2021 Ecosystem Predictions — Silver Linings

I will always be a New Yorker. I know the best place to get falafel at 2 am, I’ve spent hours at the Met and the Guggenheim, and I’ve waited in line at Bungalow 8. I don’t need to check a map to get from 86th street to Canal, and know how to pronounce “Houston”. I’ve lived in 3 (out of the 5) boroughs and was only a few blocks away when the first plane struck the Twin Towers. When I left Manhattan and moved to Northwest Arkansas, my friends thought I’d be back in 10 months tops. And yet, seven years later, I love my adopted home more than ever. There is a sense of hope here, a belief that a better, more equitable future is ahead of us that enables me to spend every day at Endeavor focusing on and working with the companies that set out to accomplish that goal. And it is through that lens that I make my 2021 predictions.

Flexibility is King

If 2020 taught us anything; it is that flexibility is king. The pandemic has forced businesses to become flexible or fail. Their employees no longer have to live in a 600-square-foot box with 3 other roommates (it was tight, even back in 2001). They can move back to their hometown, or to the desert, or to a city with some of the best mountain bike trails in the United States. The follow-on effect of this major cultural shift leads me to my first (unsurprising) prediction: The next generation of innovation is not going to come from the coasts, but from rapidly growing metro areas (and not just the big ones like Denver and Nashville, but from Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa). If the early success of the “Life Works Here” program in NWA (no relation to the 80s musicians) should give you any indication, the next 10 years are about to result in a major shift in demographics.

And that will affect all the stages of entrepreneurship, from inspiration to investment. The work being done by organizations like ours, or Rise of the Rest, to promote and support entrepreneurship in “flyover” states adds to the benefit of starting and building your business in Fayetteville, AR or Kansas City, MO. (To that end: check out the Endeavor Louisville’s AppHarvest or Endeavor Detroit’s Workit Health.)

Don’t Underestimate the Underrepresented

Entrepreneurship among female and underrepresented founders will continue to be a bigger and more relevant part of the overall ecosystem. The groundwork for this was laid in 2020. The events that led to months of protests by Black Lives Matter supporters were heartbreaking and tragic and have been part of the fabric of this country for quite too long. 2021 is going to see the fruits of their labor in action. Companies and change-makers opened their pocketbooks to establish funding for the next generation of black, brown, and female founders. The percentage of venture-backed companies with female founders had been stuck at 17% from 2012 to 2018. Black founders until last year received <1% of venture capital. This shift should not only be happening because it is important and necessary, but because it makes good sense. Black spending power is estimated at over $1.2 trillion, and overall minority spending power is almost $4 trillion. The benefit we get as a society to lift and support our overlooked communities benefits us all.

The Last But Not Least Mile

My last big takeaway is that every major scale-up has become a de facto supply chain company and not just to the obvious sectors like retail or food & beverage. Whether you’re distributing potentially lifesaving COVID diagnostic tests (check out the write-up from NowDiagnostics), or running a gig economy marketing and research firm (read Rick’s forecast from Field Agent), your business either depends on the supply chain or your revenues are derived from clients who depend on a functioning supply chain. The implications of knowing not just your supplier, or your supplier’s suppliers but your client’s suppliers is more important than ever.

And understanding your supply chain doesn’t just refer to anticipating the shift in tariffs or the stability of the macro geopolitical landscape, but also its impact on climate change. The evidentiary science notwithstanding, we need to behave in a manner that is more sustainable and efficient. Sadly, this will not be the last pandemic, maybe even within our lifetime, and we should continue the progress we have made in 2020, even once the vaccine has been fully distributed, to create and implement best practices around supply chain management.

Finally, thank you to our board members, sponsors, mentors, friends, and my team for working through all of the challenges of 2020. We must adapt, as change happens whether or not we are prepared for it. As my favorite Mandalorian says, “this is the way”.

About Canem Arkan

Canem Arkan serves as Managing Director of Endeavor Heartland, the sixth U.S. office of Endeavor Global. She recently served on the board of directors of the Food Allergy Fund, which is dedicated to funding food allergy research to identify the underlying causes and improving treatments. Before joining Endeavor, Canem served as managing director at Axonic Capital in the business development team, covering institutional clients across the United States. Prior to that, she spent ten years of her career at Goldman Sachs, primarily within the Mortgage Department. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Economics and Communications. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Fayetteville, AR.