As a British woman became the first person in the world to be vaccinated against Covid in December 2020, it felt impossible that 2021 could one-up 2020. As it turned out, 2021 was even more of a roller-coaster than 2020. From Delta and hard lockdowns to the joy of meeting again and office returns, then to Omicron and stealth lockdowns, it was some ride.
Yet, looking back, there was much about 2021 to marvel about.
The digital stampede
Covid continued to fuel the acceleration to digital in both consumer habits and and B2B spending. For many tech start-ups (Outward companies included), this was a perfect storm and those that executed well achieved scale far faster than if Covid had never reared its ugly head. As we move into a post-Covid world (touch wood!), watch out for established businesses looking to acquire start-ups with unencumbered technology architecture to quickly address the transforming needs of their customers as well as their own urgent need for business flexibility.
Is any place more international and open than London?
As 2021 drew to a close, London was once again the first global hub to be bludgeoned by a new Covid variant. While London’s incomparable international linkages will always make it a pandemic front-runner, it is also why London is one of the best places in the world to start a globally relevant technology business. This is particularly so for fintech where investment in 2021 (over $10 billion) soared two-fold from the previous record set in pre-Covid 2019. Outward companies did not miss out, securing over $290m in over-subscribed funding rounds from top investors across the globe.
An historic shift in VC investment
VC investment too saw a stampede in 2021. While the size and velocity of investment was unprecedented, it was the domination of non-traditional VC investors that most altered the landscape. Not only has this given tech start-ups runways to build iconic global businesses, it is fuelling secondary markets for investors as well as enabling greater M&A activity. A great deal of growth equity is being directed at fintech where there remains massive global opportunities particularly in financial infrastructure for existing and emerging sectors. The case for being an early stage investor has never been stronger.
We must leave no one behind
Last but not least. For those of us fortunate enough to live in rich, high vaccine countries, for a while in 2021 it seemed Covid was a problem solved. The virus slapped down that thought quickly enough, with Omicron demonstrating that if there’s Covid anywhere, there’s Covid everywhere. As the industrialised countries contemplate rolling out fourth jabs, it makes so much more sense to direct vaccines to poorer countries where many have yet to receive their first jabs. Something to advocate for if we don’t want to feel despondent again this time next year.
Happy New Year!