Covid-19 Has Reshaped The Healthcare Startup Space

While healthcare technology has been an attractive space for investors and entrepreneurs over the last decade, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed in many ways how we think about healthcare. It brought to light the need for accessible remote medicine and the need for quick and reliable testing.

Startups in the space now face an altered landscape, complete with new trends and new opportunities. Here’s a look at three recent healthcare technology startups that have either launched or pivoted to take advantage of pandemic-driven trends.

Kry goes global

Before the pandemic, healthcare companies spent years trying to push telehealth as the next evolution of healthcare delivery. While in some markets they began to succeed, in big healthcare markets like the US, it never gained significant traction. Despite efforts to drive adoption, the use of telehealth services by patients in the US had only reached 28% by 2019, even though it’s a more cost effective option.

However, the pandemic reversed these trends. Due to social distancing and quarantine rules, millions of Americans turned to telehealth for the first time. This created new opportunities. One company, Swedish telehealth startup Kry, took notice and made a pivot by launching a free online health consultation app called Livi Connect, which offered Americans on demand telehealth services.

The gambit worked and Kry saw its usage double throughout the pandemic, leading to a Series D cash infusion this April. Their experience points to a new opening for telehealth startups in the US, which should be able to capitalize on the growing acceptance of the technology. With estimates that the market that will be worth $298.9 billion by 2028, there is still opportunity for new entrants.

Happy Seniors meets senior care challenges

Among the hardest hit during the pandemic were senior care facilities. As home to the elder who were most vulnerable to the virus, they were ground zero for its spread, and the pandemic uncovered some serious deficiencies in how many of those facilities were run.

One of the lingering effects of the crisis in the senior care industry is what experts are calling a “pandemic of despair” among residents, where they continue to face psychological trauma from the virus. It’s a problem that a startup called Happy Seniors aims to solve.

The startup is working to combat loneliness among seniors by implementing direct messaging between caregivers and family members, and a one-tap solution for ordering special gifts for delivery right to their loved one’s door.

In addition, they’ve built a digital management platform that helps senior care facility managers gain unprecedented insight into their operations. The system enables seamless communication among staff members, solicits and tracks feedback from residents, and alerts managers to operational difficulties before they get serious.

Happy Seniors CEO Alex Bubnov says, “COVID dramatically impacted senior citizens and their loved ones, as there were no dedicated tools or products that could help seniors stay connected to their family. Many seniors were just by themselves during these difficult times. With Happy Seniors, family members will be able to stay in touch with their senior relatives 24/7 and remain an essential part of their social lives. The platform is designed to help alleviate loneliness and isolation for seniors in addition to keeping and improving the connection to old friends and family members.”

Happy Seniors reflects a burgeoning trend to modernize the senior care space. In a market worth around $740 billion, there are ripe opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Ava joins Covid-19 surveillance efforts

Early on in the pandemic, one of the great challenges facing public health experts was finding ways to track and measure the spread of Covid-19 among the general population. While there was still a shortage of PCR testing available to help, a variety of medical device manufacturers looked to fill the void. One of them was Ava, a female fertility-focused wearable device startup.

Their flagship product, which is a bracelet designed to track fertility cycles, recently went into clinical trials to test its ability to detect pre-symptomatic cases of Covid-19 using machine learning algorithms. In early tests, the device was 71% effective at spotting infections, which is already better than many of the rapid antigen tests in regular use today.

Ava’s foray into Covid-19 detection models reflects that device manufacturers see an opening and demand for at-home diagnostics, even when it’s not their primary focus. It’s one of the reasons why Apple tested turning its watch into a mobile EKG machine even before the pandemic.

Wearables already have much higher penetration rates than conventional at-home diagnostic products and companies, and nimble startups in the space can take advantage of that.

The bottom line

The pandemic opened doors in the healthcare space and accelerated already existing trends. Smart entrepreneurs can find opportunities to capitalize on this, and more importantly, improve healthcare outcomes.

10 Emerging Business Opportunities In The Internet Of Things Sector

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been gaining more and more traction over the past few years as connected devices and smart home and office gadgets dominate the market. According to Statista, the IoT market revenue worldwide is projected to climb to over one trillion dollars by 2030.

With this increased revenue comes a number of new ways for businesses to leverage IoT technology. Below, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members shared some business opportunities they see emerging in the IoT sector. Keep an eye out for these 11 growing trends in the B2B IoT space.

1. Voice-Powered Technologies

With the growing popularity of IoT devices, the interaction of business with customers is also changing. Take for instance Siri, Alexa and Cortana — who are advanced voice technologies — to perform countless searches as the customer orders. This one area of IoT is going to expand gigantically in the future. So, the tech-savvy business is in a role to grab this opportunity. This voice technology is also going to end the role of customer representatives and virtual assistants. These automated voice technologies can be used to improve customer service, create a high, end-to-end experience and give more efficiency. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

2. Retail Data Tracking And Analysis

Recent technological advancements have opened the door to IoT. Your watch, smart speaker and digital thermostat are all connected and the data they acquire can be used to improve your business. Because of the ubiquity of these devices, they can easily be leveraged to provide data from the world of retail. Tracking customer behavior within brick and mortar establishments can become invaluable for business owners. Data can be received from the cash register, store cameras and mobile customer apps and then integrated to form solutions for customer service. For example, if the data indicates peak levels of customer activity at certain times of the day or week, you can use this information to optimize your staffing needs or prepare your inventory accordingly. – Brian Greenberg, True Blue Life Insurance

