April 16, 2020

Understanding Demand Changes to WIN

Understanding Demand Changes to WIN

For the last month, we’ve been working with our companies to focus on survival. For most startups, this means planning for a tough economic road ahead and finding the cash runway to ensure survival (see here for our discussion on modeling COVID-19’s impact, and decoding the CARES Act). Our portfolio — and entrepreneurs everywhere — have had to make hard decisions to lead their companies through this crisis.

As we start to look ahead, however, a survival mentality won’t be enough. We want our companies to thrive. Now that many of our portfolio leaders have adapted, and as we learn more each day, we’re seeing many entrepreneurs shift their focus to planning for a new future.

On the other side of COVID-19, the world may, in many ways, look different. From major national and international shocks in the past have come new social, economic, and business norms. We can assume the same will be true with COVID. It is time to get a strong pulse on changing demand and how these changes may solidify over time. Once we do that, we can determine how to meet customers on these new terms.

We anticipate that four main stages in the COVID cycle — each with its own “main effects” — will drive consumer and business demand in the coming months and years, shown below. These main effects are based on assumptions derived from historic shocks and what we know about COVID-19 specifically. It’s still early, and our point of view on the long-term effects is highly uncertain. That said, the process of developing assumptions about the future and then testing them is what we must do now to win in the long run. While everything is industry-dependent, here’s how we’re thinking about demand trends at a high-level:

So far, we know that no one industry seems to be immune to demand changes. Not including industries that are grossly impacted (like travel), the median industry revenue drop appears to be around 25%:

When we look at our portfolio companies, they generally reflect this data, except the effects are exaggerated in transactional businesses and attenuated for SaaS companies with recurring revenue. However, SaaS companies are still catching the knife with new bookings continuing to decline and customer churn growing. Most transactional businesses appear to have reached a nadir. In the long run, both pre and post-vaccine, we see the continued acceleration of e-everything (commerce, payments, communications, etc). While this seems obvious, a less obvious trend that may accompany it is a decline in the previously robust experience economy that developed around travel, hospitality, and restaurants.

But our guess is as good as yours. As we look ahead, we encourage companies to do a scenario analysis to understand the key uncertainties that may have an outsized effect on the sustainability of their current model and where they might need to adjust or pivot to be successful post-COVID. We covered all of these topics in detail in a recent webinar and have linked the deck and recorded presentation below.

Click here to access the presentation slides. (14 slides)
Click here to access the webinar recording. (20 minutes)

Stay tuned for specific examples of how some of our companies are already adjusting to COVID and expectations for a changed world after.