Despite the mental toll, cabin feverishness, and all the other problems that come with the Quarantine, the Pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to skill up and start your own business. While many of us are stuck at home with nothing to do except watch TV, read books, or vegetate, think of this as an opportunity to start a new business and secure some income for yourself and the future. Here are 5 Ideas to Help You Start a Business in the COVID Quarantine.
First thing’s first: Skill up.
Many of you have been meaning to start a business. Let this social isolation be the sign to get up and start going. Use this time to get your licensing, insurance, and research done so by the time all of this chaos is over you can hit the ground running with your new enterprise.
We recently had the chance to talk with Pablo Villalba from Teambox about how he got started and what advice he has to pass onto new and budding entrepreneurs, better yet, Teambox is now inBloon’s project management solution. The trickle effects of Next Top Startup, but I digress.
So without further ado, the startup feature of : Teambox
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
On one hand, I was looking for something that would tie our team together as a group. We tried some online solutions, excel spreadsheets, blogs and Gantt planning, but nothing worked.
When a client asked to deploy a solution in his own server, I started some real research for a quality open-source project manager. There was not such a thing. So, with a little seed funding, we got started.
The first versions were merely proofs of concept, and were only available on Spanish. However, they taught us important lessons on software development and clients’ needs. All this made a difference for Teambox 2.
After exiting the beta period, we set up some pricing plans for users who needed more of what we were doing. So far, we have over 100 paid accounts for the online version and we’re starting to have our first corporate clients. This means a lot of new lessons to learn, and the need to adapt quickly.
We recently acquired an online group chat application in our space, and we have plans to integrate its functionality in Teambox while expanding its offerings. We’re very excited about the possibilities.
Can you tell us a bit about the team?
At the heart of Teambox, we’re very technically minded people with a passion for design.
We had endless discussions over little details, because we care about usability. You can spend months developing the coolest feature on Earth, but unless you make it simple nobody is going to use it.We’re currently 5 programmers and 3 mixed profiles for sales and marketing. We expect to keep things small and simple, scaling our service without a significant increase on staff.
For that, we only work with the best. Our open-source community has been a great talent pool, where people can learn our working style before joining the company.
Any difficulties you’ve experienced in the startup process of your company?
It’s been extremely hard to get funded during the hard times economy has been through. Nevertheless, we were lucky to find the right investors who trusted the startup and team and made it possible.
It has also been very disappointing to see how public grants have more to do with political reasons than real innovation and supporting research and development. Lessons learned from this: Private money is reasonable, and it’s always better to survive with your own money or customers than looking for money from others.
Any advice to pass on to budding entrepreneurs?
Just get started. Entrepreneurship is like a George Lucas film, where you meet your friends during a long journey to an uncertain destination
When you think of the Soviet Union, and in fact communism – the last thing that comes to your mind are the favorable conditions it set for private enterprise. And while undeniable that the “concept” of privatization was “frowned upon” under the hammer and sickle, it’s not to say that it inadvertently didn’t do more good than bad for entreprenerus – at least in today’s world, and looking ten fifteen years down the line.
Have we lost our marbles. Hardly.
The East – West Divide
Let’s look at the nature of things as they were prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and Perestroika. Not only was food scarce in the Warsaw Pact but so were normal commodity items such as pillows, skirts, toilet paper, or for that matter next to everything that wasn’t either vodka, potato, or beer, or combined product there of, and you can forget about the availability of Levi’s Jeans all together.
So what would happen if say a few individuals gained access to a box of Levi’s, another few, to a couple of crates of Bananas, another to extra couches at the factory, and perhaps someone else to some toddler shirts, etc… etc… effectively an underground economy, which initially arose as a barter system. 3 pairs of 501 regular fit jeans for 1 couch. Done. One pair of regular fit for 10 shirts. Done. 5 shirts for three bushels of bananas. Done.
An entrepreneurial mindset was forming out of necessity to have basic human goods. What’s interesting as well is that – this new basic form of entrepreneurship – spanned the Eastern Block, the Polish would have a surplus of something the Hungarians did not, who in turn had a surplus of something or other that the Romanians lacked, and so the circle went ’round and ’round, and under the table micro international trade was blossoming.
Aside from the trading and the bartering, this did however carry risks, visas were next to impossible to acquire, individuals were putting themselves and their families at stake for just participating in this activity, but history aside, all this came to and end with the fall of the USSR and the introduction of free market reforms, or did it?
The West – West Divide
Let’s fast forward to now, and look at the Western block, aside from a few pockets, entrepreneurship and failure is generally looked down upon. If you fail, it’s as if though you are negatively branded, and instead of being looked a as a brave individual whose attempted something new, and in terms of the general mentality – this is probably the most differentiating factor between the U.S. and Western Europeans.
What do we mean? Well in Spain one of the most sought after positions is a “funcionario” or a civil servant, in Danish there exists a word for being too ambitious, but the buck doesn’t stop there.
There is a popular drive not to succeed and just be comfortable in the majority of the populace, and the socially backed government initiatives, the sometimes month+ it takes to get a company up and running, the don’t get us started on various labour laws that make firing people more expensive than keeping them on, it’s no wonder that entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship has been hit with the stick for decades and just now individuals are trying to turn things around led by best practices and initiatives coming from the states and those Europeans who had to leave in order to fully develop their companies and ideas in places such as Silicon Valley, NY, Boston, etc.
