Communication tools such as Slack and Teams have made digital collaboration easier in many companies since the corona pandemic. In 2021, too, more people will spend less time in the office. Investors don't just focus on startups that are rethinking work.
Insolvencies, short-time work, layoffs: Corona year 2020 was a challenge for many companies – the startup scene has not been spared from sales losses either. The travel industry in particular was hit hard. For example, the celebrated Berlin company Getyourguide, now valued at one billion, had to lay off 90 employees. That corresponds to about one sixth of the workforce. "The company may have had a tough year, but the founders have investors by their side who believe in their business model," says Judith Dada, partner at the Berlin venture capitalist La Famiglia ntv.de.
While many travel startups had to struggle to survive in the pandemic year, there are also areas that have benefited from the global state of emergency. Technologies that make working from home easier have been in greater demand than ever since the first lockdown. "In March of last year, people had to leave their offices overnight. Many used a VPN connection or a zoom call for the first time," says Dada.
That has consequences. "The year 2021 will be very much shaped by what is known as a second wave effect." Now it is important to find a new balance. That is why La Famiglia has invested in Back, for example. The Berlin startup offers a clean-up solution for different chat and mail channels, which is intended to reduce the chaos in online communication.
Vaccine delivery overwhelms the logistics industry
"When I look at our portfolio, the point is no longer to find a compromise between digital work and work in the office," says Dada. What is needed now are many more applications that, for example, make video calls more efficient, create a seamless transition between digital and offline work, and at the same time enable employees to switch flexibly between the two worlds.
For this to work, according to Dada, digital work must not be understood as offline work that is now taking place on the Internet. Companies have to think carefully: What does it mean to work in the office in 2021? Even in a time "after Corona" people will spend less time in the office, Dada is certain. "But we still have to eat healthy, hygienic and fresh." La Famiglia has therefore entered the Robot canteen von Aitme invested up to 120 dishes per hour without human assistance
In addition to applications that make working from home easier, investors are also looking at startups from logistics, digital health and AI. With a view to delivering vaccines in particular, it has become clear in recent weeks that, according to Dada, the logistics industry has not been prepared for such a task, either in terms of tracking or resilience. "Companies have to reposition themselves in 2021 in order to be able to deliver changing offers effectively," says Dada. "From health and e-commerce to offline retail, we noticed last year how dependent we are on our supposedly perfect logistics chains."
AI is becoming less and less abstract
Much more obvious: "During the pandemic, it became clear to everyone how important digitization is in the health industry," says Fabian von Trotha, Managing Partner at Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures, to ntv.de. Growing interest from investors in the healthcare market was already noticeable in Germany last year. This will continue in 2021. The venture capitalist, who was previously active in the areas of fintech and education, already set up a digital health fund worth 60 million euros in the middle of the corona pandemic last August.
With the new fund, the investor is targeting around 15 investments. Conceivable areas for this are telemedicine, software for remote diagnostics, wearables for the mobile measurement of body functions, providers of electronic patient files and artificial intelligence in the medical sector. "While AI was a very abstract technology two years ago, fear of contact is decreasing. The more concrete the applications become, the more the fear disappears, "says von Trotha. Even if the Corona app was rather unsuccessful in the end because the application fell short of its capabilities, it still shows the potential of AI.