When the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of uncertainties followed. People all over the world were subjected to isolation. Schools were closed, sporting events were brought to a halt, the entertainment industry became silent, a lot of companies went on break, and the economy of many nations spiralled downwards.
It is safe to say that the reality of coronavirus made the world go in search of a new way of doing things which have gone on to be tagged the ‘new normal’. Jobs were destroyed, sales dropped, lives were lost and a dark shadow was cast over the global atmosphere. These devastating effects notwithstanding, some individuals and businesses just won’t give in.
Resisting defeat, they sought means to stay afloat even in the unfriendly economy. Call them innovators or capitalist evolutionists, they made a mark this year. That said, let’s look at the biggest disruptors during the covid time.
The migration to online shopping this year was dramatic and necessary. The coronavirus may have kept people at home but it didn’t stop people from getting hungry, needing home supplies and other items. Given this reality, most people started embracing online payments as they ordered goods and services from across the world.
Built in 2010 by Patrick and John Collison, this digital payment processor would go on to enjoy what will go down as one of it’s best years since inception. Online payments – thanks to ecommerce which boomed in that time – allowed the payment giant to demonstrate to the world just what it is capable of doing. Stripe’s value put at $36 billion is a testimony of its prowess.
Not all places on the globe are accessible by road but even these places need critical medical supplies among others. This was perhaps what Keller Rinaudo (CEO), Keenan Wyrobek, and William Hetzler thought about before setting out to create Zipline in 2014.
This USA-based company uses drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to deliver essential medical supplies across locations in Rwanda and Ghana that are largely inaccessible by land. During the lockdown, Zipline used their drones to transport COVID-19 test samples, kits, and drug supplements within the region. It would be the first time any such thing happened in the region.
A doctor would order for medical supplies from Zipline. Shortly afterwards, the company’s drone would fly to the medical facility from which the order came, and gently drop the requested items with the help of a small parachute. This innovation would capture the attention of governments, big pharmaceutical companies and allied logistics firms who went on to partner with Zipline to serve the people and make money in the process. Valued at $1.2 billion and growing steadily, the company doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.
The cravings for contactless real estate deals became a reality when the coronavirus disease kept people grounded in their homes for weeks and months. Established 5 years ago in California, USA, Rentberry was built to automate the entire process of property rentals from start to finish.
At Rentberry, landlords and property managers list their properties and digitally perform tenant screening and even collect their rent online. On the other side, tenants are able to make custom offers, sign legally binding lease agreements digitally and pay rent online, removing the need for in person visits.
It is no wonder that people who use their platform like to call it the ‘eBay for renting’. Rentberry has continued to expand their presence in the rental market space by integrating interactive 360° videos and virtual tours into their platform. This allows renters to view places they are interested in without leaving having to leave their home.
This platform has been around for several years and has enjoyed patronage from knowledge seekers for almost a decade. Beloved by many, Coursera would only become more popular shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19. From math to social sciences, Coursera parades over 3000 online courses from more than 190 tertiary institutions.
Now this is where it gets interesting. These courses are cheaper to study online than on campus. Again, they can be studied remotely and safely. It is therefore no surprise that people naturally drifted towards Coursera and related platforms such as Udemy when the pandemic struck.
It’s valued at $1.6 billion and from all indications will only grow. Needless to mention, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller must be proud of the Coursera vision they had 8 years ago and how far it has come. As anyone would expect, more people will embrace online education after COVID-19 is totally defeated and this will be good news for Coursera and other disruptors in that class.
In conclusion, we cannot really overemphasize the importance of innovation in business. The power of technology when brilliantly used makes everything simpler and easier. Simplicity and ease often eventually translate to more money for both businesses and their patrons. For companies that dared to be different or who were already positioned for success, the lockdown was actually a great time to be in business.