Startups: The Rise, Disruption & Post Pandemic LandscapeBy Chris Tobey Global Sales Director at NETSOL Technologies Inc. on 26-02-2021
Startups are the next big thing. They are playing a major role in every company's innovation strategy, that usually includes finding the startup and investing or acquiring the company. The largest traffic of startups can be seen in emerging markets. Just as multinational companies require innovation to grow and sustain in the market, emerging markets bring in startups. The reason why emerging markets have more startups is because it's easier to create business, government provides a lot of support and there's a lot of existing competition. Currently, there is a lot of hope for startups to rise from emerging markets.
As soon as Britain went into a lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic, there was a drop in new firms being established by 19% year-on-year in March. After a perpetual decline, there was a boost of around 77,574 new firms formed by June 2020, a 47% growth compared to June 2019. The so called Covid economy saw the largest increase amongst companies. Around a 110% increase in new online retail businesses was seen as the world went into a lockdown and people switched to online shopping. Sports retail, games, toys, bakeries and clothing's online presence increased significantly. (Martin, 2020) Millions of businesses were set to close when the pandemic started and unemployment swelled. It is only startups that brought the economy back to recovery. These entrepreneurs brought new jobs with the surge of new ideas and many growing sectors around the world.
The rise of startups
Technology has taken the world by storm and has become the driving force behind the disruption found within the corporate ecosystem. With the likes of Amazon, Foodpanda, and Uber, everything has been revolutionized from the way we think to how we buy - from the way we live to how we consume content. In light of the ongoing economic uncertainty, it has become utmost important for businesses to adopt cutting-edge technologies to sustain competition. It is only a matter of time when business decisions will be dominated by means to ensure a seamless customer experience, being adaptive to disruptive innovations, as well as tackling the implications of the future workplace.
Our world is now used to 'swipes' and 'clicks' without going out of our comfort zones. Businesses are realizing that their customers now expect all services to be 'apple easy' or 'google fast' in all aspects of their lives. With the UN now considering internet as a human right, competing in silos is no longer an option. With the mushroom growth of new services and products, businesses are basically in competition with the rest of the world. (Sandle, 2016) A startup literally lives or dies based on the fact that whether their product/service is a notch up on that of the incumbent supplier, which is not always the case for an established business. As the famous saying goes "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". This does not apply to the current fast-changing business world, however it perfectly encapsulates the hesitation of decision-makers to adapt and take risks by trying new products and services. Perhaps this is why so many traditional companies are still able to make decent profits and plod along, sleepwalking into the abyss. Customer experience management is expected to continue to lead success across all industries in 2021 and beyond. For many businesses, it is a signal that they need to go back to the drawing board and incorporate customer-centricity at the core of their business models. As many digitized brands/businesses are now dependent on a data-driven approach to provide frictionless experiences, consumers will no longer keep up with outdated technology and manual interventions with legacy systems and antiquated processes. Startups can be small companies but they are considered to be the bigger players in contributing to the economy by spurring innovation and inducing competition in existing companies.
Creating a startup also celebrates low-cost entry, making it easier than ever to jump in and play a hand at the game of business. As many as 40 startups in 2013 were valued at $1 billion or more, according to a NY Times article. (Hardy, 2013) Startups validate and bring disruptive innovations to the market by creating new innovations to minimize wasted resources with maximum drive and motivation. If we look at some recent US history, startups have created most of the new jobs, attracted international talent and foreign direct investments. According to a study by Kauffman Foundation and the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, over the last 25 years, almost all of the private sector jobs have been created by businesses less than five years old. Between 1988 and 2011, companies more than 5 years old destroyed more jobs than they created in 8 years.
Demographically startups have a direct impact on the cities they start operating from. It is magnificent how Alibaba has changed Hangzhou, Infosys has reformed Bangalore, Microsoft impacted Redmond and Google transformed Mountain View, California. All of these companies started small, but as they grew they changed their home cities where they operated, improving employment patterns and creating the best talent pools from all across the country. These startups contributed towards the economy massively with revolutionary technology and created new industries over time. They became money-making engines for not just the owners but also for employees and shareholders. Alibaba single-handedly transformed the trading situation for SMEs in China, on the other hand, thousands of Google employees became worth more than five million dollars. Often times these same new millionaires invest their money in potential businesses, starting a virtuous cycle. Startups may be small but they create ripples in the economy that changes society in general.
