A couple of weeks ago we applied (late) for Y Combinator with FIXDIT, our take on making the market work for homeowners and contractors again.
I participated in Y Combinators Startup School this winter, and upon graduation, I got an email saying that since we were among the 10% participants in the school that continually got the most positive feedback from our peers, they recommended that we apply for the real program even though the deadline for submissions had officially passed.
So we did. It was a hectic weekend with the team, but we submitted, and now we’re crossing our fingers that we will make the cut for this summers programme, even if it is going to be a bit different (probably mostly remote) than normally. There is no time like crisis time to give fresh ideas on known problems a decent spin.
After the corona pandemic is behind us (and no one knows how long that is going to take, ed.), I am wondering if we will see the emergence of a new set of unmet customer demands born by the pandemic – and the withering of others, we thought we needed until this new reality hit us all?
The pandemic is a giant reality check on what is truly important on our lives, and what we can live without. Some are already suggesting that society will be changed forever, when we reemerge on the other side. Personally, I am not so sure. But if it is, it will lead to a change in priorities and, with that, spending.
For some startups it will mean staying in a death spiral. For others it will be their big opportunity. Spotting and betting on the right ones will potentially be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for investors, while others will be left to reflect on their losses.
It seems to me that a lot of the people who are starting to advocate economic considerations ahead of health-related ones during this pandemic, are some of the same people who were the least prepared for a sudden halt in economic activity. I don’t blame them for wanting to get back to normal ASAP – we all want that to happen.
However, I still think we need to spend time after this is over on the things, we have learned from this. Maybe we should consider whether some of the business school books should be reviewed and refined. Overly complex supply chains, ‘Just in time’-principles and over-optimization of the daily business operations managing cash on a shoestring suddenly seem like brilliant ideas now than they seemed to be just a month ago, right?
I continue to find it shocking (and then, not really for the above reasons, ed.) that otherwise successful and well-run companies can crumble within a week or two. It seems like a lot of businesses were already in essence on major life support as it were, and if the corona pandemic hadn’t pushed to the very edge of the cliff, it was a matter of time before something else would.
It’s been a couple of weeks now. And while understandably there are a lot of businesses and startups in despair, I also sense some opportunities to look beyond the current corona pandemic and lockdown.
People are easier to get in touch with, because they’re home. Of course many are in video meetings, but it’s still easier. Negotiations become more pragmatic because we’re more left to our own devices. People will tell you ‘Yes’ more because they’re just happy somebody is offering opportunities. And people will give more thoughtful responses to propositions because they have better time to do their own personal due diligence.
I am not in any way, shape or form advocating for more of the same. I am just quietly saying that there is also opportunities in the current climate, if you just look for them and can distance yourself a bit from all the doom and gloom.
One of the things that really strikes me about the work-from-home way of dealing with the corona virus is the way it potentially stress tests the trust between employer and employee.
There are companies that are fearful of sending their employees home to work for fear that they won’t get any work done. And – luckily – there are companies where they have no issue in trusting their employees with doing their bit from home because they know that the relationship is healthy.
My bet is that those who are going to see and experience big issues here are the companies, where employees have been treated like little more than cogs in a big machine. While it may make weird sense to executives in good times to nurture the bottom line, it could effectively break them now.
And then I haven’t even mentioned all the employees who will now have time away from the office and amble time to think about whether they actually want to go back when this lockdown clears.
Yesterday, I received a couple of invites for upcoming Meetups of groups that I am a member of. I am thinking that it must be auto-generated reminders, since actually meeting up in person right about now would be in total conflict with the guidelines set forth by the Danish authorities.
And that got me wondering: Why is it that Meetup doesn’t use this opportunity to branch out with a remote, virtual offering? It may already exist somewhere in there (I haven’t digged around) but it seems so obvious: When we’re already working from home, many would have amble time to meet up virtually to share learnings, educate themselves and foster new connections going forward.
I furthermore believe that branching out with a remote option will make Meetup a much more interesting option for more people. Sometimes it can be a deal-breaker to have to show up physically for a meeting and where doing it from remote would enable more to chip in, expanding the footprint of the service and get more learning out there. It is so damn obvious.
As Denmark is in virtually total lockdown it is quite interesting to observe how people and businesses scramble to deal with a totally new situation.
On the business side those that can are ordered to work from home. While many are used to having this form of working as part of their everyday job, for others it will be a new exercise. But equally important this will stress test both software systems and the IT setups of various companies. There is a huge difference between being able to offer the odd VPN connection and then basing the operation of your business around it. Some will notice that they have been asleep at the wheel and not got the right solution in place. Those will suffer the consequences.
Furthermore, on the business side, it is interesting to observe the effect the lockdown has on the gig economy, whether it is blue collar or white collar. While you could always assume that a lockdown would essentially kill the opportunities for blue collar workers, it is fascinating to watch how quick highly sought after white collar consultants loose close to 100% in value and have gigs cancelled on them. What does that say about the value of their offerings? Anyways, we must hope they have put a little aside during good times to cope with the situation.
Finally, on a more personal front it is frightening to observe our lack of adherence to authorities. In these times where SoMe has made everyone an expert on everything (or so it seems), this expertise doesn’t rime at all with the requirements of a real emergency. The ‘me-me-me’ attitude helped along by ‘see me-see me’ platforms such as Instagram doesn’t help much either. We make the mistake of thinking that we can transfer our behaviors from behind a screen out to behavior in real life. Normally, it wouldn’t mean a lot – it would just be stupid or even hurtful. Now, trying that can literally end up killing somebody. Think about that.
Normally I try not to comment on areas that are unrelated to my daily work. But today is a small exception.
Doing some research into the coming apocalypse for 3rd party tracking and advertising, one thing struck me: In order to market something as a brand going forward, you need to have your own 1st party data. That means you need to be strong, valuable and relevant enough to build connection.
All those companies that are essentially taking the low road to everything just producing more stuff and caring more about the quick buck than building relationships will have no other option but low yield filler networks. Which means we will pay even less attention to them.
So, after all, something good is coming out of the abolishment of 3rd party tracking.
Working remotely is getting a lot of additional buzz following the outbreak of corona-virus, as people all over scramble to try to put themselves out of harms way and/or following the advice of local health authorities.
While there is a lot of great things to be said about working remotely – and there are – there are also some downsides of which the predominant one is this: Missing out on the creative sparks that fly when you bring people together, and they start getting creative.
For me, when people (in the absence of a perfectly legitimate health-related excuse, ed) want to work in a predominantly remote way, they send a signal that they care more about their ways of working than what we are working on; what we are trying to solve. Call me old fashioned, but I am the kind of guy who needs to be able to look my team members directly in the eyes to make sure we are all on the same page, driving for the same results – and feel equally passionate about succeeding. As a team.
When I conduct interviews with potential customers I like to do it in two rounds.
The first round is an online questionaire that establishes the base and provides context for the interview. Customers agree to filling it out and are usually very good at it. What it does is that it helps me understand them and where they are coming from a little bit more before the actual interview, so we can make the most of our time together.
When I then sit with them for the interview itself, we don’t have to waste time establishing the baseline. We can go directly into talking about the stuff that matters to the customer, and I can use the info from the questionaire as background and context and thus get the best possible outcome of the interview.
It always give the best results.