In this post, we’re exploring viable business ideas for 2020 and beyond. We’ll start by examining business trends that will impact virtually all industries in the coming years. Then we move to specific businesses and industries that are poised to see massive growth.
Note that we provide handy resources for each item on the list. You can use these resources to do some additional research right away.
Let’s get going.
The Business Environment in 2020: Emerging Trends
In this section, we’ll explore the top five business trends that will drive entrepreneurial investment in the next ten years. These trends are, for the most part, world-wide phenomena. They won’t be going away any time soon.
#1 Human Rights Comes Into Sharper Focus
At this year’s Golden Globes, comedian Ricky Gervais made headlines by accusing Apple of maintaining sweatshops in China and other regions. Suffice to say, Apple CEO Tim Cook was none too pleased as he glowered up at Gervais from the audience. The comedian also called out individual stars for ‘cozying up to’ tech giants for personal benefit.
Overall, digital technology is recognized by many to be a net positive. After all, it allows people access to an incredible wealth of knowledge. YouTube allows people, regular folks, to upload videos for other regular folks, facilitating a massive exchange of knowledge—and entertainment value. But YouTube, today, is just a brand. It was long ago acquired by tech giant Google.
Recently, tech giants like Google have come under fire for existing in a so-called ‘human rights-free zone.’ According to the UN Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights, digital technology is too-rapidly changing society, and the poorest among us may suffer most.
These users are least likely to be informed about privacy and data usage policies that allow giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to sell their data. Indeed, according to one survey, 7 out of 10 people worry about how these companies use their data.
In the next decade, expect restrictions on data usage to become tighter, and expect regulation of the Internet in general to evolve. At the same time, expect consumer electronics to become more expensive if Western companies are made to produce more of their products in their home countries.
#2 Finance Becomes Sustainable
As awareness of man-made climate change increases, sustainable fintech will become the norm. Sustainable finance is any instrument or financial medium that takes into account environmental, social or governance factors. Examples include green bonds in Europe and Asia. China is spearheading sustainable finance since aggressive industrialization has left some areas of the country quite literally chocked in smog.
One implication of this is that some sectors, such as coal, may be marginalized in the coming years in favor of renewable energy sources such as air, algae biofuel, and wind.
#3 Capitalism Re-Analyzed
There’s no doubt that capitalism produces more stable economies than does communism. That experiment was carried out on a mass scale in the twentieth century. But more and more people are beginning to question the wisdom of nearly unbridled capitalism. Indeed, segments of the population worldwide seem wary of the idea of corporations gaining more influence over governance.
The World Economic Forum, for its part, is renewing its focus on what it calls ‘stakeholder capitalism.’ The organization is calling for corporations to pay their fair share in taxes, to demonstrate zero tolerance for internal corruption and to uphold human rights.
If this trend continues, we may see a return to the stricture anti-lobbying rules of the past. This could, in turn, affect wholesale prices across entire industries as suppliers pay more to create their goods and as corporations pay more taxes.
#4 Lab-Grown Meat Becomes Commonplace
While cultured meat won’t replace factory farming for quite a while, you can expect to see it hitting store shelves soon. In areas of Asia, where the population is growing rapidly, demand for meat is rising right along with it. But producing enough meat for a meat-hungry population requires high energy inputs in the form of grain. While it is possible to raise beef without grain—grain is not a natural part of a cow’s diet, after all—doing so at scale would increase the price of beef dramatically. Ranchers use grain to fatten up the cow near the end of its life in a process known as ‘finishing.’
But if lab meat can be made viable at scale, the game changes.
Currently, the bottleneck for scale is sustainable cellular agriculture. In order to even have a chance at getting vegans and vegetarians on board, cultured meat producers will have to find a way to grow cell cultures without serums derived from living organisms. This is proving difficult. But vegans and vegetarians still make up a small segment of the population. What about meat-eating consumers?
The challenge there is to remove the stigma from lab meat. When lab meat production reaches maturity, lab meat facilities will resemble breweries. This is a far cry from meat in its natural form. Marketing firms will have their work cut out for them in convincing some consumers to make the switch to lab-grown meat.
Nevertheless, there is huge potential here in the next ten to twenty years. Savvy investors will make a fortune, and bold entrepreneurs will think up numerous ways to profit from the lab meat phenomenon. For instance, as the technology matures, we can envision companies that allow users to freeze and send in some of the lab meat they purchased. The company would then analyze the macro and micro-nutrient profile of the meat for a fee.
You see, as the technology hits scale, many people in the paleo or keto crowd will be hesitant to try lab meat. Their primary concern will be that cultivated meat does not fit the macro and micro-nutrient profile of natural meat. A savvy entrepreneur willing to invest in the right equipment, then, can act as a middleman to test the meat to see how it compares.
