Insights from category creators and the investors who believe in them.

Overheard @ Evolving|E Summit 2020

July 21, 2020
On Thursday, July 16, GGV Capital and Max Ventures hosted our 5th Annual Evolving|E Summit, showcasing the dynamism and flexibility of today’s ecommerce companies in today’s market. As consumer demand online has surged in recent months, the Summit (first-time online!) focused on the unprecedented problems and inventive solutions leaders in ecommerce faced this year, covering everything from traditional retail to health-tech, gaming, banking, and more. With thoughts on the future of ecommerce from leaders at RoTwitchAffirmPeloton, and others, here are the ten most important takeaways from this year’s Evolving|E Summit:

#1 — Telemedicine’s time is finally here. Until COVID-19, the need for telemedicine had not proved its urgency since its inception more than a decade ago. According to Melynda Barnes, a surgeon and VP of Medical Affairs and Research at Ro, since the beginning of 2020 the adoption of telemedicine has accelerated by the equivalent of three to five years. More than one billion virtual care visits are expected this year alone, with 83 percent of patients using online health services for the first time. Worries about COVID-19 have seen patients abandoning the belief that good medical care must be face-to-face, she says, and doctors are more willing to use telehealth platforms, while regulation changes that allow them to practice medicine outside the state where they are licensed, have made it easier for them to do so. Insurers are also newly willing to reimburse virtual care at rates commensurate with in-person visits, paving the way for teleheath to gain real traction in medicine in upcoming years.

#2 — Technology is enabling $250 billion of current US healthcare spend to be virtualized according to McKinsey. Apple, Google and Microsoft are all investing heavily in healthcare, which is perhaps unsurprising given the market opportunity. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the United States spent $3.6 trillion on healthcare in 2018, with spending expected to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028. But in doing so, they are far out of their comfort zone and are projected to face challenges still, according to Allon Bloch, co-founder and CEO of K Health; such companies tend to want clean data, whereas healthcare—which is personal and full of partial information—is much messier.

#3 — Coronavirus has exposed how little people understand about the food supply chain. Lockdown fears caused grocery buying to surge: stores saw Thanksgiving-levels of demand for two weeks straight. Public shock about subsequent goods shortages showed how disconnected consumers are from the supply chain. Governments and the public will likely become increasingly interested in where food comes from and will value surety and simplicity.

#4 — The grocery industry is ripe for change and growth. Right now, grocers are concentrating on getting the fundamentals right rather than innovating. But Stefan Kalb, co-founder of Shelf Engine, predicts that “amazing companies” will emerge in the space in the next ten years, in part because of the breadth of opportunity to optimize food supply chains and make them more efficient. Sara Menker, founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, agrees, pointing out that the high price volatility of fresh produce suggests that the market is inefficient and, therefore, ready for innovation.

#5 — Entertainment is shifting from broadcast to interactive. 79 percent of Americans under the age of 30 identify as gamers and play every day. Not surprisingly, the gaming industry is booming, and is worth more than $137 billion. According to Sara Clemens, COO of Twitch, people are switching away from broadcast models of entertainment—such as television or even social media sites like Instagram—to platforms where the audience and creators interact directly with one another.

#6 — Participation is prized. Twitch users’ engagement with creators and influencers opens up new monetization opportunities for industries on the platform beyond gaming. Musicians using Twitch are discovering that fans who want to engage with them are also willing to support them financially. The desire for participation seems unlikely to fade: instead COVID-19 seems to have sped up the growing movement of people towards online communities.

#7 — Organic communities, not paid influencers, may become the best brand marketers. When they were starting out, Peloton decided they would never give product away for free, explained Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, the company’s former global marketing head. Celebrities and influencers who asked for a Peloton bike in return for publicity were turned away. This meant that vocal supporters for Peloton did so out of a genuine love for the product. Peloton’s famous community also blossomed organically, as committed customers sought each other out. The lack of artifice lends the brand crucial authenticity.

#8 — COVID-19 has accelerated existing long-term trends. People were already shifting their consumption patterns online, but the pandemic has dramatically sped up that process. The need to understand this trend—as well as how companies in the “digital economy” have performed in the last decade—is what inspired GGV Capital to compile its “Digital Economy Index,” which was launched at the Evolving|E Summit. Companies that have prioritized digitization, including ecommerce to fintech, education technology, food technology, wellness and health tech, and more, have collectively outperformed the overall market with an average 10-Year IRR (Internal Rate of Return) of 33%, representing a 16% gain over the average Nasdaq Composite. Further, online retail grew by 146% since this time last year according to an Emarsys analysis conducted in collaboration with GoodData, making almost every day since March 2020, a “Black Friday” shopping day.

#9 — The shift towards ecommerce will not only benefit the big players. Max Levchin, founder and CEO of Affirm, and Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, discussed how, in the current climate of rapid change, now is the time for smaller companies to invest in growth and gain ground on the giants. This can be seen in the recent successes of open-system ecommerce outfits like Shopify and Pinduoduo, compared to traditionally closed-system companies such as Alibaba or Amazon. Companies prepared to act fast will find new opportunities; for example, Affirm sprinted to help borrowers impacted by the economic consequences of coronavirus, and has subsequently had far fewer defaults and delinquencies than might be expected.

#10 — Things that are valuable are hard, but things that are hard aren’t always valuable. That’s Max Levchin’s advice for founders and investors, something that he learned from legendary entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. It has helped guide him in choosing projects to work on ever since. His personal rubric is now that anything he does must be valuable, hard, and fun (for him!). It hasn’t let him down yet.

Special thanks to Robin Li of GGV Capital and Ryan Darnell of Max Ventures for making this event possible as well as Silicon Valley Bank, Nasdaq, Propeller Industries, and Ed Zimmerman of Lowenstein Sandler.

Evolving|E is an ecommerce tech community that began in 2016 as a summit in New York for the top entrepreneurs and executives in the ecommerce, retail and consumer goods sectors. It was founded by GGV Capital and Max Ventures and today has expanded to include online and offline dinner series, masterclasses, and gatherings with an ecommerce community from around the world.

GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Social/Internet, Enterprise Tech and Smart Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, Bowery Farming, Chief, Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gro Intelligence, Hello, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Plushcare, Poshmark, Shelf Engine, Slack, Square, StockX, Wish, Xiaohongshu, YY and more. The firm has offices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Singapore, Shanhai and Beijing. Learn more at and @GGVCapital.

Max Ventures is an early-stage investing firm that backs entrepreneurs who have unique consumer insights and are relentless about getting things done. Since September of 2013, they’ve built a successful investment track record by backing entrepreneurs who possess extraordinary personal and professional skills. Some of their notable investments include BoxedZoomCarButton, and Drone Racing League. Max Ventures also leverages insights from the US market to invest in Europe.