A Peek Into an Early-Stage Startup During the COVID19 Crisis

Clanz had a lot to show for its first year of work.

We developed an MVP, implemented it with major clients, and built a talented team from the ground up. Everything was going according to plan; 

  • Our technology was proving itself as a real gamechanger, we reached – and surpassed! – our KPIs in all of our BETA sites.
  • We had just gotten back from a convention in Florida with a suitcase full of hot leads and LOIs. 

One thing left in order to move forward – to find the right partners and to complete an investment round that will allow us to take the company to the next level.

And then – COVID19. 

The stock market crashed, people were stuck at home in complete uncertainty, hundreds of thousands were laid off overnight, and talk of the biggest financial crisis of our generation was rampant. Suddenly, stories from the .Com and 2008 crashes seemed topical again.  People seemed more concerned about the future, and refrained from dealing with the here and now. 

This recent period has been difficult for pretty much everyone – employees, freelancers, business owners. The startup community is no exception.

Startups’ advantage, however, is that we are used to dealing with uncertainty – so much that it’s almost become our comfort zone. Startups must have the ability to learn and adapt quickly as a core part of their DNA. We knew that in order to keep moving forward at the same pace we had managed to establish so far, we needed to adjust our course.

In this post, I’ll share how we managed to come out on top at the end of this difficult period, and what I believe is the right way forward in this fog of uncertainty.

 

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

At the very beginning of the crisis, one of my mentors – and a Clanz investor – encouraged me to try a simple exercise: examine the company’s business plan, and strike out the “revenues” line until the end of 2021.

The idea behind this was that we could no longer tell what the future holds or what the market will look like – so we had to plan our next moves much more carefully.

This wasn’t “giving up” – it was simply facing reality and acknowledging there was a new factor in the game that was completely outside of our control, and we may not reach our ambitious pre-corona sales goals at the pace we had originally planned.

Same for the fundraising goals – he recommended me to look 24 months ahead, and not 18.

After doing this – and adjusting our recruiting goals in accordance with our change in goals – the topography of our map had transformed, and we needed to change our course as well.

A Quick Ramp-up to a New Work Routine

When the entire country went into lockdown, we had to quickly adjust to a new reality.

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  • We set a new routine that kept us effective on the one hand, but flexible enough on the other to allow employees to address their unique individual needs.  We decided to set “core hours” – several defined hours each day in which everyone was expected to be available for collaborative work and synchronization, while the rest of their daily schedules were theirs to do with as they see fit. 
  • Externally, we relied on remote work tools – and realized that using them also requires a certain learning curve. Of course, the tool doing the heaviest lifting was Zoom. Although I had used Zoom before the pandemic, I now realized I needed a more intimate understanding of its capabilities and limitations. 
  • I  took into account the fact that whoever was on the other side of the remote work line was on a learning curve of their own. It wasn’t uncommon to see a diaperless toddler run across the screen in the middle of a work meeting or to hear someone vacuuming in the room next door. This made it clear that I needed to develop more patience and empathy than usual, out of an understanding that we’re all human beings, and that each one of us has a different way of adapting to these trying times.
  • Something that I was especially wary of was the fact that work processes and meetings may be unusually drawn out and mismanaged due to the new circumstances, so I took special care to clearly define timeframes and dictate clear stages of progression in every joint undertaking.

Work-Life Balance in an Out-of-Balance World

I can’t say that entrepreneurs have a clear-cut workday anyway, but I’ve certainly never spent a night at the office. 

When you work from home, work-life boundaries can become fuzzy, and it’s very easy to find ourselves working 14 hours straight, alternating between one Zoom meeting room and the next.  After two weeks of working like this, I realized that this would not be a sustainable routine. On top of the physical toll it exacted, it was simply not efficient. 

To address this, I took care to follow a few basic guidelines:

  • I make use of every second phone call afforded me to walk around the block for some vitamin D and fresh air.
  • I decided to do at least one thing for myself, every day. Whether it’s watching an episode on Netflix, cook an indulgent meal, or sit down with a glass of wine and friends on Zoom. I didn’t end the day when the only thing I did was work.
  • I didn’t set any meetings longer than 45 minutes that started on the hour. That way, I always had a buffer in which I could get up, walk around, breathe, or make coffee, even if we went a few minutes overtime.

To wrap things up

Thanks to our quick reaction to the new situation, with the initial shock of COVID19 behind us, I can definitely say that the experience has made us stronger.

Two months in, we were able to secure additional funding, from the right partners; people who, despite not meeting in person, believe in us and in our vision, and that have the tools and knowledge to join us on our path.

The next year is probably going to be very different from the last one – for better and for worse:

  • Air travel is severely restricted, a fact which, on the one hand, prevents us from flying to meet stakeholders, but which, on the other hand, is pushing players in the traditional market of eldercare to work with digital tools like Zoom. This helps bridge a major gap Israeli entrepreneurs often face, saves us a lot of time and money on international travel, and allows me to be closer to my R&D team.
  • The venture capital world may become “tighter” – less money in the market and more careful investments. I believe that this will ultimately make our ecosystem healthier, with a higher percentage of more great businesses getting further along and occupying a larger share of the market.
  • The field in which Clanz operates – remote monitoring – is now more relevant than ever due to social distancing, a practice that is especially strict when it comes to the elderly. Our product provides value precisely to the people who’ve been impacted most by the crisis.

On this positive note, we’re excited to move forward achieving our next goals, together with our new partners.

If you’ve read this far – we’re looking for exceptional people to join us on our journey! For more details press here.

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