2020 has been surreal. If you are a startup founder in the USA or anywhere else in the world, your thoughts are most likely filled with concerns about how to keep your startup alive and afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a stressful time for all startup founders, leaders and business managers but we will get through coronavirus with solid lessons and experiences to share on the other side. More than ever, you need to keep your startup alive.
This is a time where perseverance and grit need to take the lead, and the unsettling voices need to give way to calm and decisive leadership. Channel the weight of being responsible for everyone under your care into action. The natural unpredictability of our world added to a sudden global health crisis and simultaneous economic shutdown is the stuff nightmares are made of. Yet, here we are and we must rise to the occasion and lead our teams and communities with empathy, wisdom and laser-focused business strategy.
Welcome to May 2020: The crisis no one saw coming. How you act now may determine the future and legacy of your company.
In this blog post however, we are writing about the right things to do now. How can you keep your startup and team alive during this pandemic? The following is a list of three things you can do for your business, employees, clients and community during COVID-19, not only to keep your startup alive but also to benefit humankind.
Let's dive in.
Founders all over the world are feeling lost right now as plans they carefully laid out at the beginning of this year no longer make sense.
Even basic assumptions such as the number of employees who could be available on certain days and at certain times are now wrong or unpredictable. Most countries and cities all over the world have declared a State of Emergency and are locked down as the World Health Organization (WHO) mandates everyone to stay home and socially distant until we stop or understand coronavirus.
In cities where the government has not taken this drastic measure, it is up to the founders of every startup and the managers of every business to put the health of their employees before the profit of the company.
Health before profit should be the tagline for this coronavirus season. Regardless of what measures the State or government has taken or not taken in this season, it is up to you as a leader to close any gaps that you see, especially as it regards the people you are directly responsible for.
It is not a question of whether it will impact your bottom line if you let your staff work from or stay at home, health is the priority.
For the next two months at least, in the United States, every startup founder should stick with what is right, and let employees stay home and try to use remote working tools to lead, work and encourage their teams in the meantime.
For the roles where they cannot do any meaningful work while being socially distant, a good leader in these times should check in on their mental health, include them in company-wide announcements, and let them think of other ways they can provide value to the company while they work from home.
It is true that some startups have never tried remote working and that some roles cannot be executed while working remotely but when situations like this come, we rise and deal with it the best way we can, with or without time to prepare, and with priority given to human life.
There are many resources online about how to handle remote working better. One of our favorite ones is here.
We are all hurting.
You, your employees, your clients and customers too. Instead of focusing all of your attention on yourself which may lead to depression and a lack of creativity, you can turn it around and think of simple ways you or your startup can help other people. Not only does this help others who need it and give you something productive to do, it also is a good way to keep your startup alive and get first-hand information about the coronavirus spread without getting deep into the news and feeding feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
A lot of startups and companies are giving away discounted versions or subscriptions of their product or service to help people like the underprivileged and quarantined get through the tough times. If this is something your startup can do, you should consider it. While this act might not be a significant way to keep your startup alive or profitable at the moment, it is a good, contactless and personalized way of making the lives of people within your region a little better as they go through this pandemic in their different levels of hardship.
If there is an open-source software project being created and contributed to tackle coronavirus in your area, you can donate time or your startup’s expertise to help bring this project to life.
Different communities and regions have different needs at this time and depending on where your market is and where your company operates, you have different gaps to fill.
Some regions are battling with testing and sorting sick from healthy, and others are in the thick of it, battling to save critically ill lives. People need groceries delivered. Children need good online education. Small business owners are struggling to receive and send funds online. And some startups are struggling to hire or manage their teams remotely.
Regardless of what your company does, there is a way you can help. If not with your product, then by volunteering expertise. Instead of spending these tough times solely focused on coming out on top, we can spare some time to support the employees we work with, the clients we serve, and the communities we operate in and out of.
For companies and startups in a consequential boom period like Zoom or Netflix, this is a good time to give back. Not because it is a profitable thing to do, but because it is right.
For companies and startups not in a consequential boom period, this is not the time to expand, advertise and market your products or services insensitively for profit. As people all over the world contend with protecting the lives and health of their families, it’s wise that you empathize, get involved and serve.
Major companies, startups and many small businesses and agencies are offering free, freemium or more affordable versions of their products and services to help their users and members of the community. You can do this too.
Some are collaborating within their industry to tackle the impact and spread of coronavirus. Others are leading research efforts, collaborating with the government to tackle the virus or creating new technology to assist efforts against the pandemic. You can do this too.
These are positive ways that you as a startup founder or manager can keep your startup alive while building on goodwill and meaningful engagements within your community that can add up to good karma and business opportunities as the economic climate starts to turn in the wake of the end of the pandemic.
The most common “keep your startup alive during COVID-19” advice shared in most blog posts and articles we have read is for founders to cut their costs and reduce burn rate to increase chances of survival in the coming tough months, during and after the coronavirus situation.
With tight budgets and fewer options to choose from when it comes to the quality of skills and value a founder or business can get for the same amount of money spent hiring or recruiting expert talent within the USA, a lot of articles have suggested outsourcing to freelancers or hiring remote teams of developers and designers to keep your startup afloat and stable in the meantime.
The level of software development or design talent you need to build and maintain intuitive and innovative products that remain competitive and valuable is not easy to find outside the USA and certain European countries known for startup and technology innovations. However, this is not a good time to spend more on hiring.
In order to cut costs while still maintaining the technical range and support you need, you can hire freelance developers and designers from Ukraine. You can also recruit remote teams of developers and designers who build top-notch, world-class products and charge more affordable rates than hiring locally in the USA.
Make it in Ukraine, a top Product Hunt community makes this easy by providing a vetted portal of the best remote teams and freelance developers and designers you can hire to help you create the solutions and features you need to get your startup through this period. Outsourcing code development to more affordable geographic areas is not a new strategy that has risen with COVID-19 but one that lots of top startups and major companies use when they need excellent software on a budget.
Ukraine is a top choice when it comes to finding creative, technical talent and teams for US startups. Ukraine is conveniently located in Eastern Europe, has the highest benefits to costs ratio you can find, and a time difference of only 7 hours with the east coast of the U.S.. and a difference of 2 hours from almost any country in Western Europe.
As of the time of writing this article on 24 March 2020, there are only 97 cases of coronavirus in the country. And an emergency situation has been established in six of the major cities to contain the virus. If you outsource to Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe, the quality of work for the rates you pay is more than worth it and there is no compromise on quality.
This crazy, unprecedented virus attack shall pass. We are not sure when, as information and data from all over the world regarding the pandemic are still coming in. What we know now is that we are capable and resilient, and together we can survive.
The startup world may change and evolve, but as always, we the crazy startup founders and leaders will continue to innovate and build the future.
When this is over and we all resurface, As a leader, you will undoubtedly be rewarded for proactively and decisively putting the health and well-being of the people under your care before profits. You will be rewarded for your actions and efforts to smartly navigate these months to come with human and community-focused efforts.
Let’s all prioritize getting our ship and crew to the other side with as much magnanimity as we can afford.
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