3. Cybersecurity

Every endpoint that is connected to the internet is exposed to increased risk and vulnerability. There are many new niche cyber companies emerging and they all claim to protect you and your business in the best way. Choosing the right cyber firm is like “merging houses with someone,” so finding that right provider within all these emerging new businesses will be key for any business. From that, industries such as insurance are adjacent. More and more businesses look to insure their cyber exposure, which comes at a cost. Coverage is very quickly increasing and becoming more selective. These are industries that we’ll see growth in the near future. – Fabi Hubschmid, Markaaz

4. Internet Telephony

I work in the office communication space and the office desk telephone has become a super versatile communications hub. To even call some of these devices desk phones or hard phones no longer seems appropriate because making phone calls is only one out of hundreds of features that these phones provide. In the near future, I see even more engagement on that front, where proactive use of social media based on location and proximity will trigger marketers and representatives to engage before there are questions and problems. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

5. Real Estate

With e-commerce booming, there are lots of opportunities to invest in industrial buildings. However, many investors are unaware of what most industrial businesses need. If you want to invest, make sure the building has adequate IoT devices. I own an e-commerce business and my building has automated management of inventory. We have IoT sensors and RFId tags installed in inventory systems. We also have smart shelves and temperature-monitoring sensors. These devices have made a significant difference in streamlining our business infrastructure and in the value of the building itself. Anyone looking for new business opportunities could find many opportunities in the real estate side of the IoT boom. – Shu Saito, All Filters

6. Seasonal Retail

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more people using their IoT devices to do seasonal shopping this year. More consumers own smart speakers than ever before and most people already use them for shopping. As operating systems refine their voice search software, we will see more people use this technology to shop for loved ones. This will create new jobs for SEO specialists, e-commerce marketing experts and much more. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

7. Patient Health Monitoring

Patient monitoring in healthcare will emerge. The ability to monitor a patient without them having to come into the office or hospital will surely cut down on overall costs and improve quality of care since in most cases, it can be done in real-time. This is already being done to a certain extent but you’ll likely see an expansion of it, considering its potential. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

8. Virtual Medical Care

The use of IoT in the health sector is worth mentioning because medical services are using it to offer medical care at a distance. So now it’s possible to perform operations or monitor the health condition of patients from remote places, even when the doctor isn’t present physically with the patient. In a way, the use of IoT in medical services has revolutionized the way the health care system works. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

9. Inventory Management

IoT can play a significant role in improving the inventory management of retail companies. Storing and tracking goods is one of the most expensive tasks there is in running an e-commerce or physical retail store. IoT devices can track when a stock is down and automatically send an order for replacements. This creates efficiency, saves space and also lowers expenses. The savings are reflected in the final price the customer pays without reducing profits. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

10. Senior Care

I think that an important area where IoT can be applied is in looking after the elderly and other people who need care. IoT devices can be used to ensure that they have all their needs related to food and other articles kept in stock without ever running out. Such devices can also help with security and monitoring the health and wellness of people who struggle to care for themselves. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

Planning For The World Of Hybrid Work

As the boundaries between work and home continue to blur, companies are contemplating a range of models to keep teams engaged. While a growing number of organizations are bringing employees back to the office after more than a year at home, others have decided to continue to allow people to work remotely. Then there are hybrid scenarios—a new way of working to support the future of work that was in place long before the pandemic—that continue to give workers the continued flexibility they crave balanced with the need for in-person collaboration and connection. It’s a real-time opportunity for companies to learn how to foster a culture that’s remote and high-touch all at once.

Sustaining organizational culture has never been more challenging. People have felt isolated, and the lack of impromptu interactions means the chance to integrate and generate ideas must take on a different flavor. Yet the pandemic has also served as a road test for the policies and technology advancements and investments that have made collaborative work possible without face-to-face interaction. Our Deloitte analysis shows that at least 100 digital remote collaboration tools were released to market or enhanced in the first eight months of 2020, and according to a recent Return to Workplaces survey of 275 executives, 68% expect to implement a hybrid model of working between physical and virtual work.

When people aren’t sharing physical space, they still need effective ways to work together. In transitioning to hybrid working, leaders cannot lose sight of the value of high-touch collaboration, and there are practical, attainable ways to prepare teams and organizations for this shift.

Create work environments that promote collaboration

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends survey shows that executives clearly see a future where multiple scenarios—including those involving both in office and remote work—are the norm. Nearly half of respondents (47%) said that their organizations planned to focus on multiple scenarios in the future, up from 23% before the pandemic. One way business leaders are doing this is by creating immersive environments where teams can collaborate effectively at a distance. For instance, there’s an emerging category of tools that aims to enable workers to connect, share experiences, and participate in simulated real-life scenarios using augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies. In such platforms, users encounter a 3D-shared environment where they can see representations of themselves and colleagues and conduct meetings.

Companies that have made investments in such technologies stand to emerge stronger in the post-pandemic recovery: 76% of executives who said their organizations had done very well at embedding advanced technologies into core business strategies to become more agile, also said they are weathering the events of 2020 better than their peers, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

In a hybrid work model, physical spaces are being reimagined to foster better collaboration and achieve outcomes otherwise challenging in a fully virtual environment. For example, office spaces are transforming to accommodate smaller office footprints, while emphasizing spaces that are geared toward networking and culture-building. This can be achieved by campus-style hubs and an emphasis on training space, where colleagues can get together and individual spaces or offices become team spaces.

The need to support high-touch collaboration for remote workers will remain even as numbers of workers return to in-person and hybrid work models. This will require much greater flexibility in workplace planning—the process of identifying and filling predicted gaps in supply and demand for an organization’s key talent—not to mention new opportunities for workers to achieve work-life integration.

