Could high gas prices spur tech startups’ next big idea?

With gas prices skyrocketing, Pete Erickson doesn’t have to search hard for examples of how startup technologies have created opportunities to improve lifestyles.

“Look at what happened to transportation with the arrival of the smartphone, we use Uber and Lyft all the time,” said Erickson, CEO of MoDev, a technology community-building organization, based in Arlington, Virginia.

Erickson said digital startups will likely create new alternatives to driving and the current spike in gas prices could be what spurs them on.

“With gas prices being where they are, this does open up the opportunity for creative thinkers to come up with new ways that people can connect,” said Erickson.

He pointed to the popularity of Zoom, which became a household name during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One thing we’ve learned over the last two year is that ‘work from home’ works,” said Erickson. “Of course it has its challenges.”

Erickson said sometimes utilizing new technologies in times of need comes with trade-offs.

“A lot of us are feeling the benefits as we reconnect with people, and go to meetings in person — it feels very good,” he said.

Telemedicine has also developed rapidly during the pandemic.

“Most of us have done remote visits with doctors and we’ve learned, hey, we don’t have to go sit in the lobby, and wait, and wait, and wait,” he said

While teleportation still only exists in the realm of science fiction: “With the arrival of experiential capabilities that may be described as metaverse or virtual reality, there’s an opportunity to so some experiential things where you don’t have to travel,” Erickson said.

Although technology may provide ways for many employees to avoid a trip to the office, Erickson said the effects of high gas prices will be felt by hourly workers and those who have to travel to a set location. “So, this does open up the opportunity to come up with creative new ways to help people get where they’re going, leveraging community, that we haven’t even thought of yet.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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