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Mary Meeker predicts how Covid will affect tech

Published Apr 21, 2020

The famous VC explains how “digital efficiency” will speed up. And that work and life will get forcefully re-balanced.

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In normal times, the tech community might look for Mary Meeker’s internet predictions in early summer. But Meeker, the venture capitalist and long-running trendspotter nicknamed Queen of the Internet, published a note early this year. And it’s not her usual prognosticating. It’s a deep dive into an urgent topic, how coronavirus affects the economy and tech. 

Comparing coronavirus to the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, she reviews the ripple effects of the world’s most recent 100 days, since coronavirus was first detected outside China.  

Early winners: enablers of remote work

First, she gives an overview of Covid-19’s initial winners and losers. An early leader: Zoom and its video conferencing technology; Zoom saw daily meeting participants rise from 10 million to 200 million in just three months. More frontrunners: messaging and collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, which have made themselves indispensable to the real winner of the coronavirus pandemic so far: remote work.

Digital transformation picks up speed

Then, her main thesis: Covid-19 accelerates digital transformation. Trends that were already underway take a giant leap forward, as the world shifts from offline to online life. Companies that will fare the best during and after the crisis? Those selling products that make other companies more “digitally efficient.” Also those that step up efficiency of sales and distribution with limited human contact. 

The virus has exposed some unfortunate aspects of American healthcare, namely that it hasn’t changed much since the Spanish flu of 1918. But now is the time for tech companies to help fix that — and fast — as automation and AI can improve just about every step in the patient journey. “Automation will continue to make inroads in health care to reduce workload and improve the quality of data capture,” she writes. “Applied / vertical intelligence is just beginning to be paired with abundant EHR data to drive the right insights to providers at the right time.”

Play every day — online

As work shifts entirely online, so does our entertainment, and Meeker singles out more winners of the crisis so far: Video game streaming service Twitch hit record usage levels in March, with 4.3 million daily active users. Other streaming services have seen the same. Beyond video games, more creative uses of the platforms have also been catching on. “Humans will find ways to compete in any world (offline or online),” she writes, “and the more playful it is the better.”

Coronavirus does not mean that all is lost, even if the world stands at the brink of a long downturn. She ends the report on a hopeful note, explaining that, after her new firm, Bond, conducted an informal survey of tech CEOs, many of them reported high productivity among their remote teams, and the flexibility to skip the commute and eat more meals with family was welcomed. Long-term effects of the Covid crisis? The months at home could “bolster family connectedness / seriousness of purpose / community / faith?” Perhaps we will emerge, she speculates, a “more united people and world.”

+ Images here from BOND report, first published by Axios, April 17, 2020.

By Jess McCuan

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