What trends will impact businesses the most this year?

What trends are we keeping an eye on in 2021? Our analysts weigh in.


January 23, 2021

During the early days of the pandemic, our Trends analyst Steph Smith compiled a 67-slide deck titled “COVID-19 Trends: Looking Past First-Order Effects.”

It was one of our most popular reports of 2020 — and it’s now free for all Hustle readers.

Nine months later, we asked our analysts to share one macro-level or industry-specific question they’re thinking about, and how they see it playing out this year.

Here’s what they had to say… 

  1. Amy’s question

Loneliness, already labeled an epidemic before the pandemic, became even more widespread last year.

The entrepreneurship world seemed to wake up to this, with $1.37B of VC money pouring into mental-health startups through Q3, surpassing 2019’s investment of $1.06B, per PitchBook.

“Community” as a theme was also strong in 2020. From cohort-based courses to online events, a paid community is now the holy grail for any indie maker’s monetization plan.

But does explicit productization of connection and belonging work? Which companies have figured out how to measure results well? And is funding going toward populations that need change the most?

With remote work continuing, companies are taking more responsibilities for employee mental health (see Microsoft’s rollout of wellbeing and productivity features in Microsoft Teams and Outlook, including “virtual commutes” and integration with a mindfulness and meditation app). 

Coworking will return in smaller, more intimate ways, such as an in-person version of Order In Club.

Meanwhile, Google searches for “coworking space near me” climbed to 50.9k searches in November, nearly surpassing pre-pandemic numbers. 

  1. Julia’s question

In South Africa we have a saying: “Local is lekker!” It basically means, “Local is awesome!”

With people locked up in their homes and within their national borders, one of the biggest trends of 2020 was the rise of localization — from shopping to experiences to food.

I can’t help but wonder how long “local is lekker” will last, if and when international travel resumes.

Will the longing for foreign travel and experiences trump this newfound appreciation of our own backyards? And for how long will small businesses leverage the localism trend?

The data suggests localism may be short-lived. According to a recent travel sentiment survey, more than half of American travelers would feel comfortable traveling internationally after 6 months of a vaccine becoming available.

Demand for ethnic food experiences is also on the rise: Search interest is rebounding strongly after a significant dip across the board in April:

  • “Conveyor belt sushi”: 18.1k searches in November (+190% from April)
  • “Teppanyaki”: 301k searches in November (+94% from April)
  • “Korean barbecue”: 27.1k searches in November (+30% from April)
  1. Steph’s question

In the last economic downturn, a host of companies emerged that define today’s business landscape.

From Uber to Airbnb to Stripe to Square… the sharing economy democratized people’s ability to buy or sell rides, homes, or basically anything online.

2020 made us all look inward, spurring a decade where we invest in ourselves (our bodies). We will continue to see innovations in:

  • health tech (think Sleep Number mattresses or Oura rings)
  • biohacking (think CRISPR kits)
  • workout tech (think Cubii or Zwift)
  • fertility tech (the cost of sequencing is accelerating faster than Moore’s Law).

And have you heard of the AlphaFold breakthrough? It could pave the way for decades of innovation.

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