How can startups become game-changers
It is not easy for a startup to disrupt a corporate entity as it was a few years ago. Gone are the days when at any time, anyone with an idea could build a product, grab end-users, and "startup" to disrupt a business that had been around for 100 years. It is no longer a prime hunting time for entrepreneurs who know how to build up tech, products, and businesses to go after ageing companies that had some knowledge about these intimidating topics. The futuristic technologies enabling the innovations are AI, AR, VR, the Blockchain, IoT, Quantum computing and few other bits and bytes. The smart businesses have adapted and "app'd" their processes where there was value to add. Now is the time for businesses to focus on the value Deep Tech can deliver. Disruption needs to be aided by collaboration. In 2015, for example, Walgreens joined forces with New York-based tech startup "Pager". Pager's mobile platform can match patients' needs with nearby available doctors and nurses. Pager helped Walgreens achieve health care on demand.
According to KPMG, almost 90% of corporations believe that collaboration is essential in promoting innovation. Having said that, a lot of risks are associated in working with corporate giants. There is a lot of bureaucracy and red tape that may prevent decisions from being made. Businesses looking to capture additional innovation edge need to create the mechanisms that streamline collaboration. Collaborations done correctly can be mutually beneficial and can help both parties develop, gain a competitive advantage, and ensure long-term success. Startups offer big businesses agility, energy, access to new technology, increased understanding of target markets, and customer-focused innovation. They offer companies the speed and focus needed to eliminate competition. Also, the relationship offers startups a chance to develop and scale products, to enhance their reputation, to develop a competitive advantage, and to learn from an established business's market knowledge, experience, and expertise.
Startups post-coronavirus and how will the crisis impact FinTech?
Covid-19 crisis has forced the world to rethink their business models. There was something for everyone to learn. The future is for those who braced the impact and found a silver lining in it. Through these unprecedented times, we all learnt that technology is here; it is here to save us; it is here to stay. It may be interesting to predict how startups with limited budgets and resources can survive; and instead of waiting for the right time, live through the dream of quick customer onboarding and speedy market readiness. Being an entrepreneur entails keeping your eyes ahead, never giving up, but nevertheless facing existential threats all the same. Keeping your mind and spirit afloat in those circumstances takes a strong mind, an even stronger will power, and last but not the least, practical and adaptive decision-making skills. These skills are further honed by the knowledge and awareness of the challenges you might encounter.
Startups heavily depend on funding, and some may critically be impacted and are at the verge of closure. Still, others may find themselves on an accelerated growth track thanks to their adaptive forward-thinking approach or perhaps they provide uninterrupted digital services that have proven to be invaluable. It won't be wrong to say that startups are more adept at pivoting quickly, shelving projects, reorienting themselves, and even turning their business model on its head. They are more resilient to change when compared to big companies and this works in their favor in unprecedented times like these. For example; U.S. Neobank Moven, due to Covid-19 induced drop in funding, announced that it has decided to sell its direct consumer offering so that they can focus primarily on developing financial technology for other banks. There are many examples of Fintech startups that have quickly launched new products/services and aligned with the current situation for example Credit Kudos, a British startup credit rating agency specializing in the use of open banking data, have launched a tool targeting freelancers that allows them to quickly verify their earnings, helping them benefit from British government handouts. (Williams-Grut, 2020) The mayhem resulting from this global pandemic, like previous economic downturns, could create specific business opportunities emerging from new, unimaginable, unanswered needs that will become more evident in the post-crisis landscape. However, beyond all this, there needs to be a plan, a commitment, a desire to do something better and improve by thinking out of the box whilst continuously learning.
Chris Tobey Global Sales Director at NETSOL Technologies Inc.
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