The economy of loneliness: coronavirus through the eyes of Russians in Silicon Valley

What opportunities venture capitalists see for startups in the midst of the pandemic

Coronavirus through the eyes of American Russian guys. Panic or a way to divert attention? Or a reason for the development of new technologies? What do they say about this in Silicon Valley? Olga Glukhova, the founder and director of the advertising agency Vivat, speaks about how to make money in the context of the pandemic in the author's column for Realnoe Vremya together with venture investors in Silicon Valley.

The coronavirus situation — open MIC

We talked online with venture investors, businessmen — Russian guys who are living and working in Silicon Valley. We visited them during a business trip to America.

Who are they?

  • Pavel Cherkashin is a venture investor and owner of a venture fund in San Francisco.
  • Sergey Sigalov is a top specialist in the Mail group of companies working with AI.
  • Nikolay Oreshkin is an investor.
  • Grigory Avetov — the director of Synergy University, etc.

The organizer and moderator of the online broadcast was Ruslan Gafarov, a businessman and the founder of Malik trip.

Their opinions about the situation in the world, of course, have divided. They are not gods or prophets... They agree on the main point.

Pavel Cherkashin. Photo:

Well, first of all, the situation with the coronavirus is not a panic, but rather — for the first time in the world — an open microphone, a huge information field where everyone and everywhere expresses their opinion. And it is all over the news.

And there are two aspects to this:

  1. people don't trust the media;
  2. but the social network still do not know how to filter trustworthy information from spam.

What follows from this? Opportunities! The opportunities for startups to develop information filtering. And Silicon Valley is waiting for them for investment.

But there is also a panic in the US. And buying-up of toilet paper and products from the shelves is not a myth, but a reality. They actually are staying at home and working from home. Of course, the panic will go away. In China, it has already gone. The guys with the household appliances business of a well-known brand in Russia have been quietly receiving cargo from their Chinese production for 2 weeks.

Of course, the coronavirus is a way to distract from politics and, in particular, from business opportunities. In the United States, they are actively buying up shares of the largest wastewater companies found themselves in a difficult situation on the stock exchanges.

There are reasons for this.

  • Airlines have reduced flights by 50%.
  • Travel companies are suffering huge losses.
  • Offline education is suffering losses due to the quarantine.
  • Movie theaters are emptying.
  • Restaurants have become empty and are working only for food delivery to the home and office.
  • Even Booking and Airbnb are in a severe slump due to a drop in tourist traffic.

And these are giant companies — it is harder for them to quickly adapt to the situation than for small businesses. Their shares have sunk and they are being bought up. And buying up the stocks of such companies is going at a furious pace! Stock exchanges themselves buy everything themselves, sometimes not letting investors do it themselves! Guys are in shock! But this means that the market will be redefined.

Sergey Sigalov. Photo:

One billion users will come to online services

We also talked about areas that are attractive for investment. In addition to IT technologies, biotechnologies, investments in real estate abroad and in foreign currency are attractive, as well as stock exchanges — one should run straight there.

What is really happening? And the fact that the information field itself is now stimulating the world economy to develop!

Quarantine... virus... stay home, people...

But what will happen next? Right. IT technologies will drive people en masse into the online environment. According to the most conservative forecasts, 1 billion new users will come to online services. Of course, there will be an outflow back to offline later, but when people come to offline, they will not leave online after evaluating the possibilities.

And there is a sea of possibilities:

  • online education,
  • online shopping,
  • online tourism,
  • online leisure,
  • cyber industry, etc.

And these businesses have huge potential for growth! A quantum leap in development will follow in AI, VR, AR. And we were told about cases that in these industries there is already a furious growth and flow of money from users going.

An example: one of the young start-up projects simply does not know where to put money now. The idea is that they find top players in eSports and offer their services as coaches to users and novice players. That is, a novice can “train” to play tanks from the strongest players for money. They liked the idea.

Nikolay Oreshkin. Photo:

AI capabilities are not fully studied. For example, its ability to analyze and predict in many industries: in medicine (diagnostics, prediction and creation of vaccines based on the analysis of huge data).

After all, by and large, the vaccine against coronavirus could have been created by AI. The difficulty is simply in the long way to its use by humans: animal studies, etc.

  • The digital twin of a person, computer vision — we will all eventually have it for the convenience of online actions.
  • VR and AR with their ability to recreate the environment and objects.

A home appliance manufacturer said that he is already rendering all its products and moving the business online. And advises everyone to do so.

What's next? We talked about the future.

“The crisis is a time of opportunity. For everyone”

In the near future, you and I, sitting at home, will be able to:

  • go anywhere in the world;
  • get an excellent online education (and it will be no worse than offline with the use of VR capabilities, AR will be, perhaps, better than the current offline education);
  • watch theater productions, movies, and with personal, customized content for each of us in the series, for example (Netflix is already doing this);
  • train at home with the best athletes and cyber-players and play sports. Both conventional and e-sports;
  • make purchases and try on your own digital counterpart clothing, shoes, etc.

What will it lead to? It's time for the economy of loneliness. And it will entail a change in the model of people's consumption. If I sit at home, work and relax from home, then who can I boast of an expensive car, bag and jewelry? I will boast a new tank in a cyber game and be the coolest one there. I will buy devices for self-diagnosis of myself, my microclimate at home and the space around me.

Grigory Avetov. Photo:

Pavel Cherkashin demonstrated on the air a portable air purifier the size of a phone that can be worn on the chest. We talked about portable spectrometers and other devices for measuring their own parameters, toilet covers with a function for taking analyses, etc. We will have a “smart” home and a lot of “smart” services and voice assistants with whom you can chat about life. And they can talk to me on any topic.

And what's next? And then it will be possible, and in Japan it has already appeared:

  • cyber pets,
  • cyber wives and husbands,
  • cyber friends.

You think this is fantastic? Have you watched Black Mirror? Everything we see there comes to the world faster than we think.

Ratings of people — already in China. Voice assistants — friends. Digital twins of people.

But let's go back to the main thing. The phrase is not new, but the crisis is a time of opportunity. For small businesses. For startups. For everyone.

What should we do now? We need to divert attention from the focus on the coronavirus and focus on opportunities and new directions. On the development and search for new horizons for your business. To jump, you need to sit down. To get a boost to development — you need to get stress. Stress hits harder where they relax and bask.

By Olga Glukhova