Highlights from our Fourth Debate{X}: The Most Important & Lasting Impacts of COVID-19

By Kyra Durko on September 23, 2020

We recently hosted our fourth, and first virtual, Debate{X} at Two Sigma Ventures, continuing a tradition we cherished when in our office space and were grateful we could continue while remote.

We invited four of our friends and members of the venture capital community for a Churchill Club style debate on what the most non-obvious and lasting impacts of COVID-19 will be when we look back on this time ten years from now. Dan Abelon & Mickey Graham from our team co-MC’ed a lively debate between Shahin Farshchi from Lux Capital, Jenny Rooke from Genoa Ventures, Nnamdi Okike from 645 Ventures, and Alice Lloyd George from Rogue VC.

The rules of the debate were as follows: each panelist presented their thesis one at a time. The rest of the speakers then had the chance to agree or disagree (by voting yes or no with green & red paddles), then offer their rebuttal or support. Throughout the discussion, a live audience voted for the most compelling thesis as they listened to the arguments presented by each panelist

Here were the four theses our panelists offered up for debate:

1. People Will Get Closer – Shahin Farshchi, Lux Capital

In the last decade, social media has created a false sense of community and affirmation. We have thousands of followers, attract hundreds of likes, swipe left on scores of potential mates, but are lonelier than ever. The more time we spend apart during COVID, the more we long for community. When we ultimately overcome this pandemic, we will crave and seek genuine human relationships. We will seek to experience each other without relying on mobile phones. Social media fails to create real human connection, creating an opportunity for new companies to define this experience.

2. Innovation Hubs Reassert Dominance – Jenny Rooke, Genoa Ventures

There will be a diaspora of innovation right now while remote work flourishes, but it will not stick. Continuing with this trend, in 2-5 years our next generation of founders who are dispersing today will stay where they are and we will have an emergence of new innovation hubs (ie. Denver, Austin). Approaching the 10 year mark, however, top founders will realize they want all the decks stacked in their favor – energy from collaboration, access to capital, etc – and come back to the hubs we know today. The next generation’s hungry innovators once again flock to the hubs, conferring disproportionate power to ecosystem players who have stayed local, strengthening their brands and networks.

3. Our Most Important Institutions Will be Fundamentally Transformed – Nnamdi Okike, 645 Ventures

Institutions shaping our daily lives and work, in particular corporations, small businesses, and universities, will be fundamentally transformed by COVID-19. They will shift from being organizations structured based on physical presence and localized affinity groups, to becoming virtual organizations structured based on shared skills, interests, and affinities, which will democratize access while reducing the importance of one’s zip code. This will have widespread impacts on our daily lives, in particular where we choose to live and work, and will also have profound impacts on our economy due to resulting changes in business models.

4. COVID-19 Will Accelerate China vs. Rest of World Tensions – Alice Lloyd George, Rogue VC

US China relations haven’t been this bad in decades. This is due to both the stigma around the virus itself, reduced travel, the re-appropriation of Hong Kong, and increasing techlash against Chinese companies like TikTok. We will continue to see trade war skirmishes, and the tech cold war will be playing out 10 years from now. Additionally, there will likely be a lot of anti-China rhetoric around the election, and cultural differences will continue to divide people and countries. 

As COVID-19 has already accelerated many trends, it will be interesting to see which (if any) of these trends start to become a reality even sooner than 10 years out. For now, it was a close count in overall votes, but the audience was most convinced by Jenny Rooke’s thesis that “Innovation Hubs Reassert Dominance.” Check out the full video below, and we hope to see you at our next Debate{X}. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you if you have any topics you’d like to see discussed, or if you have any panelists you want to see go head to head for the next Debate{X} crown.

The views expressed herein are solely the views of the author(s), are as of the date they were originally posted, and are not necessarily the views of Two Sigma Ventures, LP or any of its affiliates. They are not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment advice.