I’m Lisa Calhoun, the founding General Partner at Valor Ventures. I’m here with some amazing founders from Valor’s portfolio. We’re talking about what to expect from technology in 2021. You know, entrepreneurs are 10% or so of the population, but they create the innovations and the jobs that keep the rest of us going. I thought you would love to hear what some of our founders are working on, and what they’re excited about in tech in 2021. Without further ado, I’m going to ask Deb Casurella, from MyAgData to kick us off.
Thanks, Lisa. We are in ag-tech but I’m going to start with education. The reason that I’m going to start there is that my grandkids are all e-learning. My conversations with my granddaughter have gone from, you know, playing with an iPad to Google classroom and Google meets and Google, Google, Google. What Google has done is a terrific job marketing and selling to the next generation of kids. I mean, these kids coming out of elementary school or junior high today are going to know much better how to manage their time. The pandemic is just one way for our next generation to learn how to use tech. In the ag-tech industry, what we focus on is automating current manual processes. What MyAgData is to the US Department of Agriculture is similar to what TurboTax and Tax Act are to the IRS. We’re going from paper acreage reports to electronic acreage report, you click on a map, you report your acres to the government electronically. Ideally, you e-sign that. That is a complete transformation, similar to the- transformation being done in education today. Because with COVID, farmers can’t go into their local office and they can’t socialize with the people that they do today. They have to figure out how to interact the way that we’re interacting today via social media and technology. What MyAgData is to transform the way that farmers interact with the USDA. We’re pretty excited about where this can go in 2020 and the automation that it brings.
Great! Andrew McConnell with Rented, Inc. We, for the vacation rental and short term rental industry, are the leading provider of revenue management and pricing services and technologies. What we’re seeing in the short-term rental industry, besides a lot of attention around the Airbnb IPO, is a real awareness, boost and jump in two main areas. The first is an awareness of the category. If you went pre 2008 and the financial crisis, only about 23-24% of Americans would stay in short term rentals. They really looked at hotels when they traveled. The financial crisis for financial reasons really upped that and we saw 30-35% of people started traveling, they could no longer fly to Bali. They were driving to stay at the beach. We saw that same kind of inflection point with COVID. So not necessarily entirely financially driven, though partially. But much more people didn’t want to hop on a plane and risk their life, they didn’t want to hop on an elevator with a bunch of snotty children that may or may not be carriers. They wanted to get away and they wanted to drive there. That really led to a surge in new guests, finding, staying in, and loving short term and vacation rentals. And we expect just like in 2008, that surge will stay. People have discovered the category they want to stay there. The other big inflection point and awareness came from professional management companies. Historically, when the industry was year after year growing so well, people could sit back and set rates of the year before and say, “Hey, we’ll just bump every rate 3%. We’ll bump every rate 5%.” And it looked like they were doing a great job. Every year, they made a little more money. But it never really worked if your goal is to maximize revenue per available room. In a pandemic world where occupancy disappears, where demand disappears, and then surges overnight, it made it more apparent than ever that they needed far more sophistication and pricing and revenue management like hotels already had, like airlines already had, like any e-commerce business already has. That should make the category even more available for more guests and get more homeowners interested in renting their homes in the first place.
Awesome. All right! I am Jeannie Tarkenton, founder of Funding U. We are sort of one foot in FinTech and one foot in ed-tech. But I’m going to go strong in FinTech because I see a lot of interesting things happening in 2021. I’m going to refer to it sort of as the rise of the rest. I think there’s going to be a lot of focus on the 170-200 million consumers who’ve been long ignored by FinTech who tend to focus on kind of the highest networks consumer, sort of this shiny thing and the rise of the FinTech who are really focusing on the big addressable market of 170 million American consumers who do not look like that. I think it’s really going to be our turn, both FinTech who serve moderate low-income people who aren’t necessarily sliding or cruising by here economically. I think COVID has brought a big, big focus onto that. I think that both the fintech themselves and the investment community and the consumers are going to be looking pretty hard at who’s serving that consumer. I think it’s going to be a moment where there’s a lot of “walk the walk”. I think big incumbents are going to be looking to innovators. I think there’s gonna be a lot of partnerships of big financial institutions with smaller innovators. I think it’s a wonderful thing a bit that the band-aids been ripped off. People are more comfortable talking about the need to provide more products to more people in a more fair pricing model. I’m super excited because I think the big players are going to be really pushed both from their own boardrooms, but also from their own consumers, you know, what are you doing? How expansively available, are you? If you are not, who are you going to partner with or acquire, to make that happen? So in our world, I see that as financial access, you know, what we do is building data that allows credit to be given to people who do not have a deep credit history. We’re just an example. I think there’ll be a lot of people working in that financial credit access. That’s my observation.
Yeah, I guess it’s my turn. It’s a pleasure to be here at Lisa, thank you so much for having and putting, this whole thing together. And to really introduce myself, my name is Nelson Thomas, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of EcoText. EcoText is a company involving the ed-tech industry, founded on the principle of trying to democratize access, that all students have the ability to get the textbooks they need on day one of class so they can reach their respective full potentials, and let it not be because of an overbearing textbook cause that they weren’t able to do so. It’s been an exciting journey so far and it’s a pleasure to be here alongside so many fabulous founders. As we talk about what’s common in technology coming in 2021 and looking at the lens of educational technology, it’s really been a transformation. We’ve sparked by the unfortunate occurrences of COVID-19. When we’re looking at a kind of what’s the what’s to come within the realm of here is how do we maintain the same standard of education that we’re accustomed to, wherever the classroom maybe, right? That’s going to be a large place of importance for universities moving forward in this world of “Zoom U” is being able to ensure that their students are still going to be receiving the high-quality education that they were accustomed to inside the classroom. That’s one of the things that we’re really taking a lot of pride in ecoText is the ability to enable collaborative conversation, insightful dialogue, right within the margins, so you aren’t losing that standard of education, and that students are still getting something that’s really worthwhile, even though there might not be in physical campuses. It’s a changing world is a changing dynamic and this has really sparked a lot of innovation. But the key is to really make it impactful in the new world that we’re in coming into, we can really be worthwhile and sustainable in a way in which we can block out and protect ourselves against concurrences like this again. I’m excited to be here and have this wonderful conversation. Thank you again.
Nelson, thank you so much and Jeannie of Funding U, Andrew of Rented, and Deb of MyAgData. We have covered agriculture, finance, real estate, and educational technologies with a lot of previews of coming attractions. I really appreciate your time.
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