Gaining ground: New skills for the workplace

Remote and hybrid environments have enabled organizations to engage with workers on far more flexible terms. The 2021 Deloitte Global Resilience Report showed that nearly three-quarters (72%) of organizations that had implemented processes to easily redeploy people to different roles leading up to 2020 were better equipped to weather the circumstances of the pandemic.

In the survey of more than 2,200 C-suite executives, which examined how they’re managing this “new normal,” we asked whether they had already implemented or were planning to put in place a number of actions or programs to make their workforces more adaptable. That included implementing processes to easily redeploy workers to other roles or projects, offering training or rotational programs to enable reskilling, and providing workers with flexible work options.

Notably, adaptability was the workforce trait executives said was most critical to their organizations’ futures (54% of respondents). Technology savvy came in second with 40% of senior leaders saying it was the most important workforce trait.

Remote and hybrid work environments are enabling organizations to engage with workers on far more flexible terms. Whether your organization returns to pre-pandemic norms or looks dramatically different after the crisis, you can be assured the motivations of your stakeholders have changed. Consider how the following can help your company adapt to the shift to hybrid work:

  • Introducing new digital collaboration platforms
  • Allowing for more flexibility in how and where work gets done
  • Setting new scheduling and meeting norms
  • Identifying leadership and talent gaps that are standing in the way of hybrid work and activating a plan to address them
  • Ensuring well-being is included in the design of virtual workspaces (e.g., apps to increase mindfulness or master distractions)

The global recovery that began taking shape in the first half of 2021 has laid the groundwork for a dynamic second half of the year. Companies that listen to their employees’ needs and build balanced, hybrid work environments can be better positioned to break down siloes between physical and remote workplaces, meet market demands, and retain talent. A focus on integration and collaboration, while leading with head and heart, can allow leaders to navigate a new world of work that may be here to stay, long after the masks come off.

Building An Oat Milk And Coffee Brand With Funk And The Planet In Mind

Oat milk has become one of the go-to alternative milks in the market, with over $200 million in sales last year. It edged out soy and sits in the #2 slot.

UK-based Minor Figures is hoping to take a piece of that pie with their barista-style oat milk, which comes in some quirky packaging representative of the brand’s CEO and core team.

“I think people would look at me and think I’m a bit odd. And that’s OK,” jokes Stuart Forsythe, an Australian entrepreneur who was one of the co-founders of the popular KeepCup before venturing into the world of oat milk.

Aside from Minor Figures’ fun, whimsical branding, the company is keen on taking a more eco-forward approach. Given Forsythe’s background with the KeepCup, which was designed to reduce waste in coffee shops, it’s not a surprise.

That’s why Minor Figures is in the process of becoming a B Corporation, has decided to invest in carbon offsets to be carbon neutral, and is offering an organic oat milk product (in addition to its conventional offering for more cost-conscious customers).

The oats, which are procured from a variety of suppliers throughout Europe, have historically been processed in the UK and Australia for the respective markets. Now, as they expand across the US, they’re hoping to manufacture closer to their customers here in America.

Building this global brand has taken time though. Forsythe, and his brother and sister, spent years building KeepCup, slowly taking it from Australia to the European market. That gave them an opportunity to spend a fair bit of time in the specialty coffee industry, learning its ways.

When Forsythe arrived in London in the late 2000s, he recalls that the specialty coffee scene was very small: you could probably count the number of specialty coffee shops on your hands, he says. Since then, London’s specialty coffee industry has exploded — and in recent years, so has the demand for alternative milks. Interestingly, Forsythe started Minor Figures in 2014 with co-founders Jonathan Chiu and Will Rixon to sell cold brew coffee, not necessarily oat milk (though that’s what they’re becoming synonymous with nowadays).

Working with Raw Material, a London-based social enterprise, they sourced premium coffees for their ready-to-drink cold brew. Raw Material, which works much like a middleman or trader in specialty coffee, pledges to put all its profits back into the coffee farming community. Forsythe chose to work with the group, he says, because they felt it was a better option than Fair Trade, putting more money into producers’ hands and streamlining the sourcing process for them in London.

For nearly 5 years, Minor Figures grew slowly, with its profits going back into the business, and raising small amounts of capital from family and friends. Only recently did the company take on an investor —- who happened to drink a coffee with their oat milk at a cafe in New York. “He got in touch with us, said he wanted to learn more, and was shortly thereafter in London. It was not at all planned.”

With about $10 million in investment, the company was ready to broaden its reach and make a bigger push on its oat milk, not coffee this time. And then the pandemic hit in 2020: with most coffee shops shut, Minor Figures had to focus on online sales and grocery stores instead of cafes.

“That was a really hard time. We all took on additional roles in the company, juggling different responsibilities. No one was sure about their jobs. But we survived. And now looking back, we’ve built a pretty resilient team,” Forsythe says.

In the process, they continued their journey towards becoming a B Corp and are now carbon neutral through carbon offsets, which Forsythe assures are of gold-standard. In fact, they invited consumers to help them decide which projects to support through an informal survey on their blog — all of which have to do with the coffee community in some shape or another.

“Overall, I think businesses are responsible for doing something about climate changes. We can’t just put that responsibility on consumers. We have to do something as well, and lead the way.”

Oat milk has been documented as one of the more eco-friendly alternative milks on the shelf — it takes less water than almonds, is easier to source, and can appeal to a wider base of consumers (given soy and nut allergies). Traditional dairy, Forsythe says, is more of a “zombie” industry, “supported by governments.” And with Gen Z and Millennials pushing for plant-based diets, he sees alternative milks as the path forward.

