"Starting up during Covid times? Are you nuts?"
Are you wondering if starting up during these Covid times is a good idea? Arvind Parthiban, CEO & Co-founder of SuperOps.ai, shares his thoughts on the subject
Illustration: Karthikeyan Ganesh
Starting your own company can be a risky and bold move. It demands encouragement and motivation but is COVID acting as a party-pooper? Have you been hearing these statements and emotions conveyed from everyone - “Are you crazy!?”, “Don’t you see the unpredictable situation we are in; to even think of starting something new?"
But mostly, the said and unsaid undertone is, “What about Investment?”. There is no scope for a startup to survive without sufficient funding for the runway. The COVID situation is surely scaring away all the investors? How are you going to raise funding? Companies are downsizing, many are struggling to survive and sustain themselves in the market. This unfortunate situation majorly jeopardises the future of a company that is still in its nascent stage.
It is kind of a no-brainer that a company’s growth and fall are based on its product offerings and services. While industries like hospitality and tourism have taken a huge hit, sectors like e-commerce, video conferencing, and entertainment/gaming are thriving right now. Certain companies like Zoom Communication and Slack have demonstrated a growth curve that has amazed everyone with its value sky-rocketing amid the crisis, while others like Airbnb and Uber had to lay off a sizeable portion of their employees.
The market is definitely changing but does it mean there is no business to be done? Hardly doubt it; especially when it comes to SaaS. Industries focusing on mission-critical products, like IT infrastructure to run a business, online customer service management, and WFH tools are growing rapidly.
The way day-to-day activities are handled certainly has changed. But, we need to realize that no one at this juncture knows how the market is going to evolve and impact the economy. This brings us back to the important question - Is this the right time to start your business? Definitely Yes. Why? You can choose to single-mindedly build a mission-critical product, a much-needed solution that can be sold during any situation.
If I had to give any upcoming startups a single piece of advice, it would be - Ask yourself if you are building a Mission-Critical product or a good-to-have product? Starting a company isn’t a short-term activity. It is an ongoing journey that can even stretch to 10 - 15 years. The situation can change in 6 months, or even take a year or 2 - who knows! There will be all sorts of ramifications in terms of hiring and other processes, but it is just a small hiccup in the grand scheme of things.
Getting back to building a Mission-Critical product, I have a perfect example here. My previous company ‘Zarget’ was a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) platform built for SMB. At times, it was used only once when the website was being built initially At other times, it varied depending on the industries - it could be once a month or even once every three months. The bottom line here is, this product wasn’t used often like on a daily or weekly basis. It was a good-to-have tool but not mission-critical that would disrupt any of the existing processes. This means, during the current situation, maybe the customers wouldn’t look at renewing their plan or consider continuing to use it. Hence, you need to build a product that people would want/have to use daily, weekly, or at the very least every month. There should be a major need for your product in the business process of the target industry. If you have a mission-critical product, your customers would want to stick to it.
Meanwhile, if the current situation remains the same even after a year, and when we are ready to go-to-market. The term ‘Savings’ will play a bigger role. There are higher chances of companies being forced to undergo budget-cuts or opting for more economical tools. Are you in the business that people would want to save and invest their money on? Does that transcend to bigger opportunities? You can use this as an opportunity to deliver critical things but don’t have to be at a higher cost. You should come across as a great choice for the companies looking to spend their money wisely.
Let me reiterate the fact “Every time there is an economic crisis, there are new opportunities born.” If you still have any lingering doubts, remember that companies like Disney, HP, Apple, Mailchimp, Whatsapp, Instagram, and many more were formed right during the bottom of the economic crisis.
So, just keep at it and focus on something your customers would need rather than just want. Become more customer-centric and pivot, if required, to the side the wind blows. Meanwhile, we can just speculate and hope the situation gets back to its status-quo without causing a huge impact on the world, business, and the economy. And to all those who are starting their own companies during this time - good luck and stay positive.
This too shall pass. I am Arvind Parthiban, CEO & Co-Founder of SuperOps.ai.