The entrepreneurial and investor focus of the last decade has largely been centered on increased convenience and consumerism, and has encouraged companies to prioritize scaling, with little care for how it affects stakeholders, employees, consumers and even the environment. We have been talking about a shift for some time, but now more than ever, it has become obvious that companies have to take humanity into account as they build and scale in this new paradigm.
The last 10 years of startup growth have been about building and investing in these “nice to haves.” We believe the next 10 years will be focused on building and investing in “need to haves,” and the greatest business opportunities will be found in what we at Human Ventures call The Human Needs Economy — products and services that have material impact on basic needs and livelihoods and address a core draw on a consumer’s time, money or energy. For 2020, we are focusing on solving problems within three categories that we believe will have a huge impact on the Human Needs Economy: health and wellness, the future of work and community.
As the first category of the Human Needs Economy, we outline the opportunity within health and wellness and specific areas in which we are excited to build and invest.
Health and wellness
Looking back at a decade focused on scaling nice to haves, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are living with unaddressed health and wellness issues. And the statistics are staggering. In 2019, an estimated 47.6 million adults (19% of the country) had a mental illness, but only 43% received any kind of mental health care. When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, whole populations of minorities and underrepresented groups receive subpar care and face stigma around health issues. And we’re on track for a shortage of 120,000 doctors in the U.S. by 2030, a signal that these issues are set to get worse. (The United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how dangerous this is in a crisis.)
These challenges and others represent what we call the wellness deficit — the sum of human needs that have gone unmet in the areas of health and wellness. And even though it may seem that every block has a new boutique fitness studio popping up or everyone you know has the latest wearable to measure their sleep, we believe we are just at the starting line when it comes to making up ground and building great businesses that tackle these issues.
Below are 10 areas that are poised to make up this wellness deficit: