Category Archives: Weekly Newsletter

AMID THE PANDEMIC, ENTREPRENEURS CAN STILL FIND OPPORTUNITY

The crisis provides fertile ground for startups in spaces like telehealth and touch-lessRead More >> payment. Other startups will need to get creative.  Business can be divided into two categories: those that have COVID headwinds—think restaurant suppliers whose customers are struggling to survive—and those with COVID tailwinds—think telehealth technology firms that have never seen more demand.  But that doesn’t mean that startups with headwinds are doomed. Instead, entrepreneurs must harness the innovative spirit that drives them and adjust to the moment.  Overall, fewer businesses are started during recessions. And the ones that are start smaller than those formed during boom years.  The good news, however, is that recession-born businesses tend to be more productive, as measured by revenue per employee. And startups during a recession tend to be grouped into industries that rely heavily on innovation.  In the last financial crisis of 2008, society’s growing distrust of financial institutions led to startups like Venmo and Square.  Today, people should expect to see innovations in a wide range of industries. For example, healthcare innovations will likely address both drug development and telehealth delivery. There will likely be new types of automation in manufacturing to allow for social distancing between employees. And, for supply chains, she anticipates more real-time monitoring, so companies can manage customer expectations in the event of disruptions.  Investors are approaching startups and saying, ’I know you’re not planning on raising for 12 months, but I want to preempt that round.’  What they’re really saying is, ‘I have FOMO. I have fear of missing out. I want to get my money into your company because it’s going to grow so fast and I want to get it in now. I’m willing to take the additional risk because I see the future.’  

NETWORKING IN THE NEW REALITY

Curiosity and reciprocity, plus some ingenuity, will help you build relationships in the age of Zoom.  To many people, networking feels a bit like squeezing into trousers one size too small. But networking is essential if you wish to amass the social capital indispensable to a successful career. Its importance has not diminished with the overnight explosion of remote working. If anything, networking has become more critical, as jobs and advancement opportunities are swept away by the coronavirus.  Building connections in times like these will require out-of-the-box thinking as well as the same deliberateness and perspectives that characterised effective networking before the world changed.  If you think you don’t have anything to offer, change your thinking.  In the era of Zoom and reduced face-to-face contact, what could you do to maintain and even expand your network?  Here’s how: First, set aside one to two hours of 15-minute slots every week. Then, announce on LinkedIn or other social media, or your company intranet that you’re hosting 15-minute conversations to exchange ideas and give advice. Be sure to indicate your areas of interest or expertise to invite relevant conversations. Ask interested participants to give you two sentences on why they’re reaching out to you, “so that you’re not just getting random people”.  With the right attitude and framing, networking need not be a pain.  Approach the world as if you always have something to learn. Consider reaching out as a way of learning or giving. It might even feel good.  Read More >>

HOW DIXIE CUPS BECAME THE BREAKOUT START-UP OF THE 1918 PANDEMIC

In 1907, Boston attorney Lawrence Luellen created a cup. It wasn’t made of glass or metal—the norm at the time. Instead, it was made of paper so it could be thrown away after use. While not earth-shattering in our current context, in the early 1900s there were no disposable paper tissues or paper towels. A cup made of paper was a novel idea, one with a noble goal: Luellen hoped his paper cups could help stop the spread of disease. What makes this century-old startup story especially poignant today is that Dixie cups, as they came to be known, achieved only moderate growth for 10 years until the Spanish flu of 1918 made disposable cups a necessity and helped the Dixie cup become a household name. In 2012, Smithsonian Magazine even called the Dixie cup a “life-saving technology” that helped stop the spread of disease. With the success of Dixie cups came other disposable products, such as Kleenex in 1924 and paper towels in 1931. This also led to new and environmentally harmful materials such as polystyrene finding their way into consumer products. As the history of Dixie cups shows, a product that solves one problem can create new ones. Some people are already complaining of “Zoom fatigue,” for example. Products that become popular during the current pandemic will have their own first- and second-order effects. Some of the problematic ones will present opportunities for intrepid new startups.  Read More >>

AMID THE PANDEMIC, ENTREPRENEURS CAN STILL FIND OPPORTUNITY

The crisis provides fertile ground for startups in spaces like tele-health and touch-less payment. Other startups will need to get creative.  Entrepreneurs must harness the innovative spirit that drives them and adjust to the moment.  Recession-born businesses tend to be more productive, as measured by revenue per employee. And startups during a recession tend to be grouped into industries that rely heavily on innovation.  There will likely be new types of automation in manufacturing to allow for social distancing between employees. And, for supply chains, more real-time monitoring, so companies can manage customer expectations in the event of disruptions.  Investors are already searching for those startups that are positioned to flourish in a post-COVID world. Companies with COVID tailwinds are having “preemptive rounds” of fundraising.  Read More >>

HOW HAVE TOP MARKETERS RESPONDED TO THE PANDEMIC? WITH RAPID INNOVATION.