Granted, clientele will likely be limited to the upper-middle class and above, and the client base would dwindle over time. Still, this is just one off-the-cuff possibility. We’re sure there are many, many more.
#5 The Circular Economy Gains Steam
As more countries set limits on the amount of single-use plastic items a business can provide customers with, more companies will adopt a circular economy model. As you might have guessed, the concept of a circular economy places an emphasis on recycling and reducing one-time use items. It also places an emphasis on reducing waste via intentional design changes.
This movement is certainly popular with consumers, particularly millennials. Look for opportunities to sell reusable items. For instance, consumers may be willing to pay a high price for a quality steel straw. They can take the straw with them to restaurants and can clean it when they get home. This allows them to avoid using plastic straws when out on the town.
10 Business Ideas for 2020
The following business sectors are poised to explode over the next ten years. Some are established industries while others are emerging.
#1 Get Into Robotics
Robotics is going mainstream. Sure, tech optimists have been claiming that the age of robotics has been upon us since the ‘80s or late ‘70s. But now, in 2020, it’s true. Boston Dynamics, Honda, MIT and others are making staggering progress. ROBO, a fund that tracks 90 robotics companies, saw an 18% increase in 2019. Granted, this is a short-term signal. But the spike in value represents a leap in consumer interest.
What’s more, as life expectancies world-wide increase, older populations will require more care. Robotics will play a huge role in this. From lifelike robots that are capable of displaying human-like emotion to robotic medicine and food delivery systems, savvy entrepreneurs have ample opportunity to get in on the ground floor.
Plus, if you look into the future of automated drones, you’ll see that the sky is the limit. Self-driving cars are coming along quite nicely too. Third-party, aftermarket systems that ‘watch’ the car driving itself and report any irregularities to the human driver may become popular.
For more on how you might profit from robotics, see the paper, Pioneering The Personal Robotics Industry.
#2 Space Tourism
This is another high-level concept that tech optimists have been telling us about for decades. But what’s changed since the’ 80s, ‘90s and early 2000s is that private space industry has taken off. Many companies, such as SpaceX and Axiom, aim to start offering commercial space flight in the 2020s. To be sure, these initial commercial forays will be prohibitively expensive for most. But as is usually the case, costs will go down.
As restaurants, bookstores and other outlets profited from airports, so too will they profit from space ports.
Indeed, the real money will be made by companies that make deals with these initial space ports as they will be the first to cater to upper middle class consumers. The bottleneck at the moment is the development of a space plane that can reach orbit on its own. Once that hurtle is overcome, expect to see space ports cropping up.
According to MarketWatch, space tourism will be worth $1.18-billion by 2024.
Are you into creating designs for print-on-demand apparel? As space tourism takes off, look to create designs that help consumers show off their recent trip to space. Did they really go into orbit? Who knows? But your designs can provide them with a great conversation starter.
See the following resources for more.
#3 Lab Meat Revisited
The push to move away from factory farming is a trend, but lab meat is a business opportunity. As such, we’d be remiss if we didn’t feature it on the list of business ideas for 2020.
Here, we’ll outline some of the key players in the lab meat game and provide you with some resources for further reading in case this is something you’d like to pursue.
So far, the biggest players are Memphis Meats, Higher Steaks, Mosa Meat, Aleph Farms and Meatable. All of these companies have successfully raised funding or else have wealthy backers behind them. They all aim to bring lab meat to grocery stores in the near future.
In addition, Future Meat Technologies, a trailblazer in cultured meat production, just received a $14-million cash infusion to build its first manufacturing facilities. The company claims that these pilot facilities will bring the cost of a cultured steak down from $10 to $4. Granted, the resulting ‘steak’ will also include plant-based meat substitutes. But it’s a start.
If you’re interested in starting a related business in the space, see the following resources.
#4 Senior Care & Support
As mentioned, populations are getting older. Life spans are increasing, but extensions in life expectancy don’t equal increases in quality of life. Sadly, this means that many seniors need help with day-to-day activities. Consequently, senior care continues to be one of the fastest-growing business opportunities. In 2011, the first baby boomers hit age 65. By 2030, all baby boomers will be at least 65. By then, seniors will make up a quarter of the U.S. population.
At the same time, however, the cause of Alzheimer’s remains frustratingly elusive. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common, as is chronic inflammation. In general, rates of non-communicable, chronic diseases are increasing.
But compared to earlier generations, baby boomers are fairly affluent. They will be able to afford more in the way of long term support in their silver years. Boomers tend to prefer to remain at home as opposed to moving into dedicated care facilities, so there is room for growth in the senior care industry. Housekeeping and related sectors can expect to see a boon in the coming years.
If the mention of robotics earlier piqued your interest, look into the work being done in Japan. It’s projected that human-like robots will play a large role in interacting with and caring for an aging Japanese population.
See the following resources for more on senior care.
