These Are Not Predictions

2020 has taught us that our predictions for the future are based on aspiration and are as ephemeral as our affinity for “new year resolutions”. 

On the sunny side of practicality, there are immediate business changes we need to address as the pandemic continues. Think of them as your checklist to guard you against being the victim of obvious blind-spots:  

1- Your cybersecurity should be on the executive agenda! 🔐 

This pandemic has driven more business transformation adoption than the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on consultants in the past decade, especially in government and vital sectors like healthcare and education. This means more data, comms, information, and operations are now happening online. A recipe for disaster. 

This year you need to start taking your cybersecurity practices seriously, put in place security hygiene processes across all your teams and personal accounts, and train your team on these protocols. Don’t believe me? Check out how the SolarWinds breach is shaking up the cybersecurity industry and the US government as you read this!

According to IBM’s annual Cost of Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach in the Middle East is the second-highest globally at $6.52M! We are also the slowest in the world to identify a data breach, 269 days. 

Don’t leave your door unlocked on the interwebs. Secure it.

2- Create client experiences not hurdles 😃

Have you been to a retail store to browse, feel, touch, and try products in 2020? Neither have we, and we don’t plan on doing so in 2021 either. Products on your online store need to: answer customer needs and queries, get delivered (on time), returned, and a happy relationship maintained, without a smiling store attendant and cheerful store manager. The main advantage? You can track a bounce on your online store down to the boring instance and then fix that, so please do. 

Customers of 2021 will be doing even more of their transactions and communication on their smartphones. The instances of in-person interaction will be revered and intentional. This means, smaller purchases, pre-seed to seed investments, and average experiences will likely stay online. We will also expect everything that can be automated and virtualized to be, not 100% in 2021, but at least over 50% and rising. 

High-value experiences, investments (think Series A+), and purchases may still need in-person attendance, but we will cherish a better-designed experience

What does this mean: It’s a big year for B2B Saas. If it’s not your core business consider what solutions you need to make your business better: build it or buy it! APIs, Cybersecurity (again), UX, customer support, and all else that makes the customer journey that much better is key to your success.

3- Watch the content market unravel 🎙️

Spotify and Anghami are now podcast platforms, as well as music. Amazon acquired Wondery, a US-based podcast network, for a rumored $300M. Netflix is introducing an audio-only playback mode. The intersection of content formats has never been more tangled. 

Have you seen ♟️ The Queen’s Gambit? It’s a Netflix original, that’s now also on Audible, and somehow ended up being amazing branded content for the chess industry! 

“On Netflix, a record-setting 62 million households chose to watch The Queen’s Gambit in its first 28 days.” – Netflix

Netflix then took the show’s success to an unlikely place: Audible. While it is common for books produced as shows and audiobooks we rarely see the copyrights of both formats sold to one entity. (The world of copyright laws requires freshening up). We expect we will see similar cross-overs between written, audio, video, and gaming content in 2021. 

We are seeing an uptick in activity in the MENA region’s content space. Netflix has signed deals with Saudi’s Myrkott. Variety has crowned “Paranormal”, the Egyptian Netflix original based on its name-sake books, the Best International TV Series of 2020. Kerning Cultures podcast network partnered with Anghami to produce a new thriller. While Thmanyah’s podcast network acquires the long-running youtube and podcast show “Swalif business”. 

While we are not seeing the same level of entanglement in the regional media production space yet. It’s only a matter of a short wait. Since this pandemic is speeding us through trends.

This trend confirms the industry’s motto: Content is king, and distribution is queen.

4- Find your tribe 🙋🏻‍♂️

As you reflect on 2020, what interactions stand out to you in the sea of zoom calls and timeline scrolling? Who took the time to connect with you, share their knowledge, or organize an online get together? A few names may come to your mind, maybe a few companies or platforms as well. 

Massive conferences had a hard time competing with local or digital-first events. Transitioning online was not a click away. Smaller frequent event communities thrived though. Why? You may visit a CES or a Saastr once a year, but your local coworking space’s community is there for you all year round. They are more relevant, in touch with your locality, and your struggles than CES was ever likely to be. 

Amazon bailed on their third-party sellers in the pandemic to focus on essential goods, leaving many store owners in ruin. Airbnb provided refunds to bookers and set up a fund to help hosts survive the worst downturn in tourism’s history! What’s the difference between the two? Community values.  

Why would a brand or startup invest in building a community? To improve brand perception, attract talent, and increase loyalty within their team and clients. Find what your clients or team need to reach their goals and build around it. 

Unfortunately, we have not seen businesses in the MENA region embrace community yet. A massive opportunity. One we are particularly passionate and happy to chat about if you are!

In summary, invest in building solid roots and relations that will sail you through 2021 and beyond ⛵️