Leaders in industries from healthcare to casual dining are fast-tracking changes to the customer experience. Despite the different circumstances facing each company, some consistent themes emerged from these conversations: First, rather than putting their foot on the brakes, companies are going all-in with new ways of serving and staying relevant to their customers. Second, some are viewing COVID-19 as an opportunity to gain quick traction on longstanding internal challenges. And third, everyone is actively preparing for a very different future. In some areas, providers have had to find some very creative ways to deliver care. For instance, pediatric ophthalmologists, unable to see children for routine eye care, started emailing PDF eye charts to parents, along with instructions to print and hang the chart, measure the requisite distance, and have them test from home. Decision-making in large companies can be deliberate in the best of times, with leaders weighing the advantages of change against tried-and-true approaches. But the fallout from the pandemic, as difficult as it has been, offers the opportunity to set aside some of the hurdles and take chances.  Read More >>

TALES FROM THE TRENCHES OF RUNNING A START-UP

The externalities that influence creativity, adoption, and scale are often more important than the innovation itself. To be a successful innovator one has to be really in tune with what’s happening in the world on a global scale (or be really lucky, or better yet both). Venture capital has shortened the learning curve for some innovators, but bias has limited access to venture capital for many. Unconscious bias is like an odorless gas—it’s imperceptible to most, but pervasive and deadly.  Working among people with competing priorities takes more effort. It means encouraging communication so they’re aware of each other’s needs as they generate new ideas. You have to find a way to invite these ideas in, make it okay for people to disagree respectfully, and encourage the flow of ideas among the various groups. You need each person to focus on his or her task, but not so much that it creates boundaries and kills any sense of creativity in the group.  People tend to think innovation can be neatly placed into two categories: incremental or disruptive. They also assume that the only category that really matters is the disruptive kind, where you dramatically transform markets or introduce a novel product.  Read More >>

YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER ANYMORE

When the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2009, companies across industries came to a harsh realization. Years of researching, maneuvering, marketing, and investing to create the perfect customer products and services suddenly fell flat. The economy dramatically shifted consumer habits, with many focused on reducing spending amid the uncertainty of the economy, and a loss of trust in many institutions. Similar to the recession in 2009, customer needs and preferences are evolving at light speed as customers grapple with the impacts of the current situation. With many states reopening, companies need to quickly identify who their customers have become and how to fit into their new purchasing portfolios. The 2009 recession taught brands some hard lessons about relearning and reengaging their customer bases, and some of the changes and impacts were long-lasting. The pandemic has created an unprecedented situation of its own, but companies that act quickly and proactively to take the necessary steps will increase their chances of hanging onto their loyal customers long-term and avoiding the enduring consequences of failing to do so.  Read More >>

STARTUP LED BY EX-GOLDMAN SACHS HR CHIEF LAUNCHES DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION INDEX

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness, the firm said on Thursday.  Eskalera’s software collects information on employee sentiment and company culture and combines it with HR data to generate a score for inclusivity that can be measured against competitors.  The goal is to give companies actionable information on changes needed to increase diversity.  Eskalera is among a group of startups developing software to help corporations hire and retain more diverse staff.  Many U.S. companies have pledged funds and issued statements in support of racial diversity amid protests that erupted since George Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.  The gestures by corporate America have drawn some criticism from diversity experts, who say companies should also look at improving racial equity within their ranks.  Fewer than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black, according to a 2019 study by the Center for Talent Innovation. Around 13% of Americans identify as black or African American, according to federal data.  Read More >>

ED TECH IS SURGING, AND PARENTS HAVE SOME NOTES

Unlike most sectors, edtech has been booming over the last few months.  But as tired parents juggle work, family and sanity all day, nearly every day, they say edtech is not a remedy for all education gaps right now.  Parents across all income groups are struggling with homeschooling.  Socioeconomically disadvantaged families have it even worse because resources are strapped and parents often have to work multiple jobs to afford food to put on the table.  One major issue for parents is balancing a decrease in live learning with an uptick in “do it at your own pace” learning.  In light of the struggles parents and educators alike are seeing with the current set of online learning tools and their inability to inspire young learners, new edtech startups are thinking about how the future of remote learning might look.  The missing piece to edtech: School isn’t just learning, it’s childcare.  Read More >>  

GROWING RESILIENCE IN UNCERTAIN TIMES


Managing the current crisis is an inside job.  When confronted with a situation weighed with anxiety and ambiguity, like a pandemic, a lock-down and frightening news from the economy, it’s impossible for most of us to imagine any upside. We become paralyzed; overwhelmed by events, we descend into a state of mind I call unproductive uncertainty. But there are some people who manage to see their way through that paralysis and find a positive path forward.  Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. We are all free to choose, and finding that freedom is key to finding a way forward in uncertain times.  With unprecedented levels of uncertainty about our health, our work and the world, it’s possible to nurture an uncertainty capability and find resilience.  Read More >>