Unlike other oat-based offerings that have several gums and binders, Minor Figures has tried to keep their formulation simpler: water, oats, oil, and salt primarily. Designed with coffee in mind, Forsythe says they wanted something that would enhance the flavor of coffee, not alter it.

Nevertheless, the oat milk market is competitive and crowded at the moment. So Minor Figures has chosen to stand out with some unusual branding: instead of the go-get it and hustle culture, each of their items — either on the oat milk box or on the ready-to-drink cans— features a drawing partaking in more laid back activities: having a coffee, blowing bubbles, skateboarding. Forsythe says that their social media looks like “a friend’s feed. It’s not all branded out and pretty.”

Despite embracing a slower, easy-going vibe, the company does have some ambitious goals, one of which is to get to carbon zero by negating emissions. “Offsetting, we realize, is not perfect.”

But being bullish on the environment is not just a moral stance, he says. “It’s critical for business in the future.”

It might seem like a lofty target for a global company which ships around goods. But Forsythe says that he likes to live by advice given to him by his mom: “Bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like hell.”

Nonprofit Impact Fund’s Next Move: A For-Profit Spinoff

Back in 2009, Eva Yazhari co-founded Beyond Capital Fund, a nonprofit impact fund aimed at supporting companies serving bottom-of-the-pyramid customers in emerging markets. But that nonprofit status limited the fund’s ability to expand. With that in mind, last year, she formed a spin-off that’s a for-profit, called Beyond Capital Ventures, also focused on India and Africa. It’s about to make its first investments.

Like the first fund, the new one invests in companies in which, says Yazahari, “The impact is baked into the business model, with the ability to scale.” It focuses on health care, financial inclusion and agriculture.


Yazhari worked for about five years on Wall Street. But after the financial crisis, she decided do something more meaningful, that tapped into her passion for social justice. She already had deep family ties to Africa; her grandfather had moved his family and opened a health clinic in rural Tanzania in the 1960’s. So in 2009, she co-founded Beyond Capital Fund, with a focus on India and East Arica, specifically Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. She set it up to be what she calls a nonprofit “evergreen” fund making early-stage investments in startups with a financial and social impact; when profits from investments were returned, they were re-invested into new businesses.

Since then, the fund mas made 14 investments; thus far, there have been three exits of companies in eye care, sanitation and agriculture, with what Yazhari describes as, “strong top quartile venture returns and impact.”

Seed and Series A

Then, in early 2020, right before the pandemic hit, she decided she needed to form a for-profit fund. That’s because, according to Yazhari, the nonprofit model was constraining growth. That is, the original fund was unable to grow beyond “single digit million” in size, with a pilot portfolio of about $1 million. “Philanthropy has limits, donors often have very specific sector or geographic focuses, others are unwilling to get involved with grants below $1 million,” she says. With that in mind, for 19 months, she worked on raising a second fund with the goal of reaching $30 million.

Unlike the first fund, this one will target more broadly defined low-income and under-served markets, emphasizing areas like lack of access to women’s healthcare or creating pathways for smallholder farmers to get their produce from the farm to the market and receive better pricing. “We’ve seen these areas to be tremendous in terms of the opportunities they present to investors,” says Yazhari. Investments will be in the same countries as before, except for Tanzania, because, according to Yazhari, government regulations make equity investments more costly and difficult there.

Another difference: the new fund will include both seed and Series A rounds, so Beyond Capital will be able to follow on with later money. That means larger check sizes—investments were around $50,000 and now will be $250,000 to $700,000 for seed funding and $400,000 to $1.1 million for Series A—and the ability to be a lead investor. The plan is to fund 21 businesses, about 15 in seed stage. About 70% of those will also probably receives Series A funding. Companies will be sourced from over 100 places, such as accelerators and business plan competitions.

A Stake for Founders

The overall approach is to be collaborative. “It’s not, we’re going to give you money and you have to do what we say,” she says. One important element: Founders will get a portion of a 5% to 10% stake in fund profits when they reach the Series A stage, what Yazhari calls “equitable ventures”. That’s because the for-profit status will provide a larger pool of capital that can be allocated to founders.

Most important is investing in founders who are what Yazhari calls “conscious leaders,” meaning those focused on the full gamut of stakeholders. “They’re the key ingredient to impact investing,” she says.

First investments will be announced soon. Also, a number of companies from the first fund could receive additional money from the second.

As a potential example, Yazhari cites women’s health startup Kasha, based in Kenya and Rwanda, that provides access to products ranging from contraceptives to soaps and lotion. Kasha also employs local women to sell its products and earn a sustainable livelihood. The nonprofit fund contributed $60,000 in 2018 in a seed round; Kasha has gone on to raise what Yazhari calls a “sizeable” Series A.

Breaking Down The Barriers Preventing Millions From Investing In Companies That Do Good

In the age of sustainability impact investing and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), the non-financial factors that investors apply to identify material risks and growth opportunities, have become buzz terms. But not for everyone. According to research from new investment fund manager DUGUUD, this industry jargon leaves many people mystified and this is holding them back from investing in businesses that help the environment and society.

The survey of 3,000 adults found that just 10% were aware of the term impact investing and could explain it, yet when it was explained to them 60% agreed that it could create positive change in the environment and society. And three times more people agreed than disagreed that if they had funds to invest, they would want to invest in this area.

“It’s time for the whole financial services industry to ditch terms like impact investing and ESG and to start talking in a language everyone can understand,” says DUGUUD’s CEO and serial entrepreneur David Scrivens.

DUGUUD, the trading name of Amberside Capital, is an FCA-regulated fund manager launched this month, with a focus on climate change, increasing biodiversity, improving public health, reducing inequality, and improving education. It was born out of a need to create a platform that allows the general public to invest in companies that make a genuine and positive difference to the world.

“It is difficult and costly to create a fund that’s open to the public, and it takes a lot of marketing spend to reach them,” says Scrivens. “Most fund managers get institutional investors, such as pension funds, to meet the minimum investment level required to launch a fund, but this route is often to the exclusion of the general public.”

The research also revealed a significant level of cynicism, with 58% of respondents of the opinion that most businesses claiming to be doing good are actually spending more time and money marketing their environmental and societal intentions than on taking tangible actions. Two-thirds (67%) also agreed that there are now so many businesses claiming to run their business in a way that is better for the environment and society that they find it difficult to trust the real impact of most of their claims.

“It is extremely difficult to prove environmental and social change, and comparing organizations is also tricky,” says Scrivens. “There is no easy solution to this without government intervention to create tools for measuring impact.”

However, he insists that DUGUUD will not allow the companies it invests in to focus on just the one area of good they may be doing, but will hold them to account for all aspects of their business. They will also show investors tangible examples of what companies are doing, for example, how the company has moved to greener energy, not just by paying an electricity supplier to certify that they are getting green energy when it just comes through the grid, but by building additional green energy generation.

The team has already invested in several projects, including £17 million in Sterling Suffolk, which produces tomatoes in what has been dubbed ‘Europe’s cleverest greenhouse’. The semi-closed hydroponic glasshouse is considered 25% more energy efficient than a traditional one and allows for greater carbon absorption, and potentially creates better-tasting crops.

Wildanet is a Cornwall-based fiber company aiming to bring much-needed high-speed internet to rural communities in the region to improve digital inclusion. DUGUUD has raised the company around £50 million to help them achieve this goal.

Other investments include Virti, which trains medical staff remotely using virtual reality, and which has been incredibly valuable during the pandemic, and Ateria Health, which has developed a way to improve gut bacteria in humans that could help with common issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Another key finding of the research was that 67% of adults who were asked about investing would expect independent financial advisors (IFAs) to understand this area and supply options as part of the funds they discuss with customers, while 59% would also expect any pension provider to consider these kinds of investments in how they manage, invest and report on the pension fund.

This highlights the role that IFAs and pension firms have to play in creating more clarity for their clients around investing for positive change. “We believe that all professionals should be helping to spread the word about investing to make an improvement for society, and we aim to work with as many of them as possible,” says Scrivens.

Looking ahead, the plan is to create a fund that draws on the investment team’s infrastructure experience to make larger environmental and social projects come to fruition, and to launch a science-based fund focused on investment in technologies that can make a huge difference to the planet or society, but preferably both.

Scrivens adds: “We are also considering whether to offer a small part of our own company for individuals to invest in so that people can join us on our journey to make a real positive difference and help more companies that do good get the investment they need.”

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Tap Into Mobile Technology’s Potential

There are 3.8 billion smartphones in the world, meaning just shy of 50% of the global population has access to a powerful mobile device. These devices make up more than half of all web traffic and video views, and in the U.S., adults spend an average of four hours a day on their mobile devices. With this kind of user engagement, it’s no surprise that mobile is the platform driving many business innovations. Entrepreneurs in all industries should remember that the future is mobile.

Are you looking to improve your marketing, for example? Meet users on their mobile devices. Email marketing is often held up as the gold standard, but data shows text messaging has major advantages. Research indicates that texts have a 98% open rate compared to email’s 20%, and the 45% response rate of text is miles ahead of email’s 6%. Data also highlights how consumers use their devices while shopping in physical stores, as nearly 70% of shoppers prefer using their phones to answer questions over asking an employee.

Marketing and retail aren’t the only industries mobile is taking over, though. Telehealth is an increasingly popular subset of healthcare for convenience and safety reasons, and patients are leaning on their mobile devices to stay in touch with providers. Around 70% of patients want the option to communicate with providers via text, and messaging services can increase patient satisfaction by up to 96%.

As mobile’s considerable capabilities continue to improve in all segments, it’s vital that entrepreneurs incorporate mobile technology into their interactions with customers. There are so many ways to embrace mobile, and these four innovations are good places to start:

1. Protect consumers.

Mobile devices offer a wealth of information about user behavior. And while many companies use this information to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns, it can also be used to protect consumers. Here’s just one example shared by Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. business at “Regulating mobile gambling and sports betting will protect consumers against offshore operators who don’t need to follow any laws and raise capital to fund problem gambling programs. With mobile, operators can easily monitor customer behaviors when they are in a mobile app, providing a more responsible gambling experience while promoting better business practices for all parties.”

Entrepreneurs in all industries can learn from this example and use mobile platforms to look after consumers’ well-being. Retailers could send text messages to customers to confirm large purchases, for instance, or fitness centers might send reminders to users about making the most of their membership before it expires. No matter what steps you take, however, it’s vital to adhere to state and federal regulations regarding mobile communication and acquire customer consent beforehand.

2. Keep physical spaces clean.

Masahiro Hara invented QR codes in 1994, and by the aughts, they were a marketing staple. Unfortunately, consumers never took to them quite like marketers did, and by 2012, they were already being called a fad. That all changed when germs became public enemy No. 1 and consumers began to prefer digital interactions over physical ones.

