What the hell is Corona tech?

It is late March 2020. The world is on fire and there is no sign of stopping. A new strain of the family of corona viruses has gripped the world by the lungs. Half of the countries are on lockdown and the other half are contemplating a lockdown. The distilleries switch from gin to hand sanitiser and surgical masks are the new hot fashion item.

So what does the tech community do? Well, half of it become experts in virology ready to show off these stats skills on twitter and fight the actual virologists. The other half rolls up their sleeves and starts building libraries, tooling and apps, and obviously joins r/Coronatech. 

You know things are bad when VCs start virtue signalling on twitter more often than usual. And some mean it. The shock.

We are now staying at home for at least 3 weeks with no way of going out for more than an hour. So we start to see the emergence of a new tech category – Corona tech.

But what is corona tech you ask? Good question. Nobody had a clue 2 weeks ago.

The broad definition is any tech-based instruments and tools helping the society in such dark times. It is a bundle of market categories and cross-disciplinary teams. The obvious contenders include progress in Life sciences with improving testing, drug discovery, diagnostics and vaccines as well as manufacturing with 3D printed masks, respirators and valves for the much needed life support machines.

But let’s not limit ourselves to direct medical breakthroughs. The lockdowns and quarantines affect multiple aspects of day-to-day life.

1/ Remote working – the enemy of every micromanager. It is not for everybody and it takes time to get into a routine, especially in a full house. Apps can keep you on track. Some of the tools I am using:

  • Notion
  • Gsuite
  • Zoom 
  • Around.co
  • Spark mail
  • Todoist
  • Geekbot for Slack 

Accountability is key!

2/ Sanity and mindfulness. Alongside remote working, we need to also find a way to stay sane in-between 4 walls in the urban areas. Apps for meditation, exercise and social interaction can keep you in the right mind, connected with your friends and family, and fit. Schedule daily calls with family and keep arranging your virtual socials like you’d do offline. This way you can’t get into a mood slump, especially if locked down on your own. Some of the apps I am using (and then some more):

  • Headspace
  • Houseparty 
  • Facebook watchparty
  • Netflix Party
  • Nike Health Club
  • Obe
  • Peloton – no need for the bike
  • Alo Yoga
  • Your favourite yoga instructor streaming on instagram live

Let’s burn some of these corona snacks. Bonus: get a Nintendo Wii or Xbox with a kinect and play some of your favourite sports- boxing, mma, tenis, golf and more.

3/ Entertainment is going virtual. Maybe this is the time for VR to shine? Maybe people will be dusting off or upgrading their gaming consoles? One thing is certain: Streamr and Twitch are more popular than any other time. And let’s not forget about Tik Tok and the dance challenges. Netflix, HBO Go, Disney+, Hulu are experiencing their best times too.

Some of the apps I am using:

  • Netflix
  • HBO Go
  • Prime Video
  • Xbox live
  • TikTok
  • Pigment

Working longer hours happens often when you’re remote. Don’t skip entertainment!

4/ This is the time to cement the use of wearables. Test kits are getting quite advanced for diabetics, most likely will happen with other chronic illnesses too. Wearables like smart watches or smart rings (we see you Oulo) can aggregate and provide a better picture on one’s health. Insurance companies have been trying this for years. Fever is one of the common symptoms  of COVID-19 and China is pioneering temperature checks when entering buildings and moving around – this is likely to be followed by other countries once the inflection point is hit. 

My choice of a wearable: 

  • Apple Watch series 4 + native workout app + Pillow for sleep tracking.

Let’s see if COVID-19 will do marketers’ jobs here. 

5/ Deliveries. COVID-19 will go down in history with memories about empty supermarket shelves stripped of toilet paper, soap, cleaning materials, medicine, pasta and beans. 

Supply chains are still delivering on essentials, however, the last mile is hit the most. Stores are keeping 24-36 hours stocks and getting in-time deliveries. Their websites can’t cope with the pressure and even Amazon is out of slots for Fresh subscribers. Not to mention Ocado’s 20,000 waiting list. It’s not a great time for personal shoppers to collect and deliver. Typerform + Stripe can be a temporary solution for taking orders for local online food markets.

Who’s building last mile solutions? Is it time to take the drones out for a test in a time where people should not be outside?

6/ Fintech. Some of the less obvious businesses that will prove heroes or foes are those in SME and freelance financing. Loads of small businesses and freelancers are experiencing liquidity crunches leading to the governments deploying fiscal support quicker than ever. However, most of these schemes will take months to hit in. There is a need for that extra push with 24-48h decision time.

Companies to watch:

  • Clearbanc
  • Capital Float
  • FinCompare
  • Funding Circle
  • Qwil
  • Portify

DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations) can be an interesting place to watch. Communities can make decisions on loans in <24hours. Imagine you were an open source developer and you found yourself in a tricky place. What if you could post the ask for a loan on the network, then the community can approve it based on contributions in 24 hours? Funds coming from other members or foundations. Making DAOs is easier than ever with DAOhaus.

Digital identity (self sovereign identity) can ease the process of credit and KYC/AML checks. It will also be useful in access control to our devices. We have already heard some countries looking to track GPS and it is something straight out of Orwellian literature. Let’s not dig deeper on authoritarianism out of sheer fear. 

Projects to watch in digital identity and privacy protection:

7/ Advanced business intelligence and analytics. In times like these, most business operators realise how inefficient their processes were. It is time for reflection, cost cutting and efficiency, so a 360 data-fuelled view is much needed. The executives need apps running dynamic models to see the impact of reduced revenues on sales/development headcounts without having to run multiple spreadsheets. 

Companies to watch and use now:

  • BurnRate
  • Uptake
  • Dataiku
  • 6sense
  • Maverick
  • Imply

CRMs, ERPs, SLMs, SCMs collect an immense amount of data. We need the tools to provide descriptive analysis, predictive analysis, optimization and ability to discover patterns and correlations.

8/ Connectivity and data propagation. Working from home and putting a stop to all outings resulted in a surge of broadband usage. Most network providers signalled they may have to limit users to cope with the network load. A more immediate solution for this will be to spin up a private mobile network or a mesh network.

Companies to watch:

  • Weaver labs
  • Althea
  • Datahop
  • Blockmesh

We can’t talk about tech without mentioning the other side of the equation – the funders. A lot of VCs will be delaying deal making, but also a lot will be announcing “business as usual” in public for deal flow. Others are genuinely ready to deploy like Hummingbird and Atomico. They promised 24h notice on calls and quick decision making. For more investors deploying take a look here

What do you consider Corona tech? Who are the investors still making deals? Let me know!

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