will birth new lanes the size of the 405 (yes, I’m in LA today). Thursday’s Congressional hearings confirmed what many of us have been saying for years: Big Tech is bad for society, these firms lied to us, and they need to be broken up.

Big Tech isn’t the only segment of society that has benefitted from the pandemic. If you’re in the top 10%, much less the top 1%, the dirty secret of COVID is that many of us have been living our best lives. The deadliest crisis in American history has meant more time with family and Netflix, coupled with an explosion in wealth. The top decile of Americans works with zeroes and ones, and this work has only been levered by remote technologies. Furthermore, the representatives of the shareholder class in government (435 in the House, and 100 in the Senate) have used the cloud cover of the pandemic to funnel trillions of dollars into the market, juicing asset prices.

One thing the shareholder class can do is to invest in early-stage (i.e., seed) startups. I don’t enjoy seed investing. Almost every business idea I hear, I think, “This makes no sense, and will never work” – I also find early-stage CEOs and firms, similar to infants, needy and impossible to predict. Regardless, I have made (in the last week) two seed stage investments: Measured, a platform for weight loss, and ScholarSite, a Substack for academics.

Scott Galloway

Capital

Despite the broader economic slowdown, we are awash in capital, at every level. Wealthy individuals have by and large done incredibly well over the past year, thanks to the stock market run-up, and are looking for opportunities to invest. Tech-focused investors have done particularly well, and crypto has generated new bitcoin billionaires. Tech companies are important venture investors, and have more capital than they can use for core operations. The result? A record 225 US companies became unicorns in 2020. January 2021 saw the greatest total in venture investments in history, with $40 billion invested, and since the beginning of the year, over 60 additional private companies have achieved “unicorn” status. Meanwhile, the public markets are desperate for quality companies to sate the voracious appetite of SPACs.

Scott Galloway

Los Angeles & dispersion

I’m currently in Los Angeles and I’m channeling Michael Jordan. Hear me out: Just as MJ loved baseball, but wasn’t great at it; there is nowhere I enjoy more, and am less successful, than Los Angeles. I meet with agents, producers, and box office superstars who show me their sneaker collection and, over lunch at their house(s), tell me, “You are a genius, we must work together.” And then … nothing. I know this trip to the City of Angels will yield the same business (non)results. But that’s not why I’m here.

My closest friend’s mom, who cooked several hundred meals for me as a child, pre-teen, and teen, is struggling with dementia. I had lunch with her and her husband, who I have written about, today. During lunch, I’d grab her hand, and she’d look at me with surprise and then just smile. I’m not sure if in these moments she knew who I was, but I am confident she knew I loved her, and that was enough. I’ve let so much bullshit get in the way of expressing how I feel for people – some fucked up sense of masculinity or insecurity that to this day diminishes my ability to express true emotions.

There is a meaningful opportunity in the dispersion of HQ, education, and healthcare. There is a profound opportunity to register the finite nature of life and rebel against anything that gets in the way of letting people know that you love them, and how much they’ve impacted your life. I am a professional failure in my hometown of Los Angeles. However, there are people here who were generous with me, and whom I love. I need to get to LA more.

Life is so rich,

Scott

P.S. Section4, my EdTech startup, aims to to make elite business education more accessible with 2-3 week intensive “Sprints.” Our upcoming Sprint, Product Strategy, is taught by my NYU Stern colleague Adam Alter.

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Most institutional investors say the market is underestimating COVID-19’s long-term impact on the economy, a Natixis survey finds

A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York
A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York.

  •  A new Natixis Investment Managers survey of  500 institutional investors found that 8 in 10 say the market is underestimating the pandemic’s long-term impact on the economy.
  • The results reveal a stark contrast to calls from more bullish voices, like Wharton’s Jeremy Siegel who says the economy and stock market will be stronger than expected in 2021.  
  • The survey also highlighted the sectors investors anticipate will outperform in 2021, and the areas they’re most concerned about heading into next year.
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Eight in 10 institutional investors say the market is underestimating the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term impact on the economy, and 79% don’t expect a full economic recovery until 2022 or 2023.

That’s according to the recently released Institutional Investor Outlook survey from Natixis Investment Managers. The firm surveyed 500 institutional investors who collectively manage more than $13 trillion in assets in 29 countries. 

The survey results reveal a stark contrast to more bullish calls on the economy, like Wharton’s Jeremy Siegel who says the economy and stock market will be stronger than expected in 2021.  

The S&P 500 continues to break new records, but over three quarters of investors are wary of assuming that run will continue- 78% of institutional investors say current market growth is unsustainable, while 95% see the potential for a market correction in at least one sector. 

Read more:The equities chief at $1.4 trillion Franklin Templeton says stocks are ‘priced for perfection’ – but investors still shouldn’t wait to get in. He tells us 9 ways they can get the market-beating returns.

According to Natixis, investors are most concerned over a correction in real estate, technology, and cryptocurrency. 

However, technology and healthcare are two sectors investors expect to outperform in 2021. 66% expect technology to outperform in 2021, while 65% expect healthcare to exceed expectations. But investors anticipate more beaten-down sectors of the market, like real estate, financials, and industrials to continue to underperform.

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