Businesses have spent much of the past nine months scrambling to adapt to extraordinary circumstances.
While the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet won, with a vaccine in sight, there is at least a faint light at the end of the tunnel—along with the hope that another train isn’t heading our way.
2021 will be the year of transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes, individuals, businesses, and society can start to look forward to shaping their futures rather than just grinding through the present. The next normal is going to be different.
It will not mean going back to the conditions that prevailed in 2019. Indeed, just as the terms “prewar” and “postwar” are commonly used to describe the 20th century, generations to come will likely discuss the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras. In this article, we identify some of the trends that will shape the next normal. Including talking about the three big names during this pandemic which are Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma and Ellon Musk’s.
Plato was right: necessity is indeed the mother of invention. During the COVID-19 crisis, one area that has seen tremendous growth is digitization, meaning everything from online customer service to remote working to supply-chain reinvention to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve operations. Healthcare, too, has changed substantially, with telehealth and biopharma coming into their own.
Disruption creates space for entrepreneurs—and that’s what is happening in the United States, in particular, but also in other major economies. We admit that we didn’t see this coming. After all, during the 2008–09 financial crisis, small-business formation declined, and it rose only slightly during the recessions of 2001 and 1990–91.
This time, though, there is a veritable flood of new small businesses. In the third quarter of 2020 alone, there were more than 1.5 million new-business applications in the United States—almost double the figure for the same period in 2019. Yes, many of those businesses are single-person establishments that could well stay that way—think of the restaurant chef turned caterer or the recent college graduate with a cool new app. So it’s intriguing that the volume of “high-propensity-business applications” (those that are likeliest to turn into businesses with payrolls) has also risen strongly—more than 50 percent compared with 2019. Venture-capital activity dipped only slightly in the first half of 2020.
The European Union has not seen anything like this response, perhaps because its recovery strategy tended to emphasize protecting jobs (not income, as in the United States). That said, France saw 84,000 new business formations in October, the highest ever recorded, and 20 percent more than in the same month in 2019.
Germany has also seen an increase in new businesses compared with 2019; ditto for Japan. Britain is somewhere in between. A survey published in November 2020 of 1,500 self-employed people found that 20 percent say they are likely to leave self-employment when they can. At the same time, however, the number of new businesses registered in the United Kingdom in the third quarter of 2020 rose 30 percent compared with 2019, showing the largest increase seen since 2012.
On the whole, the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating small business. In the United States, for example, there were 25.3 percent fewer of them open in December 2020 than at the beginning of the year (the bottom was in mid-April, when the figure was almost half). US small-business revenue fell more than 30 percent between January and December 2020. But we’ll take good news where we can get it, and the positive trend in entrepreneurship could bode well for job growth and economic activity once recovery takes hold.
The year 2020 was a difficult one financially for many people around the world, with the global coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on countless businesses and roughly 19 million Americans currently collecting unemployment benefits. But for some of the wealthy, it’s a very different story. During 2020, Amazon’s sales have spiked, as social distancing restrictions forced people to do even more of their shopping online, while Tesla’s newfound ability to consistently turn a profit sent the electric automaker’s stock price soaring.
With their companies’ fortunes among those improving in 2020, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have seen their own personal net worth skyrocket this year, as well. (Much to the chagrin of critics like Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who has ramped up his calls for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.) In fact, Tesla’s banner year catapulted Musk all the way to second (behind Bezos) in the rankings of the world’s wealthiest people, according to Bloomberg, after he started the year ranked 35th on the list.
Now let’s meet them one by one to know how they can make money and going in to top of the world.
- Ellon Musk, Tesla CEO
Musk has added a whopping $140 billion to his net worth in 2020, bringing the total to $167 billion, as of Monday, according to Bloomberg. That was good enough to boost Musk a few dozen spots up the billionaire’s rankings, as he surged past Bill Gates to claim the second spot in November. At the beginning of 2020, Musk’s net worth was nearly $30 billion (still a very healthy number). But, Tesla’s exceptional year sent that number climbing, as the electric automaker’s stock has exploded by over 650% since the start of the year, thanks to Tesla setting new sales records and reporting its fifth consecutive profitable quarter.
Musk owns a roughly 20% stake in Tesla, so the company’s surge provided the main boost for his personal gains, as that stake is now worth more than $125 billion. The tech billionaire also owns a stake in his aerospace company, SpaceX (which also had a big year, launching astronauts into space for the first time), that Wealth-X values at more than $15 billion.
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Jeff Bezos started 2020 as the world’s wealthiest person and all he’s done is add more than $72 billion to his net worth, as Amazon’s revenue continued to grow this year amid the pandemic-led boost in online shopping. Bezos, who owns over 50 million shares of Amazon stock worth more than $170 billion, saw his overall net worth climb to $187 billion this year. (Bezos is the richest man in modern history, and his net worth even crossed the $200 billion mark at one point this past summer.)
Bezos founded the aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin in 2000. Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle reached space in 2015, and afterwards successfully landed back on Earth. The company has upcoming plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight. He also purchased the major American newspaper The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million, and manages many other investments through his Bezos Expeditions venture capital firm.
On February 2, 2021, Bezos announced that he would step down as the CEO of Amazon sometime in the third quarter of 2021, and transition into the role of executive chairman. He is due to be replaced as CEO by Andy Jassy, the chief of Amazon’s cloud computing division
- Jack Ma, Taobao CEO (Largest e-shopping platform in China)
Jack Ma, or Ma Yun[a] (Chinese: 马云; [mà y̌n]; born 10 September 1964), is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He is the cofounder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. Ma is a strong proponent of an open and market-driven economy. In 2017, Ma was ranked second in the annual “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list by Fortune. He has widely been considered an informal global ambassador for Chinese business, and is an influential figure for the community of startup businesses. In September 2018, he announced that he would retire from Alibaba and pursue educational work, philanthropy, and environmental causes; the following year, Daniel Zhang succeeded him as executive chairman. As of January 2021, with a net worth of $61.4 billion, Ma is the third-wealthiest person in China (after Zhong Shanshan and Ma Huateng), as well as one of the wealthiest people in the world, ranked 20th by Forbes. In 2019, Forbes named Ma in its list of “Asia’s 2019 Heroes of Philanthropy” for his work supporting underprivileged communities in China, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.
In the middle of a pandemic – albeit one with an endpoint finally in sight – every trend seems ominous. In better economic times, we might see more of the positives or potential in these trends in terms of flexible income (gig economy), freeing people for more meaningful work (automation), and cheaper goods delivered to your door (death of malls). However, the growth of government debt and the lack of robust data and privacy laws governing businesses is hard to spin positively.