The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States came as a shock to many of us across the world, defying both the polls and conventional wisdom about what the American people want in a leader. As the result starts to sink in, increasingly people are looking to the future and trying to work out what it will all mean for the future.
At Hubbub, we’re acutely aware of the issues that have been raised by this election. Although we were founded in the UK, we have just secured $1.1m from Connecticut Innovations to establish a US office and scale up our operations in the US market. So the question is, what does the election result mean for a business like us?
Exchange rate blues
One immediate consequence of the election has been increased volatility in currency, based on the content and tone of Trump’s statements on the campaign trail. The GBP to USD exchange rate (already unsettled by Brexit) has been fluctuating wildly, and it is not clear where it will end up.
In part this will depend on how Trump positions himself from now on, both within America and on the world stage. Will he seek to be a President for all Americans, or the leader of an increasingly angry subset? Will he continue to talk about building a wall and tearing up free trade treaties, or will those promises be quietly dropped by the time of his inauguration?
From our perspective, it seems likely that the investment Hubbub received will ultimately be worth less in GBP. This is not an immediate issue, however, as our spending plans are substantial on both sides of the Atlantic. It does, however, mean that pricing will get more complicated, as will predicting the costs that scale with client numbers such as support, account management and professional services.
Getting it wrong either on pricing or on the cost of customer success could cost us 15-25 per cent either way as a direct result of this uncertainty. With that in mind, now is an excellent time to think carefully about issues concerned with currency as well as develop a robust strategy in case the exchange rate continues to fluctuate, or ends up settling in unfamiliar territory.
A fragmented society
In the medium term, the United States is likely to become a less attractive place to work for members of minority groups. Even if Trump doesn’t push forward with mass deportations and religion-based immigration bans, his campaign has helped stoke racial grievances among many of his supporters, and they are not going to be disappearing any time soon. Even under George W Bush, whose rhetoric was much less racially charged, a number of top academics from minority backgrounds found themselves unwelcome and ended up leaving the country.
As a result, we should probably expect something of an exodus of educated minorities to Europe over the coming years. Previously, we would have expected them to settle predominantly in the UK (due to similarities of language and culture), and so the best case scenario for Britain involves an influx of talent. However, it may be that Brexit and the tide of anti-immigration sentiment has dented the UK's reputation as a place of intellectual and professional refuge, leading such people to choose alternative destinations. Only time will tell. As for the long term, it is very difficult to predict what will happen with any degree of certainty. Focusing on our specialist area of digital giving, we believe that when societies divide, cause - related giving tends to increase. That means that we don’t expect there to be a negative effect on the need for our services (and in fact the demand may potentially even increase).
Taking a wider view though, if the rhetoric is borne out America will become increasingly isolationist and possibly even hostile to foreign influence: this is likely to have a damaging impact on global trade. As a result, long-term strategic investment is likely to decrease in most Western markets, as well as in some of the Eastern ones which heavily depend on the US as a consumer. None of this is good news for us or for our sector.
The role of socially-conscious businesses
Ultimately, the election should serve as a call to arms for any company which professes to have a strong social conscience, as we do. It underlines the constant need to evaluate our mission against wider events in the world and see how we can do our part to help make things better.
It seems likely that at the root of both Brexit and the US election result lies in the growing inequality of wealth, as well as the failure to provide adequate education and employment opportunities to all. That means that it is particularly incumbent on companies which work in these fields to raise their game and help work towards a more equal future for all.
This line of thought raises a question for us which is particularly uncomfortable: by helping organisations which already have money to raise even more, does our work actually tend to increase rather than decrease inequality? Are we failing to reach the people who would benefit most from our services? This has brought home to us the need to accelerate some of our longer-term strategic plans to address this: making our technology entirely open source and creating programmes for those least able to pay.
A lot of people will be very distressed by the result of the election. That is not an unreasonable reaction following a Presidential campaign that was divisive and at times downright nasty. But hopefully it can also serve as a wake-up call, a reminder of the conditions which drove so many people to vote for Trump, and of the need to address some of their legitimate concerns.
The mission now is to prevent what we have seen over the past few months from becoming the new normal.
Jonathan May, CEO of Hubbub
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