Socialising during a global lockdown requires creative thinking. Weddings are being broadcast on Instagram, group workouts on YouTube and happy hours on Google Hangouts. Social media apps are proving a cure for enforced isolation.
The biggest beneficiaries will be smaller companies able to find a new audience. Nextdoor, the local networking start-up popular with curtain twitchers, reported an 80 per cent jump in engagement in the first two weeks of March. A new Help Map tool should push that number up further. The cuddly feature, which lets users offer each other assistance, will also collect data for its planned self-serve advertising platform.
Video apps are even more popular. Houseparty, owned by Epic Games, tops the Apple app store list in the UK. In the US, teleconferencing company Zoom Video Communications leads on Google Play.
Zoom, which has a nearly $40bn market value, is the standout winner of the stay-at-home trade. A Zoom boom means its shares have doubled this year. Easy to use, the app enables multiple people to connect at once and is free for low-usage. Monthly active user numbers rose 10 per cent on the previous year to more than 2.2m in February, estimates Bernstein. Expect the figure to jump higher in March.
The result is an enterprise value 48 times expected sales, according to data from S&P. Even for a cloud business this is sky high. Fellow working-from-home staple, messaging app Slack, trades at 16 times.
There are worse problems to have right now than high expectations. Still, the leap leaves Zoom exposed. Operating costs are going to rise too as the company employs more servers. Gross margins of 84 per cent in the last quarter will be pinched.
Then again that expense is worthwhile if Zoom can translate new users into long-term, paying customers. There is a chance group video calls will become so familiar they continue long after restrictions are lifted. What feels awkward today could one day become a global daily habit.
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