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May-12-2020 16:23printcomments

Some Early-Stage Companies are Thriving in Spite of COVID

Businesses are pivoting to fill certain needs in the wake of the crisis.

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi, Pexels

(SALEM, Ore.) - While there is no denying that the global pandemic and economic suffering is a tragedy, for some early-stage companies, there has been a silver lining as the sudden shift in how we live has created an opportunity to grow.

These companies have been defying the odds by hiring when it seems as if every other company is shutting down.

Some of the companies that come to mind during this time are well known and may even be the verbs for their respective industries – such as Zoom. But many early-stage companies have also found an opportunity to survive and thrive despite COVID.

In a world where lockdowns have become the norm, home delivery companies may have hit it big. According to industry observers, Instacart has experienced a roughly 150 percent increase in demand since mid-March. This has largely been driven by the billions in groceries now being purchased online.

Another company that has been able to fill a need is Coursera. If you do not know, the company offers courses from prestigious universities around the world, professional certificate programs, and even offerings that can help workers up-skill.

This is perfect for those ready for a change as they've recently lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic.

As part of Coursera’s strategy, they have set up a program to help universities make the transition to online learning – even going so far as making the transition for the current semester free of charge.

According to Arunav Sinha, the Head of Global Communications at Coursera, the company is continuing to keep a close on the situation. It may even consider extending the registration period for colleges and students if the virus continues to be a threat as the fall semester comes around.

To date, more than 3,000 universities globally have accessed the company’s platform. Mr. Sinha added that the crisis is a “watershed moment for online education,” one that could further accelerate the company’s growth plans in the coming years.

As part of the increase in demand, the company has had to invest in the infrastructure. This has not only meant that the company has needed to fill positions in-house, but it also meant that the company has needed to bring on contractors to help with the installation of the servers and getting them integrated with Coursera’s systems.

Another sector which is expecting to see growth is insurance, specifically mechanical breakdown insurance. Analysts expect that consumers will rush to companies such as among others as the economic situation forces them to hold on their cars longer.

Olive, which is headquartered near San Francisco, has been gearing up for the expected spike in demand. The expected consumer shift could be a saving grace for auto insurers as a whole, given that the pressing questions about the future of car insurance have been posed by the rise of ride/car-sharing services, electric vehicles, and self-driving cars.

While any one of these developments could have a tremendous impact on the nature of car ownership, the combination of all three could be as dramatic for the insurance industry as the rise of MP3 files was for the music industry at the dawn of the internet.

Speaking of the impact of technology on industry, another company which as seen a spike in demand during the COVID crisis is Automation Anywhere. This San Jose-based company specializes in deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution for customer service applications.

The technology has become increasingly popular as call centers scramble to meet demand while many of their operators work from home.

According to the company’s Chief Strategy Officer, Stephen DeWitt, the lockdowns brought on by the pandemic have kicked off a “tectonic shift” as companies race to implement technological solutions to support remote workers.

While working from home is not a new phenomenon, what has changed in the last six weeks is that it has gone from being the exception to the norm, and this has forced corporate IT departments and their vendors to rethink how things get done.

Unfortunately, this may accelerate the move towards process automation, which could leave to a massive restructuring of the labor market – especially in supposedly “safe” white-collar professions. For example, Mr. Dewitt noted that healthcare providers are utilizing AI to more efficiently process large quantities of information, such as the growing body of peer-reviewed papers tied to the virus and the efficacy of treatment options.

Turning to Main Street, several opportunities have opened as well with cannabis retailers across the country, leading a wave of small and early-stage companies finding ways to survive in the face of unprecedented public health and economic threat.

This includes the rise in online and telephone orders, curbside deliveries, and in some states, home delivery.

What are the lessons for other companies? First, find a way that your business can quickly pivot to fill a need in the wake of the crisis. Then, make sure you have the resource available to deploy the solution.

In some cases, it might just be an internet connection or creative scheduling. While in other cases, one’s business model will need to be adjusted to meet the “new normal.”

The global pandemic and economic suffering are a tragedy; it does not need to be a death sentence for businesses.

Source: Special Features Dept.


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