Seattle Startups are Tackling COVID-19 Impacts from Multiple Angles
This post was written collaboratively by a group of Seattle startup founders.
Seattle isn’t just the epicenter of an outbreak, it’s also the hub of innovation. So when COVID-19 started causing seismic shifts in daily life here and across the US, a new generation of tech founders stepped forward to reimagine how we support each other through a crisis. Here are just a few examples of how entrepreneurs are galvanizing their resources to help.
“We saw an opportunity to come together and provide support in an entirely new way,” says Laura Malcolm of Give InKind, a social platform for coordinating support for loved ones in need. “We already have tools that serve hundreds of thousands each day, and in this large-scale time of need, it’s important that we share resources that will be helpful to our communities.”
Most of the Seattle area’s largest tech employers like Microsoft and Amazon have instituted work-from-home policies during the outbreak to slow the virus, but many small businesses and startups without that luxury are on the frontline of the pandemic.
“Some companies have been preparing for this shift in the way we work all along,” says Melissa Strawn of MyPeopleNow, a gig-economy platform designed to help those who don’t fit into the traditional 9–5 workforce. “Now we are trying to creatively expand our offerings to benefit even more people.” The company recently added unlimited video chat and a group functionality that allows community members to post “asks” and “offers” for help.
People with weakened immunity are at greater risk from COVID-19, and for them stress, rumor and misinformation are rife. Fortunately, resources such as COVID-19 rheumatoid news are cutting through the noise. The free, curated update provides daily information for the 23 million Americans with autoimmune diseases. Founder Sarah Dillingham says, “Knowledge is power. We need reliable information to make informed decisions about our health.”
“Cardiovascular exercise and strength training are critical to keeping our immune system strong, but it can be difficult when someone is recovering from an injury, surgery, or if they struggle with a health condition or disability, especially if homebound,” says Michele Mehl, co-founder and CEO of Excy, creators of a full-body portable exercise bike that can be used to pedal from standing, seated, and lying down positions. “So many of us already fail to meet the CDC guidelines for exercise, but now is not the time to plant ourselves like a geranium in front of our screens, whether an elite athlete or someone who is already sedentary. In response to COVID-19, we have kicked off a live stream exercise challenge to help customers feel less alone, introduced a new sale on our site, and are strongly encouraging our new rental program for those who feel they only need temporary help with exercise.”
Luckily, physical fitness from home has never been more possible than today. Video chat allows clients and personal trainers to connect online, boosting accountability and providing social interaction for people trying to avoid public gyms and fitness studios.
“If people are being told to stay home, Flight Live gives them the opportunity to enjoy the emotional and social benefits of physical activity,” says My Le Goel, founder of the mobile-first fitness platform that allows people to connect with live, personal trainers and yoga instructors.
One of the biggest concerns about the spread of the coronavirus has been the potential impact it will have on the local healthcare system at an already busy time for emergency rooms.
“Telemedicine is one of the best ways to get people access to high-quality medical care in the privacy of their own home,” says Jill Angelo, CEO and founder of Gennev, a telemedicine service geared toward those experiencing menopause. “In response to the need for more remote healthcare options with COVID-19, we’ve focused on giving menopause care another tech upgrade with our new, all-inclusive remote HealthFix Membership. HealthFix offers on-demand access to OB/GYNs and Health Coaches for personalized menopause care with nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management and prescription support. It gives the everyday woman an opportunity to get personalized and remote care she needs throughout her entire menopause journey — without breaking the bank.”
At the same time, parents are dealing with school closures. According to Priyanka Raha, founder of PopSmartKids, while at-home learning will “never entirely replace the learning experience that kids have in the classroom, I have discovered technology-driven apps that help children learn at home.” Her company’s story-writing app, PopSmartWrite, actively encourages young kids to use their imagination to create their own stories through drawings, pictures, and text.
Local businesses — in Seattle and beyond — are some of the first to feel the dramatic effects of social distancing, work-from-home mandates, and consumer anxiety.
“The brick and mortar small businesses at the heart of our communities need our support,” said Laura Clise, founder of Intentionalist, an online platform that helps people discover local restaurants and other businesses and learn the stories of the diverse people behind them. “Our latest blog is a great place to find simple things you can do to help small business owners during a truly difficult time.”
At Fresh Chalk, a friends-based recommendations platform for local professionals, we’re seeing first-hand how social distancing reduces foot traffic to nail salons, boutiques, and gyms. We published the results of a small business survey on the Fresh Chalk blog, where we found 35% of businesses fear having to close altogether. We’ve created a new Seattle Business Status page to track which businesses are open, closed, or offering modified services; we are crowd-sourcing this information from the community.
Lastly, the strain on our already-packed schedules and mental health load means many feel lost in a sea of demands, and quite simply don’t know what to do with themselves.
“Instead of scrolling through Facebook or reading story after story about the coronavirus, we’d recommend occasionally taking your mind off heavy topics and taking some time for self-care,” says Swatee Surve, CEO of Litesprite, a company that created a free clinically-validated mental health video game. “We must ‘put our own oxygen mask on first’ and take care of ourselves so we can be well enough to care for others.”
Those with behavioral health conditions, including addiction recovery, require remote solutions as in-person support group meetings are temporarily cancelled. WEconnect Health Management provides a mobile application where certified peer recovery support specialists connect virtually to help individuals keep up with their designated care plan. In return for engaging in the platform, individuals earn Amazon gift cards to use for household items, food and transportation.
“Community support and staying accountable to your care plan during this time is even more critical than ever, as social connection is one of the key, evidence-based ways that people sustain recovery. With the rewards platform in-app it also supports individuals who may have a slow down in income and work due to the COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations,” says CEO and Co-Founder, Daniela Luzi Tudor.
The call for innovation related to COVID-19 is here. From supporting the tireless efforts of our healthcare professionals on the front lines, to direct and indirect solutions for mitigating the challenges we face, now is the time to put efforts behind bringing more innovations to the world.