#5 Real Estate
The world isn’t getting any bigger. While investing in beachside real estate may prove risky in the coming decades, real estate overall remains a viable business strategy. In addition, real estate provides entrepreneurs with a safety cushion as they pursue more aggressive business ideas. It’s an amazing investment because it:
- Is low risk. All investments hold some degree of risk. But real estate offers a high rate of return for the risk involved. A rental property can provide you with steady income.
- Provides a hedge against inflation. Real estate values generally rise over time. This means that your investment is automatically protected somewhat from inflation. Because land is a finite resource—until space tourism becomes space lodging, anyway—it retains value extremely well. This value rubs off on anything built upon it.
- Provides income. A good real estate investment can provide you with both short-term income and long-term income. Investing in a rental property can help you invest in other ventures.
- Is beginner-friendly. If in doubt, just share some of the rental income with a property management company and they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
For these reasons, real estate investment definitely earns a spot on this list. Real estate can help the versatile entrepreneur remain agile.
See the following case study for more information:
#6 Software Engineering & Development
Software engineers are in demand, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Software engineers create and maintain applications on a number of platforms. These professionals take the available hardware and create applications for it, rendering it useful for everyone else. If you’re looking for a trade to get into, or a firm to start, you can’t go too wrong here. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for software engineers will increase 28 percent by 2028.
In particular, individuals who can create custom machine learning solutions will be in high demand.
Resources for further reading:
#7 Meal Kit Design, Creation & Delivery
While Americans are focusing more on healthy eating, they’re still incredibly busy. Enter meal kit services. These businesses deliver fresh ingredients to customers with instructions for meal prep, removing one-time drain from the cooking equation. Consumers still have to cook the meal themselves, but they can rest assured that the ingredients are of high quality.
In recent years, meal kit startups like Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Dinnerly and HelloFresh have proven that the model is viable. What’s more, market penetration remains low, meaning there’s room for growth.
Consider the keto craze. The ketogenic diet is high fat, very low carbohydrate and moderate in protein. It’s become popular as a way to quickly lose weight.
Many people who eat a ketogenic diet also practice intermittent fasting, which often takes the form of only one meal per day.
A meal kit business aimed at keto dieters could leverage this fact by offering one slightly bigger package for people who eat one meal per day. This option would lower shipping costs because the delivery contains less food overall. At the same time, keto dieters would appreciate having a meal kit option aimed at them as there aren’t many ready-to-cook options available for this diet.
What’s more, conscientious consumers like meal kit companies because these businesses tend to source their ingredients from local farmers.
Resources for further reading:
#8 Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Of all the items on this list, virtual and augmented reality offer the most versatility. It’s an untapped market, and if you can imagine a product in this space, you can probably profit from it. Augmented reality, in particular, stands poised to give customers experiences unimaginable before now.
If you want to get a feel for what augmented reality will look like in this space, imagine the functionality of a smartwatch, except it can display its information in a HUD that’s overlaid on the user’s field of vision. This technology will allow consumers to monitor their heart rate, blood glucose level and other health indicators in real time.
But health is far from the only use case.
Combined with geogating and other mobile technologies, the possibilities are endless. Imagine you have a gift card for a particular store. You walk into that store and your gift card balance appears in the upper-right hand side of your vision. Your bank balance appears below it, accompanied by any relevant budget categories you’ve associated with that particular store.
This particular experience is still at least a decade or so off, of course, because it will be powered by small smart lenses. But augmented reality experiences are already possible on smart phones. And companies like Google have already experimented with smart glasses.
If you want to get in on the ground floor, the name of the game is app creation. Anything that will make the consumer’s life easier, that will help save time or that will lower their stress level will sell.
Resources for further reading:
#9 Self Storage
A more transient workforce is contributing to a boom in the self-storage industry. This could mean an opportunity for entrepreneurs willing to move fast. Without a doubt, competition overall is fierce, and the real estate is expensive, but with competitive pricing and modern features, it’s possible to earn a steady profit. Note that demand often exceeds supply in large metropolitan areas, such as New York.
Besides, the savvy, modern entrepreneur can save money by utilizing cloud-based security systems. These systems are composed of motion-activated cameras, and they upload directly to a cloud server. This reduces the cost of on-site security significantly.
What’s more, the stuff in abandoned units becomes yours eventually—but check your state or country for the specifics. It’s possible to find some real gems among the junk.
Here’s a case study if you’re interested in more information on the self-storage business model.
Last but not least, the demand for more economically friendly transportation options may signal a resurgence in demand for bikes. A bike shop represents a much smaller investment than, say, a car lot. And biking provides consumers with health benefits, something millennials are proven to care about.
According to The League of American Bicyclists, bike commuting increased by 40 percent from 2010 to 2017.
Here are some resources in the bike industry:
We hope this post has given you some business ideas for 2020 and beyond. If it has, could you consider giving us a share? Someone else might find this post useful too!