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Where Did All the Money Grow? Examining the Explosion of Startups During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to businesses worldwide. However, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, a surprising trend emerged – a significant increase in startup formations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 4.4 million new companies were established in 2020, with the majority being small businesses[1]. This surge in entrepreneurial activity during such a challenging period has left many wondering: Where did all the money grow? Let's explore the sectors that experienced substantial growth and investigate the factors behind this phenomenon.

Personal Services: Meeting the Demand for Care and Well-being

One sector that experienced a significant increase in new business formations during the pandemic was personal services. This sector includes professions such as hairdressers, nail salons, pet care, and home health care. The need for personal care and well-being grew as people sought ways to maintain their self-care routines despite the restrictions and limitations imposed by the pandemic.

According to data from the Census Bureau, personal services contributed to a notable portion of the startup influx[2]. With people embracing self-care as a way to cope with stress and anxiety, it is no surprise that entrepreneurs identified opportunities in this sector to meet the rising demand for these services.

Nonstore Retail: Embracing the Digital Shift

Another sector that witnessed significant growth in startups during the pandemic was nonstore retail. This sector comprises businesses that sell products online or through channels that do not require a physical storefront. In fact, the Census Bureau reports that one out of every three new businesses formed during the pandemic belonged to the nonstore retail sector[2].

As lockdowns and social distancing measures limited in-person shopping experiences, consumers turned to online channels for their purchasing needs. This shift in consumer behavior presented immense opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, and direct-to-consumer brands. With the surge in demand for online shopping, startups in the nonstore retail sector flourished and captured a significant share of the market.

Technology: Addressing the Digital Transformation

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of businesses across various industries. Startups in the technology sector played a crucial role in enabling this transformation. Technology-driven startups focused on addressing the challenges posed by remote work, e-commerce, and telemedicine experienced rapid growth.

The onset of the pandemic forced companies to adopt remote work models, leading to increased demand for tools and software solutions that facilitate communication, collaboration, and productivity. Startups providing remote work technologies flourished during this period as they offered innovative solutions to support remote teams.

Furthermore, the surge in online shopping created demand for e-commerce platforms, logistics solutions, and digital marketing services. Technology startups catering to these needs found themselves in a prime position to capitalize on the changing consumer behaviors.

Telemedicine also witnessed a significant rise during the pandemic. Healthcare startups utilizing technology to enable remote consultations, telehealth services, and digital health monitoring experienced a surge in demand. These startups not only helped patients access medical care while minimizing exposure to the virus but also addressed the strain on hospitals and healthcare workers.

Seizing Opportunities in Challenging Times

The pandemic presented numerous obstacles for businesses, causing disruptions and closures across industries. However, these challenging times also offered a unique environment ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation. Entrepreneurs had to adapt and pivot their business models to address the changing demands and circumstances.

The growth in startups during the pandemic exemplifies the importance of adapting to changing circumstances and addressing emerging needs within the market. The sectors that experienced significant growth – personal services, nonstore retail, and technology – showcased the ability of entrepreneurs to identify opportunities and create solutions to meet the evolving demands of consumers.

As the world navigates the recovery phase and adjusts to the new normal, it is crucial to monitor how these startups continue to shape their respective sectors and contribute to economic growth.


[3] "Entrepreneurship During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the Business Formation Statistics" by John C. Haltiwanger:

Haltiwanger, John C. "Entrepreneurship During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the Business Formation Statistics." Working Paper 28912, June 2021. doi: 10.3386/w28912. Available at:

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