I, like many people, have been thinking a lot about the implications coronavirus is going to have on my team, and the startup community. I wanted to share my thoughts here because that’s a huge part of why communities exist — to acknowledge challenges, and offer support, resources, and connection. Though we’re all facing a tough time, we’re in it together.
As you might know, Startup Grind is a community-based company that has its roots in global chapters and in-person events all over the world. In fact, we recently had our annual Global Conference in Redwood City at the beginning of February. We were extremely lucky to get to host the event this year.
Many conferences have since cancelled their events (Mobile World Congress, F8, Shopify conference, GDC was moved to the summer, Saastr, Qualtrics X4 was moved). Conference cancellations are not normal for the industry and we should recognize that this is a very, very rare event. Mobile World Congress, for instance, cancelled their show for the first time in 33 years.
The repercussions of what this means are tough to ignore.
In the short term, many industries are going to be negatively affected by this. Travel and transportation, food, exported/imported goods, sports, labor, tourism, apparel. I spoke with a friend this week whose family member has all the products they sell coming from China and it’s all come to a standstill. Sequoia Capital’s letter to its company CEOs last week is sobering. There are lots of really difficult stories like this right now in these industries. Startups are going to need more help than ever. We should be prepared to adjust for what may come over the next few weeks and months.
But in the long run, humans are going to continue to want and need to gather and meet with each other. It’s been like this for thousands of years and while we may have 3–6 months (maybe longer) than we’d like with the stress of this news, we will continue to invest long-term in helping our community to thrive even in times of crisis.
So then, what should we be doing? What can we be doing to power through this together as a community?
When it comes to community events, locally run and sourced events and virtual events are a simple way to continue to help people get connected in a safe environment near their home. Though there’s always more, I’ve gathered a few things we can start with to keep communities running:
- Consider shifting your in-person event to a virtual event. This is particularly true if your area is affected. I highly doubt the speaker will mind, in fact they may prefer it. Do something different and new. Adjust to fit the new format. Make it memorable.
- Be creative about how to build community inside the new parameters that exist. What new or innovative things can you come up with? If you think of new ways, share them. We’re all facing a new type of community together and let’s support each other.
- Proactively have conversations with your partners and sponsors to assure them that you’re not going anywhere long-term. Offer to do more and help them get value in different ways until this blows over.
- Don’t automatically cancel and refund. Offer credits to new experiences to fulfill on your community’s commitment to you. Be proactive about talking to the community and people affected.
- Stay ahead of it. Things change quickly. Keep updating your decision process. Communicate like a legend.
Things like this work — and are already working. Houston’s Startup Grind community organized a digital pitch competition that will be hosted entirely online. One of our chapter directors is crowdsourcing short videos of support to send to the startup community in Italy. And here’s an example of best practices a community lead put together to help China-based communities during these tough times:
The above represent just a few examples of small things we can do to stay connected in big ways. It might be a challenge, but we have options. If you have other ideas be vocal about them. Share with your community.
And remember, of course, at the end of the day the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself and your family. Nothing is worth jeopardizing your health. If there becomes a concern there that’s an easy thing to answer: stay safe.
We’re in this for the long run. Let’s be patient and thoughtful, adjusting to meet the new and shifting needs of the community and it will emerge stronger out of this challenging crisis.
Most of all again, stay healthy and safe.
Co-Founder of Startup Grind & Bevy