Do you have to wait for the green light to launch a startup?
Is ‘growth’ — or whichever notion we are associating with the potential to make money — the mother of safety? A crisis is always a moment of rupture that signals the death of some concepts and leaves the door open to others.
At present, the media is hammering the public with information about COVID-19 and containment, governments are using wartime vocabulary while committing billions to help companies and citizens and a plethora of small (and larger) companies are facing massive troubles.
There’s no longer room for doubt. We are in a crisis.
With the notion of growth disappearing from global economies, it appears as though today is not the best time to launch a startup.
Yet, there is always time to do business differently.
The times we are living through are calling into question many of our achievements and questioning the world we want to create tomorrow.
But between questioning and economic opportunities, COVID-19 could well be offering a fertile ground for the launch of new startups.
Lockdowns create new needs
By forcing us to remain confined and to work remotely, almost overnight, the crisis has disrupted more than one part of our lives. To be able to continue to interact with our loved ones and, above all, to work remotely, we have gone digital and so have companies in all industries.
While the change was a forced one, in particular for some large corporations not used to working remotely, it is highly likely that these new habits and tools will stick around and help a new way of working bloom.
At the same time, considering the lack of flexibility of some companies at the beginning of the lockdowns, there is still work to be done. And gaps mean opportunities.
Technology startups are, therefore, finding themselves in a promising space, with decision-makers more aware than ever of the need to equip themselves with suitable tools and de-risk the future.
The deployment of digital tools will create other needs, related to cybersecurity, for instance, and the development of new management methods. Managing a remote team requires a bit of education and organisation.
The rise of education 2.0
The training and education sector is already beginning to see the impact of this crisis. And the future of online learning, or digital learning, suddenly looks brighter.
As seen in some countries, course platforms can also partner with a television channel to broadcast school programmes during a lockdown. More generally, while the education sector scrambled to bring courses online, digital tools and practices are not yet all there.
The continuity of education between home and school is a theme that will, however, not disappear after the crisis. Anticipating, to better adapt to the next crisis is already becoming the challenge of a future that could well take shape under more wary outlooks.
New questions about the future
Unlike the crisis faced in recent times, which were mostly economic, the one that is affecting us today is pushing many people, both individuals and leaders, to question the value of their work and the world they want to build for themselves and the future generations.
The quest for meaning and answers to ethical and environmental challenges was already showing in some companies (for example, Google and Microsoft when thinking about privacy and defence contracts).
It should now become even more important within and outside companies.
There are four essential values to be taken into account when starting — or running — a business nowadays: technology, creativity, business (profitability) and impact.
Innovative companies have the opportunity to improve our everyday life. But every company must now take into consideration their customers and employees’ expectations too.
Environmental and social components will have to be part of any project that emerges tomorrow.
Keep your nerves and keep moving forward
If opportunities are real and there for the taking, capital, on the other hand, might be more scarce and business will be more difficult.
These opportunities can only be seized by entrepreneurs who are not afraid to take risks and show maximum guts.
But navigating rough waters with gut power alone will not be enough. Founders will have to be able to offer a product or a service that meets a real need.
Companies, governments or even individuals will be willing to spend money because there will be an immediate gain. Think of the current manufacturing of masks or protection equipment, for instance.
Meanwhile, this is a chance for entrepreneurial ecosystems to renew themselves and accelerate their natural vetting process.
Cash will not flow for fresh, unproven startups, so they will have to minimise their startup costs and prove their quality.
This situation will favour skilled, experienced entrepreneurs while casting aside a part of the ‘funpreneurs’, the ‘domain founders’ and other grant suckers.
Futility and folklore will have no place; the projects will have to be well thought out. This may prove an excellent time for founders — if not a necessary one already — to rethink their products or check their suitability for the market.
Back to the overlooked basics
Properly defining your project, consulting with potential clients, talking to seasoned entrepreneurs, working on your network, rinsing and repeating, will be all the more essential to launch a business tomorrow, or even today.
There is never a perfect time to launch — and waiting for it is often missing it. But at a time of uncertainty, ironically, we also see a lot more clarity in terms of priorities and vision.
There is no reason to postpone these steps, nor to wait to start a development or fundraising because these can — and mostly will — be time-consuming processes. People are still active, VCs continue to study the files they receive, customers still buy.
As such, it is essential not to stay idle, but constantly be on the move and prepare for the future today.