Looking Ahead To 2021 – Planning, Not Predictions

No one really likes investor predictions (unless they’re like this), and I don’t either. Sometimes in the past, like last year, I’ve written them just to farce myself to think, but after last year, it’s doesn’t seem to be the right frame. So instead, what I’m going to share now is more about my preparations for 2021, knowing that the conditions on the ground could change dramatically. As such, I wanted to briefly share what my current “planning” is for 2021, full caveats for black swans excepted:

Vaccinations, Slowly, and with Caution – My belief is, as a member of the general (not at-risk, not essential worker) population in the state of California, that I will likely get my 1st vaccine dose in June, July, or August. Whatever that date is, the second shot (depending on which vaccine — I believe J&J, if approved, would be single dosage), would be a month later. It will take a bit of time for the magic to do its work (according to experts currently), and I’m personally not worried about side effects or negative reactions. My focus at this time will be my kids restarting school in September. If we get there, then I believe I’ll begin to feel more free about doing some normal things, but with caution still, largely because we are not sure if these are annual vaccines yet (so would I need another dosage end of year to coincide with next year’s flu season?). So, I’m cautiously optimistic, and once I get the vaccine, will carefully pick my spots in terms of social interactions, restaurant dining, and travel.

Phased Re-Entry, Then 2022 – In the back half of this year, I will hopefully begin a phased re-entry into doing some normal things. If we didn’t have 3 little kids, I’d probably rush back to do some travel, but that will have to wait. So for more normal behaviors for us to resume, we are thinking more about end of 2021 and really into 2022. That’s fine for me to process; the tough part is getting through February, March, April…. luckily I love what I do, and kids can be both a frustrating yet joyous distraction, so hopefully I can hold my nose until then.

Gatherings vs Meetings – I am a very social, extroverted person. The social isolation from the lockdowns have been difficult for me to adjust to. That said, I love having meetings, especially initial meetings, via phone or Zoom. This begs the question about the pre-seed and seed markets, given the environment right now. I firmly because the pandemic and lockdowns have shifted this market almost entirely to Zoom. It is frankly better for most early stage founders. It’s hard to envision this returning to normal. As an investor, I have to meet entrepreneurs where they are — that used to be the Bay Area and NYC primarily for me — not it will be on video. Now, gatherings are different. Conferences that I like to attend — man, I cannot wait to go. Those small curated events I went to would be almost impossible to conduct online. I also host a few private events per year and I’ve decided to not do it in 2021 (and didn’t really do one in ’20).

Rideshare vs Fixed Line – One big lesson reinforced to me in 2020 was to stay small, stay nimble. I know that sounds cliche, but I always think of the difference between rideshare options like Uber and Lyft vs all the money that California has burned away trying to get high speed rail up and running. Fixed costs are a bear. Being able to tap into resources when I need them is of even greater value to me now as we hopefully approach a post-pandemic world. I’ve been trying to refactor everything I do to move away from fixed things to variable ones, and if there’s one bright spot operationally from 2020, it would be this lesson.

Of caurse, just a year ago today none of us knew what was in store. It could happen again, or something as improbable. So, the best I can do is plan for what I think will happen, pay close attention, and adjust accordingly when the situation changes. No matter what, though, I do sincerely thank you for reading and wish you and yours a very Happy New Year and warm wishes for 2021!