Jared Isaacman, CEO at Shift4 Payments, explains: “[Before the pandemic, QR code-based payments] never really took off. Throughout the pandemic, we obviously saw people pulling up menus with their phones. But then they’re also paying via QR codes. They’re even ordering with QR codes. I think some of that is here to stay because it’s just convenient.” It’s convenient, but it also reflects the touchless future. Each time your business removes a physical touchpoint, you remove a means for disease transmission and offer a more seamless experience—and customers will notice.

3. Offer cashless payments.

At the onset of the pandemic, 92% of small businesses added contactless payment options. Even as vaccinations become more widespread, consumers will continue to look for these options, and entrepreneurs across industries will need to provide them. Cashless payment is safer because it reduces the spread of germs, of course, but it also has other advantages.

When you accept cashless payments, you can process more customers through fewer checkout lanes. Research also indicates that cash transactions are four to five times slower than card payments, and some data shows that contactless payment can be as much as 10 times faster than other methods. By accepting payment via mobile devices, you’re also ensuring that customers never pass your business by because they forgot their wallet or need to reload a debit card. Plus, mobile payments carry additional data about user habits and preferences that can be useful to your marketing team.

4. Transform the shopping experience.

The pandemic devastated many in-person retail establishments, and the ones that survived will need to deliver a superlative experience to reestablish themselves. In a recent report, 76% of consumers said they wanted access to personalized in-store experiences via their mobile devices. Entrepreneurs in retail must meet this demand by using mobile to help customers find, research, and compare items. This will also help them try on products virtually, share images with friends, and more.

One of the most well-known examples of this is Warby Parker. The company revolutionized the retail eyewear industry by allowing people to try on glasses virtually on their phones, ship the glasses to their homes, or visit a brick-and-mortar store.

As emerging mobile components transform retail, however, it’s crucial for stores to preserve privacy. More than 32% of consumers wouldn’t trade data security for a better experience, so entrepreneurs will need to prioritize both to appeal to as many customers as possible.

Mobile technology has a lot to offer consumers, which means it also has vast potential for entrepreneurs who find innovative ways to incorporate it into their businesses. To start tapping into mobile’s potential, look at the four use cases above—but don’t stop there. Mobile technology has something unique to offer every business, and yours is no different.

Maximize Your Website Content With These 4 Strategies

It’s well-understood that beautiful website design is a must-have for businesses operating in the digital space—which is virtually every business today. With a single visit to your website, you want customers to be able to make purchases or book appointments with ease, as well as clearly view your branding.

While having an attractive website with great usability is certainly a necessity, many businesses fail to take advantage of website content to further enhance their digital relevance. That’s unfortunate because the content has the power to draw in and retain new customers.

Not all content has that power, though. There’s more to it than slapping together a 500-word article and posting it on your site. Content that can achieve your customer acquisition and retention goals does so through a combination of SEO practices, branding and a concerted effort to help those customers. Here are four ways to maximize your website content so it can reach its audience-engaging potential:

1. Know Your Mission
What are the words you want people to associate with your brand? Content can help you mold the way your brand is viewed by the public. Customers can read blog posts and long-form content to familiarize themselves with your brand and make their own judgments.

Keywords, or the words you select to represent your brand, can be sprinkled throughout the content you produce. That way, when internet users enter those terms and phrases into Google, your brand will pop up.

Building your brand through SEO-inspired content is much easier when you have a mission that you can share with your customers. Take The North Face, for example. The company sells outdoor clothing and gear, but they also integrate their mission to protect the environment into their brand. On the company’s website, you can find content related to their sustainability efforts and what you can do to support the cause.

The North Face uses specific keywords to target consumers who share a similar mission. Sustainability, recycling and “responsibly sourced” are some examples of terms this brand uses to connect with its image through content.

2. Keep It Organized
After a few months of creating and posting, you will have a lot of content for customers to sift through. An article you shared six months ago might be of great value to a customer today, but only if they can find it. This is why it’s imperative for your content to be organized and easy to locate.

Start by looking at the UX of your website. A search bar makes it easy for browsers to find content that’s interesting or relevant to them. Tagging each blog post with keywords will make searches more accurate and easier to select at a glance.

The content itself should be well-organized, too. A stream-of-consciousness blog post is difficult to read and reflects poorly on your business. Use proper headings throughout your articles to break up information. The answer to a reader’s pressing question could be found in one section, and it saves them a lot of time not having to skim through a wall of text to find it.

3. Make It Valuable
When it comes to website content, more isn’t always better. It can be tempting to try to fill your content calendar with loads of daily content, but this is definitely a case where quality beats quantity. You want your customers to find the content you’re posting each week worth their while.

As you develop your onsite blog content, make sure you’re thinking about the value you are providing your customers. Does an article you’re writing answer a frequently asked question or offer a new point of view regarding the use of one of your products? Content that’s confusing, irrelevant or lacks direction will be a flop.

Have you seen the movie The Miracle on 34th Street? There’s a scene in which Kris Kringle is so motivated to help a customer that he refers her to Gimbels, his employer’s biggest competitor, because that store had the toy she wanted in stock. The customer he assisted told him that he had earned Macy’s a customer for life because of his honest desire to help.

Now, you don’t need to refer all your customers to your competitors in order to implement this strategy. Just lean into that helping mindset when developing your content. Enabling your customers to meet their needs should be your No. 1 priority.

4. Spot the Trends
Search intent is a vital component of content marketing. You want your content to be found, and that means targeting the searches you believe your target audience is making at any given moment. The tough part about this is that search intent often changes, so you have to get good at monitoring and capitalizing on trends.

