Having worked at four startups over the course of my career, I've maintained a particular affinity for early-stage businesses. As the pandemic has continued on I've kept a look out for those early-stage startups and what they're doing to innovate, solve problems or take note of enhanced social good endeavors in this time of crisis.
When their final MBA term at LBS was disrupted, "...they quickly turned their attention to supplying reliable, certified, and cost-effective personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes and corporates in need," according to Business Because.
What I really like about this is the initiative two MBA students have taken to make the best use of their time during the disruption to their schooling caused by the pandemic to create a business solving a dire need, that of businesses being able to source and acquire vetted PPE, particularly to care homes where the occupants are the most at risk of coronavirus.
My 95 year old grandmother is in a care home, so I'll vouch for the fact and idea that both the staff and residents there having proper protection, and not some fake or ineffective gear, goes a long way to ensuring a safer environment.
Kudos for the initiative and by all accounts what appears to be a solid business plan.
This Hong Kong based startup launched in 2019 as a way for remote teams to come closer together over engaging, online icebreaker and conversation starting games that could be played during conference calls. Since the pandemic started, this type of engagement has taken on a much larger role in the now more virt London Borough of Islington, Londonual work from home workplace.
I tried out the "can you spot the lie" game with our editorial team in India and we had fun with it. Genuinely having a laugh with colleagues can be difficult to come by at times, and we genuinely had a laugh with one of the games.
Games are a great way to bring people together virtually, and a platform like this which leverages simple yet fun games for colleagues over video calls is a cool niche to fill at the right time.
Headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida Covac Global was founded in 2019 and the company bills itself as the "first first indemnified evacuation + repatriation membership program designed for Covid-19." It's an interesting concept and business model, tailor made for the pandemic era.
Founder and CEO Ross Thompson, who has a foreign intelligence and crisis management background, tells Forbes, “Our program provides peace of mind that you can leave a country even after you start to feel ill. If you are in Barbados or the Dominican Republic, we can have you back home by dinner time. If you’re in Europe or New Zealand, it may take 24 hours. The idea is that we want to get you home and get you out of there before you might need to go to a hospital. We want to be able to bypass that whole hospitalization process in another country.”
Memberships include Family & Individual, Enterprise & Government, and Brokers & Partners options. What stands out about the service is that it "will cover individuals even after they report symptoms of COVID-19 or who test positive for the disease," reports Forbes.Games are a great way to bring people together virtually, and a platform like this which leverages simple yet fun games for colleagues over video calls is a cool niche to fill at the right time.
This one is a little different, as you can see from the image of the silkworm above. KAICO was started by Kyushu University professor Takahiro Kusakabe in 2018 and the business works in conjunction with the university to, "Development of proteins, cytokines and enzymes for medicine, diagnostic agent and reagent with silkworms."
What's compelling about the company and what they're doing in relation to Covid-19 is the research around silkworms is contributing to efforts to find a vaccine for the virus.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, "In his [Kusakabe's] project, each of the worms is a factory that manufactures a type of protein to serve as the key material for vaccine production. Kusakabe said it is possible to create an oral vaccine and aims to start clinical tests on humans in 2021."
KAICO, commercializes the research findings at the university and so far "the company has introduced laboratory chemicals, such as an enzyme made using silkworms."
KoolSchools launched earlier in 2020 and is headquartered in Casablanca, Morocco. Edtech is an extremely hot market right now and there's currently any number of startups I could point to here. Why I'm highlighting a Moroccan E-Learning startup is simple; any and every startup deserves a fair shot and some notice, particularly when they are aiming to solve problems and create business around supporting education.
KoolSchools recently secured $400,000 in funding to help build out a collaborative learning platform for Moroccan schools employing "the use of technology to digitise the process of teaching in the theory and practice of learning. This means the implementation and creation of interactive courses and exercises, content bank, live courses, monitoring of skills acquisition, remediation processes and more."
Having a young daughter in school at this time who did participate in remote learning during lockdown has definitely impressed upon me the importance of efficient and effective digital courses and tools. Many schools had to scramble initially to set up online education and standards, and now if there's any benefit to kids and schools being forced to adopt some remote learning, it's that there's a clearer understanding that education practices need to be more flexible and adaptable in the pandemic, and post-pandemic era.
WonderTree is one of the oldest startups on the list founded in 2015, but I'm choosing it for a couple different reasons in the context of coronavirus. From the company profile, "WonderTree is a tech-startup that designs and develops interactive games based on Augmented Reality for special and rehabilitation needs."
The rise of gaming during the pandemic meets special educational needs meets interactive learning. It was also the only Pakistani startup selected for UNICEF Innovative Fund 2020.
As has unfortunately been the case, special education needs can get left behind and that is made all the more challenging when combined with a pandemic that is leaving kids at home without access to special learning and motor skills activities.
Crowde has also been around since 2015, so it wasn't created specifically around Covid-19, but the problems it addresses very much center on a world of food chains and supply altered by the pandemic. Headquarted in Jakarta, Indonesia, Crowde is creating a business around "a farmer-friendly financing ecosystem that put in touch investors seeking attractive returns with farmers that are looking for capital to grow, create employment and support local communities." Crowde basically creates a cashless network for farmers across Indonesia.
Way back in May (feels like years ago) I wrote about how farms across the world were facing worker shortages and the dire situation they face in producing food that actually can get to people while making a living at the same time. Crowde seems to address at least to some degree part of these new set of challenges farmers are facing, at least in Indonesia.
For those wondering...
Should you join (or launch) a startup if you have the opportunity? Well, startups haven't been immune to layoffs, founders have faced mounting stress because of the pandemic, and unicorns in Asia have been hammered by coronavirus, so there's no less element of risk joining a startup during 2020's er, challenging climate.
But... as you can see from the above startups there's no lack of innovation or product that can't be conceived nearly anywhere in the world. Where's there's a need to be filled or a problem to be solved there's a startup likely to be joined or launched. From a personal and career perspective would I recommend working at a startup? Definitely. Can it be challenging and difficult? Yes, but it can also be liberating, particularly if coming from a more corporate career. I'd still recommend seriously considering these 11 things before joining a startup to know if it's the right move for you.