Observed

2021 will give meaning to the word ”sport” in “esport.”

Who would have thought a few years back that we would see a cycling world championship raced from home in 2020. 

The real outdoor event took place in Europe last September with all the necessary precautions you can imagine, but the International Cycling Union also organized an esports version in December on the Zwift platform

This year we’ve also seen people running marathons with their friends on their home trainers and using all sorts of apps on their tablets. If you have enough space in your garage you can even compete in virtual golf competitions.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. “Non-stadia” sport companies lost a lot of money due to outright event cancellation or by virtue of having to organize with way more health safety precautions than usual (and subsequently not generating the fan interaction that attracts sponsors). 

But they could try to make twice the money they usually make once the pandemic is over by organizing parallel indoor events on top of related outdoor-only events.

I can already imagine a full arena — if the global health situation allows it — with runners or cyclists giving their everything, facing a giant screen of the course or track, and a crowd cheering and making noise. It would be an electric atmosphere like only top professionals experience on Grand Tour summits and major marathon finishes. 

It would provide a massive booster shot to all things AR/VR, providing a level of mass engagement the industry has been looking for.
-Julien Morin, Senior Producer

A new way of talking about geographic freedom

There’s a new word or phrase about geographic freedom that will be coined in the coming year, something that captures the idea of traveling to a new place long enough that you’d work there for a bit, see something new, and maybe (safely) visit friends and family.

Given that businesses that allow for remote work are coming on a year of doing so, I can’t imagine going back to a world in which people are tied to their offices, let alone their countries, on a permanent basis. If you can go work in a different place for six weeks, you should all go forth! Explore!

And to do that, there’s going to be a ton of grassroots tech ideas swirling around related to space-sharing, road-tripping, apartment-swapping, and similar outward-bound endeavors. Platforms and forums that are simple (like, Craigslist simple), cost-effective (combatting the relentless AirBnB fee structure) and safe (in multiple ways). 

Maybe we’ll see an acceleration of travel/rental portals that mirror the UX of a dating app, where you link up with property owners and others in a community willing to trade spaces. Something more personal and relationship-based, not as formal as vacation-rental providers, but not as Wild West as a message board.

That said, Airbnb is just going to get better at being what they are. It’ll be in their best interest to try to edge out any newcomers, so they will because #business.
-Joana Kelly, COO

The Electric Storm

With COVID-19 vaccines around the corner, many people are itching to get back to the norm. But what is today’s norm? Working remotely has proven to be viable for multiple lines of business. In order to maintain the flexibility that remote work provides people will need their own form of transportation. This is why I predict that vehicle purchases are about to skyrocket, more specifically EVs (Electric Vehicles)!

EVs are already becoming increasingly more popular but it’s just the beginning. In 2021 they will take the world by storm! The generation of people that will be buying vehicles has been exposed to a variety of smart technology in every aspect of their lives for years. Everything is connected in one way or another. 

The ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles we’ve all grown up with are no longer sufficient and will quickly become the past. They’re clunky, outdated, not smart, unconnected … the list goes on. The EV is the vehicle for the new generation because it seamlessly connects to the most prominent device in their lives, the smartphone.

Tesla, NIO, Rivian, and even the existing automaker giants are working on new EV models and ramping up production to keep up with the growing demand. 2021 will not only spark a huge change in the way we travel, but also how we think about sustainable energy and artificial intelligence.
– Taylor Plimpton, Senior Developer

More walking, more biking, more outdoor space

One of the most interesting things to watch in 2021 will be how our cities react to the aftershocks of the pandemic. 

Huge changes in behavior around commuting and reporting to work will continue to have a massive impact on everything related to commuter culture. From the office buildings themselves to all the infrastructure and supporting businesses dependent on a commuting workforce, the seismic shifts of 2020 will change our cities permanently.

When commuters stop commuting and choose remote work as a permanent condition, the raw material is there for the emergence of self-contained, walkable neighborhoods that cater to pedestrians and cyclists. 

Cities like New York that have for years been clogged by cars and taxis will cultivate more walkways, more bike lanes, and more outdoor spaces for all to use. I believe 2021 will bring with it a new enthusiasm for turning our cities into more livable, pedestrian-friendly metropolises for years to come.
-Gavin Fraser, CEO

Masks are here to stay, and wearables find new life

Before 9/11, your friends and family could walk you to the airline gate to say goodbye. Or be right there with a goofy sign when you got off the plane. You could keep your belt, shoes, and jacket on at security and carry all sorts of fluids. None of that seems remotely normal now. but it was everyone’s reality then.

COVID-19 will have lasting effects on how we live and move and gather, long after it’s been brought under control (however that’s defined). But how long before we forget the way things were? Change is always hard to fathom while it’s happening, but it often obliterates the memories of our past quickly. 

As important as it is to move past 2020 and look forward, it’s going to be worth paying attention and remembering the way things were. So, looking forward and backward at the same time, a few thoughts for 2021.

I think masks are here to stay, in urban areas, at least. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I’d love it if we all wore masks in crowds when sick or during flu season. Whether or not we agree that masks prevent disease spread (they do), they’re going to help keep your sneeze off my collar.

After years of promise, wearables could find new utility and validation as early detectors of COVID-19 and become truly useful dashboards for our health. 

Many of us will be stuck at home all winter, and possibly longer. This has got to be the year that VR finally takes off, right? Nah

How and where we work and collaborate will continue to morph and vex, subject to the vagaries of policy, disease, and real estate. How can we do our best work, provide the most value for our partners, and keep everyone safe? These are existential questions for us to work through together.

The safest prediction I can make is that we’ll be wrestling with all of these topics for most of 2021. In the meantime, stay safe, everyone.
-Fred Lee, CXO