It’s pretty obvious that 2020 for many companies has been one they can’t wait to put in the rearview. Not only does it give more meaning to the expression “hindsight is 2020” but it also has been a year of painful but necessary transformation. However, for other industries this year has been an innovation opportunity. So what are the startup industry trends to watch next year? 

While there have been some clear winners and losers in 2020, the coming year and an emerging vaccine will mean additional shifts and some continuing trends. Here are the top 10 startup industry trends to watch in 2021.

 

Biotech

Biotech and wearables have become more prevalent than ever. Providing information to your doctor through an app, doing a sleep study with your Apple Watch, and even monitoring your blood sugar with a bracelet or your health with a ring has become commonplace. 

But there is more development to be done in both hardware and software, and biotech is up to the challenge. Take, for example, DNA testing. While the family tree research uses have started to slide, other trends are emerging to determine what you do next. For example, DNA Nudge offers a cheek swab test, an app, and a wristband. They work together to offer you shopping and nutrition suggestions based on your DNA. 

There’s more to DNA than selecting the right dinner menu. Artificial intelligence and DNA testing may result in the best recommendations for exercise routines, skincare products, and other health recommendations. 

Sustainable Finance

As big automakers scramble to catch up with startups like Tesla, investors are showing how much they care about the environment through where they invest their money. Investing sustainably is an emerging trend, and companies who create sustainable funds for trading and direct investors away from carbon-wasters and legacy oil concerns are taking advantage of it.

Think of it this way. Exon, one of the most valuable companies in the world at one time, has been targeted by an activist investor campaign to change directors. Meanwhile, Unilever has become the first company to give shareholders voting power on carbon reduction efforts. 

“Green” investing is a great place for startups to be in 2021.

Not-Meat

Speaking of sustainability, the non-meat trend to vegan meat substitutes is no longer just driven by health-conscious plant only dieters. Instead, it has become a mainstream topic on reducing emissions from one of the most carbon-emitting industries on the planet, the production of red meat. 

Brands like Incredible Foods and Beyond Meat are just two examples. More meat alternatives (can we hope ones that are equally as tasty?) are on the way.

The African Market

Due to political and other concerns, Africa was often considered too risky for most VC investors, but all of that is changing. If your startup has the solution for an international problem that starts in Africa, listen up. According to Partech, $2 billion in VC funding headed to the large continent last year. 

Twiga is just one example, a startup helping to create a farm to market distribution center to reduce or even eliminate harvest waste in a place where food insecurity is ridiculously high. And it’s not just about agriculture and food. Fintech startup Jumia, an AI-powered eCommerce platform, is just one of other emerging companies. 

Geographic Expansion

Speaking of geography, new startups are emerging in Spain, Europe, and other markets building on the proven models of companies tested in the United States. For instance, while we have Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grub Hub, Spain, North Africa, and even South Africa have Glovo. 

This attracts VC money because new companies are taking proven concepts into a new market ripe for innovation. 

No-Code App Builders

First, you needed to have a website. Then a social media presence. Then both, plus a robust email list. But now if possible, you need to have an app. Notoriously app development has been expensive, but recently startups and companies like Zapier have made it possible for nearly anyone to develop an app without writing a single line of code. 

In other words, they have developed apps designed to develop apps. This is by no means a saturated space, and the development of more complex builders that can use AI to intuitively create usable and updateable applications affordably will continue to trend in 2021. 

The demand for apps won’t slow anytime soon, and apps that create apps free up developers for more complex (and profitable) tasks. 

The Simple Website for Everyone

Wait, we already have these, right? Well, sort of, but Google is always moving the needle, and the new Google Core Web Vitals coming soon has WYSWIG editors and site builders on edge. But new startups are emerging with real solutions. Swipe lets you create beautiful, simple, responsive, and simple landing pages without knowing a single code command. 

Other builders similar to Webflow are emerging as well, and offer things like hosting services, email, and more all in one package. Many email list management programs and CRMs are taking similar approaches and offering an all-in-one that appeals to businesses small and large. 

The Sharing Economy

Lest we think the sharing economy has somehow reached a peak, think again. Even Airbnb has recovered from 2020 nicely despite travel restrictions, but people are finding they have more to share than just their homes. 

For example, a startup called Cloud Kitchens offers innovative kitchen sharing for delivery-only restaurants, an emerging trend in 2020 that will likely continue into 2021. Ordering in has become much more popular than the night out, and these kitchens are a creative, sharing answer. 

From sharing cars and homes to sharing bikes, recreational equipment, and more, the sharing economy is just getting started. 

Delivery and Takeout

Speaking of delivery and takeout, the age of the food truck has returned in whole new ways. Restaurants are popping up in those little drive-through coffee kiosks, nixing the dining room in favor of take out options. 

Restaurants have adapted to delivery only models as well. Getting food to go or delivered, as mentioned above, is a huge trend, and restaurants are finding ways to stay in business by changing menus to items that survive a 20-minute drive in the passenger seat of a Toyota well. 

This trend will fuel the new “date night at home” movement triggered by 2020 and will be a trend to watch in 2021.

Telemedicine

Medicine at a distance has always been possible, and even needed in rural areas, but 2020 pushed innovation in the space. Part of the reason is that insurance companies were finally on board. This has made room for new startups to enter the now viable field. 

And companies like Lensabl are ready. The online eyewear company offers an eye exam in a box, you can choose frames online, and they can even find you frames to fit your old lenses or make new lenses to fit your current frame. Cologaurd offers at-home testing for prostate cancer, and there are other at-home tests as well. 

It’s this type of innovation that will spur the next generation of telemedicine and testing at a distance. The revolution has just begun.

Conclusion

Many startups in emerging industries have been given new life in 2020 and will continue to thrive in 2021. Whether you are a startup or looking for investments, these will be trends to watch in the new year.