According to self-made billionaire Mark Cuban, the future of America post-pandemic, or what he calls “America 2.0,” will look “different.”
“My dad always said that you don’t live in the world you were born into, and that’s not going to change,” Cuban said during a Q&A session at the George W. Bush Center on Oct. 21. “The rate of change is only going to accelerate.”
Forced changes that were brought on due to the spread of Covid-19 may become permanent, Cuban said.
“We’re seeing businesses move toward online. We’re seeing more people work at home. We’re seeing people having to deal with health care issues with uncertainty. It’s up to entrepreneurs to find solutions to those issues,” he said. “That, to me, is America 2.0.”
Here are some of Cuban’s predictions on what “America 2.0” will look like.
Ongoing remote work
As coronavirus-induced lockdowns swept the country, companies shifted from working in offices to working remotely, and there is no end in sight.
“Offices are not going to be the same,” Cuban said at the Bush Center. “I think we’ll see a lot of innovations in how commercial business space is enabled.”
In line with Cuban’s thoughts, some companies have planned to make adjustments to their office space, like creating wider corridors with one-way foot traffic, implementing air filtration and touchless elevator controls, CNBC reported. However, others are disrupting the traditional office set-up and plan to create meeting spots across the country instead – for example, Facebook and Dropbox plan to create “hubs” and “studios,” respectively, for those working remotely to meet in-person and collaborate.
“I don’t think we [will] have to go to the office anymore, even though there are some companies that will prefer that,” Cuban said.
Indeed, 57%of small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. plan to continue to offer remote work options long-term, according to a survey from cloud communications company Intermedia. In addition, larger companies have adapted to the idea of telecommuting as well: Facebook has indicated plans to “aggressively” increase hiring of remote workers, Google is working on a “more flexible” work schedule and Twitter and Square have said employees can work remotely “forever” if they want to. As a result, up to 23 million Americans are planning to relocate, according to Upwork’s Remote Workers on the Move report released Thursday.
Cuban said there will be “value” in this, as “reducing or eliminating travel time, spending 30, 40, 60 minutes each way to and from work,” would be a positive change.
“But that will force [workers] to say, ‘We still want that social component of how we work together,’ and I think you’ll see organizations adapt,” he said. For example, companies may have events to bring employees together every other week to “socialize,” he predicts.
Between travel restrictions and fears for safety, the pandemic brought the travel plans of many to a halt. Passenger revenue for airlines alone is estimated to decrease by $314 billion in 2020, which is a 55% drop from 2019, according to an April report by the International Air Transport Association.
According to Cuban, post-pandemic, “we’re not going to travel as much,” especially with work from home and the rise of video-chat technology like Zoom.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also predicts “50% of business travel … will go away” after the pandemic is over, he said at the New York Times’ DealBook conference on Nov. 17.
And Kevin O’Leary, Cuban’s “Shark Tank” co-star, previously told CNBC Make It that “companies now have had months to realize they don’t have to travel to conduct business,” O’Leary said. “They can use technology.”
“I’m not saying people won’t get back on airplanes. But in my case and all my businesses, we are making plans to reduce our business travel. We don’t care when the vaccine comes,” O’Leary said.
Digitalization of business
“We’ll see a lot more people turn to technology for purchasing” even when things return to normal, Cuban said. “My wife was adamant against buying groceries from Whole Foods and having it delivered, [but] not anymore.”
The pandemic prompted a major shift to online for businesses and customers. Shoppers in the U.S. spent a record-setting $10.8 billion online on Cyber Monday, which is a 15.1% increase from 2019, according to Adobe Analytics data. Overall, Adobe forecasts $184 billion in online sales will be spent this holiday season, a 30% increase from 2019, as a result of concerns over the coronavirus spread.
“We’re seeing an adaptation by entrepreneurs into new ways of doing business that I think are going to continue to be accepted,” he said.
“When there is change, even when it’s horrific like this, there is opportunity there,” Cuban said.
“World-class companies” will be founded out of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Cuban.
“I’m 100% confident that when we’re five years out, 10 years out, and look back to the pandemic of 2020, we’ll realize that there have been 10, 20, 50 world-class companies that were created here in this country by entrepreneurs,” he said at the Bush Center.
“There’s some 12-year-old kids somewhere coming up with an idea to do things in a way that we never would have envisioned that is going to make us all think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?‘ And that to me is America 2.0.”
Just as massive companies, like Airbnb, Uber, NerdWallet, Venmo and Square, came out of the Great Recession, Cuban predicts a similar wave of entrepreneurship post-pandemic.
“What makes this country different than every other country in the world is that we are a country of entrepreneurs. We are innovators,” he said. “It’s the role of entrepreneurs to find ways [to] take things that have to be adapted and have to move forward and find ways to create new kinds of businesses.”
“It’s going to be the people that we don’t expect to come up with new visions of what America 2.0 should look like and we’ll be proud of them and they’ll change the way we do things.”
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”