Investment Themes

Our thoughts on the future of hygiene & our home environment, in collaboration with Reckitt Benckiser

Investment Themes

Our thoughts on the future of hygiene & our home environment, in collaboration with Reckitt Benckiser

Words by Shona Chalmers

November 16th 2020 / 5 min read

The way the world thinks about their home and hygiene has radically changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. It is yet to be seen which of our new-found behaviours will stick and what the ‘new normal’ will become. What we can agree on, however, is that this is an important and compelling time to be building a business in this space.

Together with RB, here are the areas of opportunity we're most excited by. If you’re working on anything in these spaces, even if it's just an idea, apply to join one of our programs.

What’s in store in 2020/2021?

Wellbeing in the home

The world has been spending a lot of time indoors lately, and the importance of the home environment - with its impact on our mood and sense of wellbeing - has never been clearer.

Parents, the elderly, caregivers and remote workers are coming to terms with a winter spent at home and the challenges that will incur. We expect home dwellers to invest time and money to make the most of their space by elevating their environment and living as comfortably and conveniently as possible.

An area we've spotted:

Ageing at home

  • By 2050 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 years and over. It’s well documented that the elderly live longer and fuller lives if they age at home rather than move into care. But the challenges of people ageing at home are plenty - from social cohesion and connection, hygiene and care, to keeping healthy and safe.

  • With the value of the global agetech sector soon hitting $2tn, there is the opportunity to create technology solutions that provide a better outlook to ageing comfortably, creating value for the users & their families.

80% of dollars [in elder tech investment] are going into the B2B institutional care space (e.g. technology used by nursing homes), yet only 3% of older adults live in institutional care facilities.

(Source: Crunchbase)

The new conscious consumer

Ethically motivated consumers have created a new value system for brands. Making environmentally sustainable choices remains as important as ever, coupled with racial and social justice, especially to younger audiences. 75% of British shoppers have consciously modified their buying behaviour towards more ethical choices. They are inspiring improvements as well as movements, leading brands to find themselves under incredible scrutiny, particularly when it comes to claims of environmental and social responsibility.

An area we’ve spotted:

Use Less For Longer

  • As people have become increasingly conscious of the disastrous impact that throwaway consumerism and fast fashion have had on the planet, it has become popular to keep quality belongings for longer. This movement, driven by Gen Z who wear their pre-loved items with pride, is now moving into the mainstream. Now, on the cusp of a global recession, the mentality and behaviours around up-cycling, repurposing, resale and rental vs ownership, take on a new level of importance and necessity.

  • Over 50% of Gen Z and Millennials now shop second hand, with 50% also claiming to have repaired damaged or worn out clothes.

Changing urban environments

The shape and nature of cities has dramatically changed this year. If we no longer need to be in the office on a regular basis and live close to our workplace, then we could see a slowing (or even reversal) of a worldwide shift towards urban areas. Tellingly, half of Londoners wanting to move home this summer were looking to move out of the city.

An area we’ve spotted:

Work from wherever

  • COVID-19 has brought about the decline of the office and the associated employee lifestyle of long commutes and a 9-5 working week. While the sense of disconnection to company culture is significant, employees are relishing their newfound flexibility and time in their day. Research shows that remote working behaviours will likely stick around for the long term, though not everyone wants to work from home. New venues who find themselves at reduced capacity, or have natural ‘slow periods’ in the day, like bars, clubs and hotels, are increasingly offering up their space as localised, yet remote, working hubs.

It’s predicted that the number of digital nomads will reach 1 billion by the year 2035.

(Source: HRD)

Heightening Hygiene

Human beings are more conscious about hygiene and associated habits than at any other time in the last 100 years. This heightened awareness extends to every element of our lives - from home to public spaces, through to work and the vehicles we travel in to get there.

We believe this growing awareness of issues pertaining to hygiene provides an opportunity to build new tech-enabled products and services that will help individuals to live safely and free from anxiety.

An area we’ve spotted:

Beyond The Surface

“Phonesoap a company that makes devices to clean phones and other items with UV light, has seen 1,000 percent growth year over year.”

Source: Crunchbase

Other areas of interest in Home & Hygiene

Renewed energy for gardens and pets

Increased time spent at home has meant a refocus on how we curate our physical environment and who we inhabit it with. Most people find that they now have more time and energy to invest in their gardens (or indoor plants), and much has been made of the mental health benefits associated with surrounding oneself with greenery. A drive to combat loneliness and extra time at home has equally driven a boom in pet sales and related businesses, though it is questionable as to how to persistent the ‘nesting’ trend will be in the post-Covid reality.

startup accelerator

The Invisible-Tech Movement

The covid-exacerbated reliance on technology to live, work and connect to loved ones has, in turn, led to a surge in anxiety, sleep-deprivation and an always-on attitude to work. While many profess the power of the anti-tech movement, it is unrealistic for most of us to give up tech for good and continue to function in the world of today. There has been a shift in focus towards technology that enables us but blends into the background when we do not need it at the forefront of our minds. From Samsung’s Frame TV to timers that limit social media use, more product developers are putting ‘invisible tech’ at the heart of their designs.

Water Worries

With cities straining to keep the quality of their public water high and affordable and the recent stigma around plastic-bottled mineral water, we are heading for a new age of water purification as a necessity, even for the western world. From LARQ applying light to water in their bottles to the use of charcoal as a filtration, there are interesting techniques being developed all the time but it is yet to be seen who will create the next big business in this space.

We’re looking for commercial and technical founders to build the next-gen of Home & Hygiene products. If you’re working on something in any of these spaces, even if it's just an idea, apply to join one of our programs.

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