In this November 2020 #mtpcon Digital keynote, Benedict Evans, Analyst and former Partner at Andreessen Horowitz analyses the huge impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on the technology sector, demonstrating how acceleration and experimentation are destructively ushering in a new normal.
Watch the video to see his talk in full. Or read on for an overview of his key points:
- 2020 was a technological breakpoint and today everyone is connected
- Covid-19 sent a shockwave into markets that saw explosive acceleration and experimentation
- You need to optimise your adopted tools and find a new normal that works
- Today’s technology is globalised – Silicon Valley and the USA are no longer the epicentres of newness
Benedict begins by introducing “Tech and the new normal […] a cliche”, explaining his intent to interrogate “where we were, and how we think about what the pandemic and Covid is doing to change that”. First, he defines 3 phases of the 2020 global crisis:
- Society’s initial shock and survival (and resignation)
- The phased exit anticipated over the next 18 months
- A new normal post-pandemic
January 2020: Breakpoint
In January, Ben explains, around 4 billion people owned a smartphone and 5.5 billion a mobile. All sorts of models and products were possible due to the almost absolute “penetration and density” of connection. “We were standing on the shoulders of giants”, Ben says.
Simultaneously, consumer expectations had inflated, as users demanded to do everything online. Throughout the pandemic, these desires and expectations became critical requirements.
Covid-19: An Accelerant
Showing a range of recent data, Ben illustrates how market trends have accelerated in 2020:
- Ecommerce is essential – Ben refers to the growth of “this little company called Amazon” and discusses how “Instagram and YouTube again have shifted to being eCommerce platforms”
- TV is unbundling – pay TV penetration is continually falling, as traditional media is superseded by streaming services like Netflix or YouTube that attract “double the audience in the younger demographics”
- Advertising is repriced – Ben notes the continued fall of advertising spend since the 1950s describes how “advertising overall has gone down as a share of the peak […] different kinds of marketing starts happening as a consequence of everything else that’s happening online”
In 2020, just like throughout his career “the internet expanded massively, and it’s kind of swallowed every other part of the economy” Ben says, “or it will do if you can come up with the right experience or product or business model”.
A New Conversation
Ben looks at how lockdowns and travel restrictions have changed societal questions such as “what happens now we’re all online?” describing 3 causes:
- Acceleration – existing trends surging forward
- Forced experimentation – companies trying unexpected or previously unneeded things <
- Market reset – broken habits and destructive creation
Acceleration has been extreme, Ben says, with sectors like eCommerce experiencing 3-5 year’s growth in months.
Experimentation is equally notable with huge increases in companies moving to the cloud, 25% of people making their first video call, and even “fields that historically have been graveyards for start-ups – remote medicine and education” now booming.
A New Normal
We need to optimise the results of experimentation, Ben explains, describing how every time you get a new tool, you start by forcing the tool to fit the old way of working, then over time you change to fit the tool, creating a new normal. “We’re going through that process quickly now,” he says.
Looking forward, Ben describes how that new normal may look across the technology sector, pointing to a graph of global smartphone usage worldwide, indicating how the USA (previously the country with the greatest smartphone usage) can now be grouped within a “rest of the world” column and compared to, and overshadowed by, China, (closely followed by India). “This is a useful way of thinking about what the internet looks like in the next few years,” Ben says, “you can’t just presume cool stuff comes from Silicon Valley anymore. Everyone is going to be creating companies and products everywhere.”
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