Two important themes in our society have kept playing on repeat the past few years, particularly in America; I strongly believe that both represent billion-dollar opportunities for startups to address in a variety of ways.
First: Combating Loneliness
It’s no secret that young people in cities have become lonelier. Longer hours at work, constant FOMO and unrealistic expectations from social media, and the constant use of technology in general have kept these people (I hate to use the word millennials, but millennials) in a state of isolation and constant searching for companionship. But once you don’t live with or see the same people every day, creating those significant relationships can feel near impossible.
Companies like Meetup or even WeWork have tried to address these issues by bringing like-minded people into the same space for hours at a time: this represents great progress. But it only goes so far. Especially Meetup, it can feel artificial or forced, and by nature it has to be planned. A startup that can help people with similar interests meet “serendipitously” or who figure out how to keep the conversation going once you meet in a natural way has a huge opportunity.
In my opinion, people will always want to connect in the physical world, yet we’re heading to a place where massive funding will continue to flow into the AR/VR space, with the assumption in mind that most people will create avatars, connect with their friends in virtual reality, and bridge the physical gap through bits. This opportunity definitely has merit, but as a species, we’ve been hardwired to crave physical human touch and physical contact and the mental satisfaction of belonging and being useful to a group. A company that can help people meet these basic needs in the physical world in parallel to the AR/VR companies has just as big, if not bigger opportunity to make lasting impact (and billions of dollars).
Second: Keeping track of how and when you change your mind
“Once you adopt a new view of the world (or of any part of it), you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed.”
-Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking Fast and Slow
Have you ever had a conversation with a friend or co-worker where you realized you had a distorted or flawed worldview, and in that moment changed your mind about something? Well, if that’s happened to you, you probably have difficulty remembering your previous state of mind, and can only imagine yourself with the thoughts of your new worldview. Imagine if, every time you changed your mind on something, you could go back to see when, how, and why your mind changed.
Why would this even be important? Well, as legendary investor Ray Dalio would say, true intelligence and advantage comes from an ability to hold two competing viewpoints or ideas in your head at the same time and objectively analyze both. If you change your viewpoint, but can’t stand in the shoes of your old self and are trapped in your new way of thinking, how can you make the best decisions, ensure you’re looking at every angle, and test to see if it’s actually time to change your mind again? A running log that gives you insight into how and what you’ve changed stances on gives you the ability to see the same problem from two different angles and attack it from multiple angles, rather than just one.
For example, if you made a decision as an investor to only invest in mobile apps, but then changed your mind after realizing that the future would be dominated by on-demand scooters, you might dismiss potentially lucrative mobile app investments. But if you had a running ledger of when you changed your mind and why (and even how), you could always return to those insights to double check your own thinking, and ensure that no new exciting mobile app opportunities would fly under your radar.
Sure, this could be tracked in Excel, or Airtable, or just on a notepad, but a company that makes these insights and tracking seamless, available, and top of mind has the potential to fundamentally change how people make decisions and how they interact and learn from their past selves more effectively and efficiently.
I have a strong belief that startups that can help solve fundamental human needs at the right time and context (i.e. Facebook for community and relationship building, EdTech for skill building) can provide the most value to a society, and thus, have the biggest opportunities for growth and success.