The coronavirus has changed our daily lives and significantly impacted business. An air of uncertainty still remains and as we continue to adjust to the new normal, businesses have continually had to adjust to survive. Many industries have had to scale down or even close down (sorry airlines and tourist industry).
But it hasn’t all been gloom and doom. Some startups have actually skyrocketed since the pandemic’s onset (insert blog post) due to already offering a product or service whose demand spiked specifically because of it, such as those related to health services or those that facilitate remote work. Other startups survived by pivoting and switching their production to hand sanitizers or masks. Still others looked the pandemic in the eye and took the courageous leap to launch their startup in the face of uncertainty. Here’s why that’s not a totally crazy idea and some stories of those who did it and lived to tell the tale.
Benefits to launching a startup during the Covid pandemic
When you’d be a fool not to - Is your startup idea something people will specifically benefit from during the pandemic? Does it involve a home fitness app, a homeschooling app a wine delivery service or anything related to the health industry? Tech startups will have a particularly seamless entry during the Covid pandemic due to the fact that they are usually mostly virtual and won’t depend on a physical store or product to launch.
Learn to go lean from the get-go - Lean times will come when we least expect them and if you launch your startup during a recession or, in this case, a pandemic, you’re building a resilience muscle that will serve you very well in future crisis. You’ll learn how to budget and how to make choices about rolling out the product that’s easiest and most likely to quickly convert to cash flow. You’ll also learn how to make do with a leaner staff or be satisfied with working with freelancers first to get the thing up and running and then hire more permanent and specialized staff later.
Enjoy a bigger talent pool - Since March, many people have lost their jobs or been furloughed. That means that if you’re recruiting for your startup now, you’re likely to have more talented people than usual waiting for an opportunity to work on a new venture. Specialized staff who once held full-time positions may also be looking for part-time remote work now. You may be surprised what hidden gems turn up these days once you announce you’re looking for talent.
Some advice if you plan to launch now
Use free stuff - Take advantage of low-cost or free tools to help you launch successfully (insert blog post) whether it’s social media marketing tools, project flow platforms or budgeting apps. Though it’s never ideal to spend big when launching, now it’s particularly important to look at where you can cut costs.
Launch from home - Why rent an office space that you won’t be able to fully use? Launching from home means significant savings- put that capital to work by developing your product and marketing.
Have a longer-term plan than usual - Just because you’re courageous and want to jump into the startup world in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t mean that banks and investors are too. Though the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law in June in the U.S. contained provisions for small businesses and startups, there’s stiff competition for those dollars and lending institutions will be more conservative now in terms of how much and to whom they give out their precious capital. In order to be first in line, impress them by having a solid 2-year plan ready and be prepared to explain why your product or service serves a particular buyer and why they’ll want your product now.
Covid startup launch successes
Here are some real-life Covid startup launches to inspire you to take the leap if you’ve been hesitant.
Sam Short and Phil Jones, cofounders of the startup Moneyed, an app that provides personalized financial goals such as buying a home or increasing savings, decided to launch during the Covid pandemic. Their app aims to disrupt expensive financial advisors and is particularly relevant during a financial crisis when people are looking on how to protect their assets but don’t want to shell out big bucks to figure it all out. They didn’t have an easy time of launching and their sparse budget didn’t allow much for advertising. Through a stroke of ingenuity, they found a way around paying for marketing: “When mortgage payment holidays were announced, we realised that there were no resources for people to find out how it impacted future repayments. We quickly built a calculator, tweeted Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert and emailed journalists writing about mortgage holidays. As a result, we were linked to by the Guardian, The Sun, and in Money Saving Expert’s weekly email and over 120,000 people used our calculator. Now, if you Google ‘Moneyed’, we’re on the first page of results.”
Joanne Maclachlan, launched her startup The Eco Friendly Living Co. in March just as the world was going into quarantine mode. Her startup focuses on environmentally responsible home products. Her products have been wildly popular as more people are spending more time in their homes and are looking for alternatives to conventional brands. Though demand has been high, efficiently filling orders has been a challenge as shipping has seen delays, affecting her supply chain. That hasn’t affected sales, though. Business is booming.
Cofounders of Tomorrow Health, Vijay Kedar and Gabriel Flateman, moved up their startup launch date to mid-May (it was slated to launch later in 2020) in order to meet demands for at-home health care products, including respiratory aides. Once the pandemic hit, they realized their products were needed to save lives: “As the need for home-based care increased dramatically, we heard of many patients facing access issues as many local retail providers closed their doors or were unable to serve patients at home. We knew we could help. We had a nationwide distribution network, the ability to deliver virtual care, and a team that adapted quickly to the realities of remote work. And so we acted.”
It is possible to launch a successful startup during the Covid crisis. Though startup entrepreneurs are generally a courageous bunch, you’ll gain an extra layer of toughness riding out a financial crisis and learning how to survive in a volatile economy. Unless, of course, your startup idea is something the world might need right now, and then you’re pretty much obligated to get it up and running as soon as possible. Good luck out there!
8th September 2020