I read a post the other day on Linkedin by Josh Campbell, CEO at hi! Like many other startups, they found themselves two weeks away from product launch when the world shut down. Faced with the dilemma, to press on or to pause, they took the decision to green light. Their decision to go ahead wasn't based upon profits, but a sense of duty to a recently hired employee, commitment to suppliers but perhaps above all else, their sheer passion for their product and their end game. I salute them.
There will be many other individuals around the world who have had to stop and consider whether now is the right time. I know many who have had to pivot and are now building greenfield projects alongside their original ideas. When you are launching a startup, to a certain extent there is never a definitive "right time" (unless you have magically created an app that means Santa doesn't have to deliver to every child on Xmas eve). Every startup faces issues along the way, it's to be expected.
I thought I would share some inspiration for those of you who are currently questioning whether you should be putting your hard work, effort and dreams on hold.
If you google companies started in a recession you will read lots about Microsoft, Fedex and the likes of Disney. But let's look at some of the success stories post 2008, the last recession and one that many of us will remember.
Whatsapp - 2009
How much do you now rely on Whatsapp to communicate? Ex Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Action created the encrypted messaging app to enable people to message each other quickly. In 2014 Koum entered the Forbes list of of the 400 richest Americans after selling the app to Facebook for £19 billion.
Andrew Mason founded Groupon when he was a student in his mid 20s, after meeting Tech billionaire Eric Lefkofsky. In the midset of the 2008 recession, they developed a website promoting offers and deals to consumers. Although Mason departed after 4.5 years, the company is valued at $726 million.
You're not alive unless you take a selfie and post it on Insta? Alongside Facebook, Instagram is one of those annoying social media channels where everyone posts pictures of their perfect lives. Set up by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in 2010, they managed to secure 100,000 users in just one week, so it's no surprise that Facebook bought the app in 2012 for $1 billion, just 18 months after it launched!
Slack was originally created in 2009 as a work messaging app for Stewart Butterfield's company, Tiny Speck. It is now the most popular chat and productivity tool worldwide. A perfect example of a pivot from a confused gaming product to a profitable too. There has been a huge increase in demand since COVID-19 and remote working. It is now valued at $15.9 billion.
What do all of these companies have in common? They could see an opportunity. Already we are seeing so many changes in the traditional workplace. More people are utilising home food delivery services (just look at Gousto who now employ nearly 300 staff and have just secured £33 million in more investment). So we are seeing a change in what people want, how they spend, how they behave. I am sure we will see some really exciting new ideas come out of this pandemic, even in the face of adversity.
The world still needs creators, innovators and pioneers.