The East – West Junction
We’re 20 years on from the fall off the Berlin Wall, the entrepreneurship mentality is still there, the post Warsaw pact citizens are innovating, creating, going around obstacles and taking risks in order to move their enterprises forward, not only on a local but an international front. Furthermore, due to the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime, the region has typically embraced US American ideals and concepts, further positioning themselves to grab the reigns for European Entrepreneurs.
Notwithstanding, many of the C&E Europeans feel that they have something to prove, to show that they too can become magnates of industry, and with the total alienation to socialism caused by the USSR it wouldn’t be surprising if within the next 20 years the focus of entrepreneurship on the European front will shift much further East.
Tomorrow on Startup Saturdays we will feature – The Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace – and when we received their response to our questions – the advice was overwhelming, so instead of putting everything into one long post, we decided to split it in two.
As such here are the majority of best practices as coined by the FGCP.
1. Try to be as transparent as possible (nobody knows you when you’re a startup, show them who you are by your actions)
2. Only make promises you can deliver
3. Take time to think over decisions before making them
4. Make time for yourself and your loved ones
5. Listen more than you talk/do
6. Give credit where it’s due
7. Refuse to be taken hostage by seemingly immediate needs–other solutions will come in due time
8. Keep your eye on both the long-term and short-term horizon
9. Be your own best cheerleader and loudest critic (when in doubt, choose the first)
10. Learn to admit when you’re wrong (what’s more important to you, having a pristine ego with no one around to give a hoot or a good team that appreciates you as a fellow human being?)
11. Correct mistakes whenever possible and feasible
12. Be open to unanticipated opportunities and leave room for unforeseen errors–give yourself some breathing room
13. Treat people like intelligent human beings, until proven otherwise
14. Know the difference between assumptions and facts and be especially vigilant toward assumptions underlying other assumptions
15. Do your research: make sure that expert advice you’re getting is suited to your organization’s needs. If that’s unclear, ask the person to clarify and get a second/third opinion.
16. You are NOT your enterprise: we want our business to grow bigger than ourselves, so learn to let go when the time is right.
17. Check in with yourself once a day to take stock of how you’re feeling
18. Be honest with yourself: don’t put on a happy face just because you think you should. It’s better to realize that things are going wrong and deal with them than leaving them to get worse and become unmanageable.
19. Know your cash flow. LOVE your cash flow.
20. Get enough sleep
21. Have a good sense of proportionality: a) setbacks are not the end of the world; b) you are not god; and c) neither are your expert advisers
22. Trust reason above good delivery
23. It’s better to do and fail than to do nothing at all
24. Celebrate small victories, even if no one else appreciates them
25. Get to know your limitations and learn to say no
Let’s face it, each city of medium size and up has events slated at the entrepreneur, and they tend to fall into one of two categories. The speaker series, or the networking drinks series, but there are very strong underlying problems with each.
Let’s look at Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.
You sign up, you go, you are seated and then you listen to one guy speak for 30 minutes, then the next for another 30, then the third and are eventually moved into a space to network for 30 more minutes. Alternatively, you’ll get one speaker, and then a networking session on top of that.
Great, or is it. Aside from the fact that most speakers lack the charisma of a Barak Obama or Churchill, these series tend to go over time, and if people are sitting in a hall, you’ll find a percentage of the crowd dozing off. If the speaker series extends to two or three individuals this percentage will undeniably go up.
After the event is finished, everyone will huddle around the speaker and try to get a word in, in order to have a bit of face time and hope they’ll remember them. While the rest of the group stands in their corners talking to people they already know. Sounds familiar?
The Networking Drinks Series
You head to a bar, you get a “Hello my name is” tag and you’re supposed to network. But with whom? Who do you talk to, how can you get the most out of it, and what about those people who simply put aren’t good at talking to others, i.e. the introvert/extrovert scenario.
You have tons of these, Drink Tank in London, Founders Lounge in Barcelona, even First Tuesdays succumbs to this. A drinks – event is good fun, but it’s productivity is questionable. Why? Because you don’t know who will be at the event, nor will you know that if there are people there worth talking to you’ll necessarily network with them.
Long story short the current model is simply not efficient – and there are many means for innovation and improvement within events targeting the entrepreneurship sector.
So What About Solutions
Here’s the thing. When you’ve got a speaker, get the crowd involved from the onset, break them up into small groups, whether they know each other or not, it doesn’t matter, have them collaborate – bringing in people from different walks, industries is good, it opens them up to other ways of thinking and problem solving. Don’t make the interaction one way, make it tow way, or event triangular.
When putting on a networking event, don’t just plop people in a room and say network, see who’s coming and pair them up, have a few people putting on the event make introductions, ask people when they sign up, who they want to meet, what they’re looking for. Make the whole thing interactive.
And make it fun, whether it’s a speaker, a networking event, a funding event, what have you, be sure to make it fun, engaging, and provide something that all aprticipants will take away from it, bring valie to everyone involved.
F3FundIt is planning an event for later this year, if you are interested in learning more about it or how you can get involved – please send an email to info @ f3fundit.com with the subject line f3f-event. Thanks.