On today’s show we’re talking about the three areas that I am seeing the most technology investment with venture capital and angel investors.
The pandemic has served as an accelerator and has exposed weaknesses in a number of sectors. All of these areas of innovation were on a growth trajectory through the natural evolutionary course of the marketplace.
Innovations get funded when they solve specific problems. This requires a clear statement of the acute problem.
The first area that was dramatically impacted by the pandemic was healthcare. Many family medicine doctors and specialists had to adapt to new protocols. In particular, we saw many doctors resorting to telemedicine, attempting to diagnose over the telephone and limiting in person patient care to the absolute minimum.
Tele medicine is one area that is begging for innovation. The US military has been using telemedicine within its own proprietary communication systems for years. But there are very few well developed solutions for public health or for family medicine.
Would it be possible to integrate certain diagnostic or measurement apparatus into a smart phone app that the doctor can rely upon? While large advances have been made in electronic medical records, significant delays still exist between pathology testing labs, x-ray labs, and the attending physician’s desk.
The second area that is crying for innovation is educational technology. The classroom on zoom is better than a webinar, and it’s better than watching a movie. But it’s a long way from optimum. Zoom was not designed to be an electronic classroom, nor was Microsoft Teams. This is an area with lots of opportunity for innovation. An integrated platform for teaching and testing doesn’t exist.
There are a handful of trends underway in edtech. The biggest area where technology stands to improve education is by personalizing education. We’ve gone from a world that focused on everything for the masses to a world that is focused on the individual. Academic records are being sent electronically these days. But these records are prone to tampering. Blockchain technology can solve this problem.
The third area is retail sales. The internet has enabled an increasing proportion of sales to go Direct to Consumer (DTC). The question is which search engine should be used to find the product you’re looking for? Amazon is a search engine, an e-commerce engine, and a distribution channel.
The direct to consumer model doesn’t require a platform like Walmart or Amazon. You want an organic eucalyptus based insect repellant made by monks in Tibet? What’s that? Walmart doesn’t carry it? No problem. In the world of direct to consumer, you don’t need Walmart or Amazon or Alibaba. You simply need to be able to find it using a search engine. There are emerging specialty search engines out there. It’s not just the world of Google. Pinterest is a search engine. Etsy is a search engine. Direct to consumer is an area that is still a wide open field waiting for improvement. Shopify is one company that has made significant inroads in the new world of direct to consumer.
So why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with real estate? As I’ve said on previous shows, the next shift in real estate will come from the world of online innovation.
Let’s imaging that 1/3 or 1/2 of visits to the doctor’s office can be replaced with telemedicine. Would that affect the design of doctor’s offices, of medical clinics, and possibly of hospitals? I think the answer is yes. A medical office building that ignores these shifts is destined to become a dinosaur faster than necessary. Will the design of a classroom change with innovations in edtech? Will the design of a university campus change if 50% of the classes are held online? Will the world of retail be further affected by direct to consumer model? The answer to all three of these questions is clearly yes.