By Scott Meacham
Happy New Year! I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to end one year and begin the next.
Times remain challenging, but in just the last few weeks, we finally have cause to celebrate. We have a reason to hope that the vaccines that are rolling out will tame this pandemic so that we can address the economic and social realities that Covid-19 left behind.
I wrote last week about learning from my grandparents to find the good in the bad. Another thing I learned from my family was the benefit of New Year’s resolutions. We didn’t draw up a list of resolutions, but we had a sense or responsibility that we should begin a new year with a commitment to do something better than the year before.
We’re taking that approach at i2E. Helping Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs find ways to put the disruption of 2020 to work to build scalable solutions into scalable companies is at the top of our list. When I say disruption, I mean changes to the status quo — anything that breaks up inertia.
Consider the unexpected improvement of delivery models for consumer goods and the new opportunities for innovation that have been spawned. Internet shopping was gaining ground before the pandemic. In 2020 it exploded. From razor blades to TVs and automobiles, all generations are buying online.
Changes in shopping and buying models have boosted demand for efficiency and innovation in fulfillment and last mile delivery. Abandoned shopping malls are being converted into warehouses. BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) is putting pressure on inventory management systems to extend curbside and the trunks of customers’ cars. These are big opportunities in big markets made for entrepreneurs to solve.
Our pandemic experience with telemedicine delivered through a video chat with a physician or nurse practitioner has proven that we do not need to sit in the doctor’s office or in the waiting room of a walk-in care to receive effective medical care.
Prior investments in technology, such as electronic health records and patient “my charts” made telemedicine possible, as did insurance companies and other regulators relaxing certain rules and practices—not the least of which was changing long-standing payment models that required face to face appointments. The “way things have always been done” is not the way things are being done now. What other areas of healthcare can entrepreneurs and startups improve?
And then there is Zoom. We have all learned to communicate better remotely. We have learned that face-to-face doesn’t have to be sitting in the same room. And we have also learned that we long for some face-to-face connection. There is an entrepreneur out there somewhere who is figuring out a solution that safely and economically blends both.
We won’t know all the innovation that comes out of this pandemic for months and years. But starting right now, let’s commit to keeping the momentum going and using entrepreneurship and innovation to do things better than ever in 2021.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].