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Information asymmetry in times of crisis

Acknowledging information privilege is an obstacle. And going into the reasons I’m setting up Focus Fork.

This article was first posted to my website.

I’ve received 592 messages with unique COVID-19 “asks” and “offers” from members of the professional networks I’m part of since 1st of January, 2020. These messages were posted by business leaders (and owners) and many involved global multi-million dollar deals. Other messages involved significant charitable drive.

As I read those messages, I’ve noticed a pattern: Information asymmetry.

Not the typical information asymmetry though. You know. When the seller, for instance, knows privileged information about what they are selling, whereas the buyer doesn’t.

e.g. You as a seller, know the exact quality of the used car you are trying to sell. Meanwhile, as the car’s real quality may very well be way-below-average, the buyer (the one you are trying to sell your car to), doesn’t know the real quality of your car and assumes your car is of average quality, thus paying you the average price for a used car. As a result, due to information asymmetry, you, the seller, win.

Information privilege amid the COVID-19 crisis

In the COVID-19 crisis, information asymmetry stems from something different. In times like these, you find information asymmetry not because one party is information-privileged in a specific transaction, but because all parties, across all marketplaces, are changing purposes, strategies and focus at a very rapid pace.

  • If my company produced X, I may now be forced to produce Y to continue trading. I thus need to reorganise my supply chain. I need new suppliers, new logistics, new sales channels.
  • If I run a biotech startup, I may need to pivot in the short term to try and create a COVID-19 treatment. I may need funding to enable the pivot, ASAP.
  • If I run a tech company, I may want to provide paid reskilling opportunities to those that have lost their jobs in the service sector (and others sectors). Taking action through corporate responsibility to help support larger segments of the community my business is part of.
  • If I am the principal of a family office, I may want to re-allocate capital to fighting COVID-19.
  • If I had to stop manufacturing, given the non-essential nature of my business, I may want to enter a partnership and have another business take over the spare capacity in my factories.

Taking a second quick look into numbers and patterns

Back to the patterns I’ve seen in the messages that have reached me through my networks. I’ve also noticed strong correlation between messages only start popping up from any specific country when said country went into lockdown. This may say something about human psychology, but that is a separate discussion.

Out of these 592 messages, 2 messages came up in January, in contrast to 299 messages in April (and we haven’t even reached mid-April, today is the 12th of April).

COVID-19 Asks and Requests

Finding information that can help us get out of this

Finding information that helps us move forward becomes challenging. The internet is a big, big place. Furthermore, things are changing very fast. Many, do not have networks to tap into (not to mention that these professional networks are essentially members-only and otherwise inaccessible).

In a crisis, specially a global crisis like this one, structured information is what we need the most.

Why I’m setting up Focus fork

This is why I’ve set a project ( Focus Fork), out of passion, to help out with the current crisis. Additionally, I’ve also developed a platform and am now gathering input to maximize impact ahead of launching it.

Image for post
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Simplified Project Thesis: Efforts to produce more ventilators or PPE are obviously necessary, but to move us forward, some of us are willing to invest time, effort or money in what might get us out of the current situation.

So, there are essentially 3 ways out of this:

  1. We find a good enough vaccine to get virility rate < 1
  2. We create a very good treatment so people aren’t afraid and can live their lives as before
  3. We implement a strong culture of testing and isolation (like China). i.e. ubiquitous and fast testing is made available.

There is no convincing 4th way out of this.

(And no, there is nothing genius about the conclusions above. A bunch of smart folks have been repeating the same for some time)

So, as I gather input for Focus Fork, the request is:

(Input is welcome from all corners of the world)
(Grateful if you could share your input as soon as possible. Thank you!)

  1. Several organizations have been selling or donating essential equipment, materials, services, test kits and design packages/out-licensing. Should you want to list your organization’s resources, please enter your details into Resources.
  • Please also enter your details into Resources, should you be looking for suppliers/providers of essential resources.
  1. Several tech companies are offering paid remote apprenticeship jobs to people outside tech. Should you also want to list apprenticeship opportunities, please enter your details into Apprenticeships.
  • Same for potential apprenticeship applicants, please also enter your details into Apprenticeships.
  1. Several organizations are offering their assets or spare capacity to be used by others, who would like to make essential equipment, materials, etc. Should you want to list potential commercial or charitable partnerships/collaborations opportunities, please enter your details into Refocus.
  • Please also enter your details into Refocus, should you be looking for partnerships/collaborations opportunities.
  1. Several family offices / investors are willing to allocate significant amount of capital to for-profit or non-profit companies (new companies and temporary pivots) fighting COVID-19. Others are proving fast funding (decisions made in under 48h) through grants to scientists at academic institutions. Should you want to list your interest to allocate capital to fighting COVID-19, please enter your details into Investments.
  • Same for companies looking for funding, please also enter your details into Investments.

TLDR:

  • I’ve set up a website for the project (it links to the different surveys inviting your valuable input): focusfork.com.
  • Feel free to reach out to me in case of questions at twitter.com/celue or here.
  • Your input will be used to help analyze where there is most need for a service to help match supply and demand in fighting the current crisis. Thank you!

If this isn’t for you, sharing this forward in your network will be of great help (here comes a Twitter thread on it as well).

Keep safe!

Where to find me:

This article was first posted to my website.

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Originally published at https://www.eskinasy.com on April 12, 2020.

Written by

Now: Own projects, Past: Corporate B2B deep tech. | Engineer | Economist | Writings at eskinasy.com | ∞ curious | 🌱| ॐ

Now: Own projects, Past: Corporate B2B deep tech. | Engineer | Economist | Writings at eskinasy.com | ∞ curious | 🌱| ॐ

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