Startups have used the shakeup caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen their offerings and scale up. Inspired by their ambition, we rose to meet them with more mentoring resources and live, virtual webinars.
Oracle for Startups’ Global Communications Director Amy Sorrells explains, “It’s how we can help these growing businesses continue to maintain momentum during these challenging times.”
Let’s explore the diverse ways that entrepreneurs around the world are using a global slowdown to re-align and rocket forward with activities from self-improvement to product development.
Blockchain-enabled supply chain platform retraced caters to fashion brands. They used the pandemic lull to examine their customers’ needs and focus on making their offerings even better.
"We tried to use the slower time to really focus on product development and make sure that we can fulfill the need to connect brands with their suppliers and make data collection and document collection more efficient," said Lukas Pünder, cofounder and CEO. "Because of these new features, brands are just more excited to use it." In fact, the company saw a 33% increase in new customers in just one month.
For a much-needed distraction, many people rediscovered their passions during the pandemic, and some of these side projects even evolved into new opportunities. Janneke Niessen is cofounder of venture fund CapitalT and startup assessment platform VCVolt. She is also the co-initiator of a not-for-profit called InspiringFifty, which aims to increase diversity in tech by making female role models more visible. During lockdown, she dove into her passion of encouraging girls into the technology field and promoting the book she previously self-published on the subject – The New Girl Code – the launch of a fashion app.
Nimble and pivot-ready, many startup teams are using the time at home to develop new skills or use their existing skills in new ways. Acknowledged introvert and Snap Vision founder Jenny Griffiths turned the virtual networking mandated by the pandemic into an opportunity to raise funds for her startup.
“Sometimes (I) think that extroverts can win at fundraising because they can go into a room and they’re very good at working it.” She admits, “I don’t get my energy that way at all, so I’ve found I’ve been far more targeted in my conversations raising from home, and that level of bias gets eliminated.”
Similarly, The Lonely Entrepreneur founder Michael Dermer encouraged startups to prepare for a post-COVID world by identifying key markets now. In a blog post, Dermer explains his belief that the greatest risk (and the greatest opportunity) will be in finding the right ‘playground’ for your solution, and settling into a space that isn’t cluttered with competitors.
Dermer predicts that competition will intensify after the pandemic as more companies compete for fewer dollars. “Anyone that is trying to compete on price will lose,” he said, adding that traditional USPs may fall on deaf ears. Instead, he encourages companies to find their own niche where they can be the only game in town.
One thing founders have in common is an indomitable spirit. Founders we work with are intent to find solutions and growth, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. We see this most tangibly in the growth of our Market Connect initiative, which offers introductions to customers, investors, and new audiences.
Many startups dream of snagging a big-name customer, but it can take a lot of patience and preparation to navigate longer sales cycles and complicated org charts common to enterprise sales. In a recent Q&A hosted by MassChallenge, Kris Robinson, a global Key Account Director for Oracle, and AptivIO cofunder Guy Mounier shared their top tips for attracting and keeping big clients.
For some startups, now might be the perfect time to develop a strategy to secure that dream customer. “Sometimes it’s easier to have a partner to help you navigate through that rather than starting from ground zero,” said Robinson, and this is what Market Connect is designed to do.
Unfortunately, a global slowdown meant many startup customers and prospects reflexively tightened their purse strings. When business slows, the last thing a young business needs is mounting cloud storage costs. The right cloud provider ought to allow for scaling back without incurring costs, then scaling up quickly when the time is right to add services and capacity. Smart resource allocation may even spare some companies from having to let valued employees go. We heard from startups who experience up to 40% annual savings compared to AWS, savings which are useful even in non-crisis times.
Arun Satyan, founder of a natural language processing-enabled chatbot solution for HR services, estimates Hyreo will save about 30% in the long run on the switch, owing to "better infrastructure, performance and optimized pricing models with discounts."
For many startups, the slowdown has been opportunity to reassess and even launch a new venture. We have seen many new companies join Oracle for Startups to take advantage of $500 of free cloud credits, 70% off list price for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure services for two years, and opportunities for mentorship and customer connections.