Finding the Upside: How to identify opportunities in uncertain times and what founders should focus on right now
Being a startup founder can be difficult at the best of times. Adding the stress and impact of a pandemic, crisis or recession, especially now, with the human tragedy of the Covid-19 doesn’t make it easier.
This is part of Antler's "Finding the Upside" series, aimed at supporting and empowering the entrepreneurial community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being a startup founder can be difficult at the best of times. Adding the stress and impact of a pandemic, crisis or recession, especially now, with the human tragedy of the Covid-19 doesn't make it easier.
That aside, some of the largest and influential tech companies have succeeded off the back of a crisis. Consider the following tech businesses that launched, raised capital, and grew during the great recession that started in late 2008:
That's not all. In the US, new businesses sprouted at a rate of 60,000 a month in 2009 following the great financial crisis, compared to 40,000 a month in 2007, according to the Kaufmann Foundation's Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.
Born from necessity, these businesses thrived despite uncertain financial headwinds and reduced business activity, and now they are some of the most well known brands in the world.
While we're not minimising the impact Covid-19 is having on many industries and the resulting hardships it's placing on individuals and their families, this article seeks to understand how founders can identify opportunities to innovate and stay focused when times are tough.
Firstly, in the words of our CEO, Magnus Grimeland, "be smart". It's very clear by now that the spread of this virus is fast and aggressive. Above all, it's of utmost importance that you and your teams stay on top of the latest health and safety advice.
Also, it's more than likely that you're already working remotely and you've had to make some adjustments, but should the situation worsen or a full lockdown is implemented in your area make sure the new processes you have in place are sustainable for you and your business. Find the new normal and have a backup plan.
If you're anything like us, you would have spent the last couple of months saying things like "I wish there were more hours in the day," or "... if only I had more time." Well, now might be the time to tackle these things, while still focusing on what drives the company forward. As business slows down, it's a great time to hit all the tasks you always plan to do but never quite had the time to do. During this time, a few other priorities to think about include:
With great change, comes great opportunities.
"We are collectively the path to recovery. What you are doing will create more employment, GDP growth, solutions to important problems. You are all part of the solution."
With events, meetings, conferences, and travel now mostly canceled, it's an opportune time to build and get things done. Book virtual meetings now. Use video conferencing to tap into people in international markets.
Globally, companies and decision-makers are being forced to make deals and do business over video conferencing, this is a great opportunity to reach customers everywhere and close deals faster from home with no travel costs. Similarly, some people who are usually out of reach may now have more time on their hands because they are at home. Try your luck and aim high.
With softening sales, many large incumbents may start to pull their online ads. This means lower prices to secure prime advertising real estate. This might be a good time to ramp up your marketing efforts at lower costs. Make sure you're keeping an eye on this change, and only invest when it's feasible for the business to do so.
There are also interesting opportunities for attracting investment right now. "Over 2018 and 2019, VCs raised a record amount ($100bn raised)," said Magnus. "Only a portion of this capital has been deployed, so there's a tremendous amount of funds available right now."
VCs are still investing. So, if you're currently fundraising, try to close the deal as soon as possible. Globally, some valuations have been slightly lowered, but that's not to say it's the case everywhere. If you are at this stage, think about whether it's wiser to take the deal at a lower (but reasonable) valuation in order to get cash in the bank.
Be a leader
Being a good leader in times of crisis is more defining that being a good leader in almost any other scenario. This is the time your values stand out and you show who you truly are.
Right now, everyone is impacted by the virus in one way or another. Make sure you're being empathetic to your team, stakeholders, and customers. Listen, and be transparent. Overcommunicate. Do what you can to be extra helpful.
Behind the scenes, focus on what keeps the engine running. What are the essential parts that have to be done versus the "nice to haves?" Be clear on intentions and actions. Try to remain positive and uplifting. Take care of yourself and your team, support your teams with kids, and check in on each other.
"What you're doing is so important right now. Now is the time to create growth, new employment opportunities, and solve the world's largest problems.
"If you look at the companies that came out after a crisis they are some of the biggest companies right now. That's the way forward. That's how we all come through this together, stronger."
READ MORE FROM THIS SERIES:
This article was written by Sarah Kimmorley, Director of Communication for Antler Australia and Magnus Grimeland, Antler CEO.
Must-read articles from Antler
Browse our collection of founder stories, industry insights and latest startup successes from Antler Australia
Sharon Li & Vanessa Chen: Empowering employees to be their healthiest and most productive selves
“People sometimes think the emotional and professional are conflicting, but what we believe is when people love their organization, the emotional value will actually make them productive. It will make them give their full self to the organization and make the organization grow for the long term.” —Sharon Li, co-founder and CEO of CHOYS
Piet Hein van Dam: The seasoned data entrepreneur aiming to eradicate type 2 diabetes
Our content series "It All Starts with People" delves into the passions, motivations, and vision of the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering with around the world. Bringing a clarity of vision to our latest spotlight is Piet Hein van Dam, co-founder of Clear, the award-winning digital self-help tool for diabetes patients.
Unpacking the $80+ billion ONDC opportunity: India’s next startup catalyst
India's approach to unbundle payments made the world look up and take notice. Now it's time to disrupt commerce with the Open Network for Digital Commerce or ONDC. In our latest Theory of Next deep dive we mapped, researched, and reached out to every network participant live on ONDC right now.
And we're excited to share with you a comprehensive what could be India's next unicorn catalyst with inputs from Vibhor Jain (COO of ONDC), Sujith Nair (Founding member of Beckn Protocol), and founders building on ONDC!
Co-authored by Nitin Sharma (Partner, Antler) and Gokul Kumaravelu.
Five steps investors can take to support more diverse founders
Despite growing calls to create a more inclusive venture capital ecosystem and remove the barriers to entrepreneurship, only a fraction of funding is raised by founders from underrepresented communities.
The first step towards change is quantifying the challenge. While in-depth research has been conducted about women founders and founders from ethnic minority backgrounds, data has never existed about tech founders from the LGBTQ+ community—until now.
A record year for Europe's leading day zero investor
A look back at 2022, a record year for the leading day zero investor in Europe—showcasing investment activity and key predictions for the early-stage tech ecosystem in 2023.
Antler and Microsoft for Startups partner to back women founders
Antler is proud to join forces with Microsoft for Startups to support rising entrepreneurs—starting with 23 non-dilutive grants to women founders in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and North America—and reduce the barriers to startup success. Meet some of these founders.
Tanika McLeod: The educator empowering the next generation with an on-demand social learning platform
Our content series—"It All Starts with People"—delves into the passions, motivations, and vision of the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering with around the world. In our latest spotlight, we spoke with Tanika McLeod, one of the three co-founders behind MinuteSkill, a Toronto-based social micro-learning platform that uses bite-sized content and knowledge-sharing communities to empower the next generation.
Venture capital as an engine of positive transformation
Antler's second annual ESG and Impact Report shares learnings on how VCs can focus on creating sustainable value from the outset, and celebrates our portfolio companies' work in this space.