Uncovering search trends isn’t as hard as it might seem. You can discover a lot just by scrolling through social media or watching the news. Additionally, there are online resources such as Google Trends that give you numerical insight into what types of searches people are conducting.

You can also scope out your competitors’ blogs and content pages to see what they’re up to. Don’t copy what they’re doing, but use it as a way to stay on top of what consumers are looking for. That will allow you to find ways to differentiate your brand from the rest.

Content is such a powerful tool for modern-day businesses. The more intentional effort you put into your content strategy, the greater the returns for your business.

What About The Dog? Getting Your Team Back To The Office Is Getting Complicated

Over the last two weeks, Atomic Object Co-CEOs Michael Marsiglia and Shawn Crowley have logged nearly twenty hours on a listening tour. During these sessions, they meet in small groups with every employee at the custom software consultancy about the future of flexible work at their three offices in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Chicago. One surprising theme has come up across many listening tour sessions: dogs.

“It’s been brought up more than we expected,” says Marsiglia. “After last year, more of our team members have dogs, and their dogs are used to having them at home. It’s a real concern for people. That’s what these listening tours are for: discussing what’s working, what’s not, and getting feedback for the future.”

Of course, it’s not just about the dogs — it’s much more than that. Team members have expressed their thoughts on everything from familial anxiety as Covid bubbles start to break apart, to their love-hate relationships with the daily commute. Conducted in person, the listening sessions are held with small, diverse groups of employees, which has given team members the chance to hear about their colleagues’ lived experiences through the pandemic.

“Common themes have surfaced, but people did have different experiences,” says Marsiglia. “It’s been good for the team to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages their colleagues have experienced. I believe it has helped create shared empathy for each other.”

But if there’s one sentiment all leaders can relate to right now, it’s that things are constantly changing. Just a few months ago, Crowley and Marsiglia had drawn a clear line in the sand: despite the wave of tech companies shifting to a remote-first model, Atomic Object wouldn’t be one of them. Crowley and Marsiglia believe that, as the world shifts back to safely working in the ways they know to be effective, technology consultancies that have formally shifted to all-remote work will be at a competitive disadvantage.

Atomic Object focuses on the early phases of software product design and development, and they believe that collaborative design and engineering will always benefit from being done in person. The nature of product innovation is driven by collaboration, and Crowley believes that a future model of flexibility should be designed around keeping co-location intact.

“We’ve been in business for twenty years and have a goal to be a 100-year-old company,” says Crowley. “Thinking in that timescale, eighteen months of remote work due to the pandemic doesn’t change the nature of cross-disciplined, collaborative, and creative work. Digital tools have reduced friction in doing this type of work remotely, but in-person is still the ideal work modality.”

Marsiglia agrees. “Ultimately, we decided co-location is more effective and efficient. It’s also more of a differentiator than offering all-remote. Purpose is vital to our success, as is creating a sense of place and togetherness. In order to position Atomic competitively for the future, we must favor culture over short-term cost savings.”

Crowley and Marsiglia went to work on a comprehensive plan that offered the team a high level trajectory of ‘Crawl/Walk/Run’ phases, long-term milestones, details for each phase, and commonly asked questions around behaviors and compliance with state guidelines — along with the caveat of Covid-19 and the unpredictability of the virus. Atomic’s plans to return to the office are already in motion across its three offices, moving into its “walk” phase that brings more people into the office for collaboration and coworking as needed.

Although they prioritize co-location, Atomic Object has always had a historically flexible work model. Employees can work remotely when necessary, whether it’s for a doctor appointment or a more disruptive life event, like a sick relative. They certainly never called it a hybrid work model, but the pandemic has fast-tracked the need for open conversations around work modalities.

The more Crowley and Marsiglia talked to the team about their intention to slowly phase everyone back into the office full-time — with plans to discuss a more flexible, hybrid approach in 2022 — it became clear that those conversations needed to happen sooner.

“We’ve all endured enough uncertainty,” says Marsiglia. “As we reestablished our co-located model in our offices, people started to wonder about the future of flexibility at Atomic. That’s why we started conducting listening tours to understand where they’re at and gather feedback. The desire for flexibility and the challenges of remote work is something we’ve consistently heard from our team — it’s an evolutionary process.”

Slowly but surely, Atomic’s offices are returning to the vibrancy of pre-pandemic days. As they move forward with a future model for flexible work, Crowley and Marsiglia are committed to being flexible themselves. They are putting together a loose model for the team to react to, built on and formalizing Atomic’s historical flexibility. They are also adding in dials for enhanced flexibility, such as recurring remote days or even remote weeks, and a core set of working hours for teams.

“When you consider flexibility, you can think both about the time the work is done and the place,” says Marsiglia. “The dials help to create flexibility across both axes, while trying to balance the very real value of collaboration that is optimal in a synchronous, shared space.”

As they move forward with the plan and ask team members to opt in, Crowley is encouraging everyone to to consider the balance between individualism and collectivism.

“Will you give up some aspects of flexibility for the greater good?” says Crowley. “For instance, our ‘core hours’ dial can help strike a balance. One of our senior developers shared that he likes remote work because he can start dinner at 5 o’clock. I appreciate that on so many levels. I also asked him to consider the people on his team and what they can get from him when he’s physically present. We have people with varying degrees of career experience on our team — what would that mean to our more junior team members?”

As their plans continue to evolve, Crowley and Marsiglia are taking it in stride. The return to work plan they presented to the team earlier this year has changed, and their latest approach may very well change, too — all because they’ve chosen to listen to their employees before embarking on a plan.

