Predictions for 2021

2020 is (thankfully) over. With the new year starting, now is the time to review my 2020 predictions, and add some new ones. This year, I’m going to avoid specific stock prices (since I can’t tie back underlying rationales to exact prices), and political races (since I’m burnt out on politics at this point).

Stopping reckless securities trading will become a cause célèbre, leading to self-regulation.

With a booming stock market, and an incredibly low barrier to entry, general excitement around securities trading (stocks, options, etc) has reached a fever pitch. Robinhood has been leading the charge here, offering a commission-free, user-friendly, and gamified experience.  Robinhood makes it easy to trade stocks, but also to trade options, and trade on margin. Many of Robinhood’s features are good (e.g fractional shares), but they also put Robinhood (and the industry as a whole) on the edge of PR disasters caused by users who are dangerously in over their head. These PR crises are magnified by issues with the apps themselves, leading to ultimate tragedies like this one. Over the next year, enough of these issues will accumulate, leading to greater self-regulation from the apps.

Prediction: In the face of consistent, widespread public outrage, Robinhood (and similar apps) will self-regulate, increasing their requirements to trade options and trade on margin.

Miami, as a tech capital, will be a short-lived Twitter fad. There won’t be a new tech capital.

If Twitter trends are to be believed, San Francisco is falling to pieces, and Miami is rising to take its place. VCs and founders are moving there, and throwing their weight behind it. The mayor of Miami has become a cheerleader (and meme), pledging support and cafecitos to all.  COVID (and issues with SF) will surely lead to Miami having a larger tech scene than before. However, the increase (especially in raw numbers of jobs) will be a rounding error, and not more than other mid-sized American cities like Austin, Seattle, Philadelphia, etc. In this new remote-first world, it is easy for individual people (like the VCs and founders who hype Miami on Twitter) to move. It is not easy, nor beneficial, for employers to ask all employees to. Large, established tech behemoths will remain in their current cities, Stanford is not going anywhere, and the Miami weather will sound a lot worse come summer. This all leads to a whimper, not a bang.

Prediction: By August, we’ll be talking about Miami, the same way we talk about Seattle or Philly. Miami will not see a meaningful increase in tech jobs, or VC investments into companies founded in Miami.

It will become common for startups to incubate in-person, and grow remotely.

Remote work sounds great, and, in most cases, is great. We are big fans of it at Healthie. It has allowed us to scale our team much more easily, and gives our employees (and us as founders) a great deal of flexibility. However, I still think it is very hard to get a company off the ground in a fully remote setting. In those nascent stages, iterations need to happen faster, situations change rapidly, and targets can be less straight-forward and measurable. Effective remote working requires a great deal of written communication, and process overhead. This additional structure is great for established companies with clear next steps, but is just extra baggage for companies in the pre-product and pre-revenue stage.

Prediction: A new model will emerge with founders and early employees working in-person together for the first three to six months of the business. After that period, companies will transition to being remote first.

Traditional IPOs will get less and less popular, as more companies opt for direct listings and SPACs. 

This has been a very interesting year for taking companies public. We’ve seen three major trends this year. First, traditional IPOs have continued to have large first-day “pops”, leading to companies leaving a lot of money on the table when they go public. This is not new. However, in 2020, new alternatives have finally begun to gain real traction, which brings us to the two other trends. SPACs hit the mainstream this year. These “reverse-mergers” allow companies to go public with the least amount of moving parts. Instead of a drawn-out traditional road show, private companies can work with a single SPAC. This simplified process has benefits for both the SPAC and the private company, and we will continue to see it used in cases where the company wants to go public early (Hims, OpenDoor) and/or is in a “sexy” industry (Nikola, DraftKings, or Virgin Galactic). On the other end, recent SEC approvals , have expanded the utility of direct listings, making it a better option for more companies.

Prediction: Q3 and Q4 will see well-known tech companies opt for alternatives to a traditional IPO. If Stripe goes public this year, it will be via a direct listing.

The U.S will get their vaccination act together

The U.S vaccination effort is off to rough start. Despite months to prepare, the country has been caught flat-footed, and progress is slow. It is jealousy inducing to watch Israel, a country with a population the size of New Jersey, be on track to reach herd immunity in just a couple of months. The U.S predicament is pretty close to cat herding, with fifty different states, a federal government in transition, and a president with his mind on other matters. However, despite our slow start, the situation will stabilize, allowing America’s resources to be put to good use.

Prediction: After a couple of months of non-stop media coverage of vaccination delays, the system will get into gear, and we will reach herd immunity by the fall.