Guided by Atomic’s core purpose, values, and most of all, their people, Crowley and Marsiglia are working together with the team to reflect on a few key questions: What’s best for the organization? What’s best for their projects and clients? What’s best for the communities they work in? And, not to be overlooked, what’s best for all of their dogs?

“Honestly, I don’t know where we’ll land,” says Marsiglia. “But we’re here to make all boats rise. We believe we do that best together. We should all be getting more than just transactional takeaways like pay from our work — we should be gaining knowledge, skills, and a sense of belonging.”

Why Women Are Leaving The Workforce After The Pandemic—And How To Win Them Back

The pressures on women during the COVID-19 pandemic are coming from various directions. New research from Deloitte Global indicates that the pandemic has seen a confluence of events for many women—namely an increase in their workloads at work and at home. Many are at a breaking point, leaving the workforce in record numbers. But there is a ray of light amid the gloom: Employers that give women the culture and support to enable them to succeed have a more productive and motivated workforce and are likely to report greater retention, the research found.

Gender inequities were holding women back in the workplace well before the pandemic began in early 2020, with women globally earning 81 cents for every dollar that men earned.[i] Over a year later, the pandemic has likely served to increase this gender gap, having significantly impacted women’s mental well-being, careers and ambitions.

A Perfect Storm

According to Deloitte Global’s new report, Women @ Work: A Global Outlook, which reported the findings of a survey of 5,000 women across 10 countries, nearly 80% of women say their workloads have increased because of the pandemic, while 66% of women report having more responsibilities at home. The research also showed that the pandemic has created even greater challenges for LGBT+ women and women of color, who are more likely to report lower levels of mental well-being and work-life balance.

“Women are facing the ‘perfect storm’ with heavier workloads and greater responsibilities at home increasingly blurring boundaries between the two. They are also continuing to experience noninclusive behaviors in a work context, with many not reporting this to their employer despite the understandably negative impact it may have on the recipient” says Emma Codd, Deloitte Global Inclusion Leader.

When combined with respondents’ perception that employers have not been supportive when it comes to balancing work and personal life during the pandemic, these inequities have pushed many women to make tough decisions about whether to remain in their jobs—or leave the workforce altogether. According to Deloitte Global’s report, fewer than half of women are satisfied with their current jobs and 51% are less optimistic about their career prospects than before the pandemic. In fact, 23% are considering leaving the workforce.

The top reason women are considering leaving their current employers? A lack of work-life balance. Only one in five women surveyed believe that their employers have helped them to create clear boundaries between work time and personal time during the pandemic. This is also reflected in the top reason that women are considering dropping out of the workplace entirely: increased workload.

Even when women take action to alleviate their situation, many view the impact as negative, with nearly half of the surveyed women (and two-thirds of surveyed sole parents) who have had to adjust their working hours because of increased caregiving responsibilities saying they believe this has negatively affected their relationship with their employer.

A Stark Reality

In addition to facing added responsibilities and pressures at home due to COVID-19, women continue to face noninclusive behaviors at work. Even in the remote and hybrid workplaces of the pandemic era, a majority of women surveyed say they’ve experienced noninclusive behaviors in work situations over the past year—everything from unwanted physical contact and disparaging remarks about their gender to questions about their judgment.

In fact, for 34% of women surveyed, the reported frequency of such noninclusive behaviors has increased since the pandemic began.

“This reveals a stark reality: Noninclusive behaviors permeate beyond the traditional ‘four walls,’” says Codd. “Ultimately, these behaviors stem from cultures where noninclusive behaviors are allowed to persist unchecked and where women do not feel comfortable to safely and confidently report them, whether they occur in-person or via a computer screen.”

The situation is more stark for LGBT+ women and women of color. According to Deloitte Global’s report, women of color were three times more likely to experience comments about their communication styles during the pandemic, while LGBT+ women were nearly four times more likely than other women to experience jokes of a sexual nature.

“The pandemic has laid bare the long-standing cultures where many women within these groups not only suffer from noninclusive behaviors, but also feel unable to do anything about them without concern of career penalty,” says Codd.

Winning Back Women

The good news is that it’s still possible for employers to reverse these discouraging trends and make sustained and meaningful progress on gender equality at work. Deloitte Global’s report shows that women who work for companies that provide an inclusive work culture—where women are more confident about reporting noninclusive behaviors, feel supported by their employers on work-life balance and believe their careers are progressing as fast as they would like—report better mental well-being, motivation and productivity, and are more loyal to their employers. Notably, they are far more likely to stay with their current employers for longer than two years.

This is a critical moment for employers to understand what women need—and to start working to restore gender equity within their organizations.

The research enabled Deloitte to identify a number of actions that employers can take to make meaningful progress when it comes to gender equality. These include embedding a truly inclusive culture, enabling a better work-life balance by going beyond policies, demonstrating a visible and measurable leadership commitment and providing meaningful development opportunities.

“Meaningful and sustained change will only come when women experience ‘everyday’ inclusive workplaces—whether virtual or in-person—where statements on the importance of gender equality are backed up by meaningful actions, and where goals are set and progress is measured,” Codd says.

Action Is Key But Culture Is Critical

“This inclusive ‘everyday’ culture is critical for organizations to make meaningful progress. It will not only help enable women to feel able to raise concerns should they experience noninclusive behaviors—and to do so without fear of career penalty—but also to take advantage of flexible working options without believing that it will adversely impact them,” she says.

Now is the time to act.

“Our research has served to highlight the adverse impact of the pandemic on women at work. But it has also shown us the steps that organizations can take to address this impact – critically at a time where we are starting to rebuild the workplace of the future. Now is the time to rebuild with gender equality in mind.” Codd says.

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