Realigning with Customers: Real-time adjustment in the time of COVID-19

Shuly Galili
Apr 13, 2020 · 4 min read

One of the best things about being early stage investors is seeing the agility and creativity of startups firsthand. With COVID-19 continuing to disrupt both normal business cycles and our personal lives, many startups are using this time to get even closer to their customers to find out exactly what they need in these unique times. We wanted to highlight how several UpWest startups are making sustainable updates to their product offerings to solve emerging problems in the market now, and also deliver added value to existing customers and frontline workers like physicians, students and municipalities even once things return to normal.

Waycare is helping cities optimize against irregular traffic patterns

Waycare’s AI-driven mobility platform is used by cities across the country to optimize traffic flow and identify areas on roads at risk for accidents before those accidents occur. Transportation agencies rely on Waycare data to make decisions on how to alleviate congestions and where to allocate law enforcement and emergency responders. But because coronavirus has completely flipped what a normal day looks like, Waycare is now seeing massive congestion in unique places — around hospitals and large stores like Costco.

Waycare is sharing that data with local agencies to help them alleviate congestion and proactively prepare for the influx of traffic that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Additionally, Waycare is helping public transit agencies who have been hit really hard due to a lack of ridership, decreased revenue from gas taxes (since nobody is driving and buying gas), and employees not showing up to work for fear of exposure. Social distancing guidelines mandate that city busses can only carry about 20 passengers at a time, which creates “full” buses and forces drivers to skip stops. Waycare is helping these agencies optimize and reroute buses to maximize their ridership the best they can, as well as directing buses to critical areas around grocery stores, food banks, and hospitals.

Zone7 is preventing extreme fatigue for medical staff

Working with one of its existing partners Garmin, Zone7 is launching a project to help staff at the largest medical provider in Israel who are under extraordinary physical demands as they treat patients around the clock. Zone7 will monitor signals in heart rate and oxygen saturation that indicate extreme fatigue, and proactively alert staff on the verge of burnout. The platform will also recommend interventions on how to best prevent those unwanted events, such as taking a day off, working a half shift, or getting more sleep. Even though healthcare isn’t Zone7’s core market, the team recognized that there is a need for its offering and evolved its product to meet those demands.

Jolt is expediting the launch of its remote learning product

Jolt’s “pay monthly” business schools classes have to date been conducted in-person so students can participate in group projects and interact with students, much like traditional college courses. But with in-person classes on hold across the globe, Jolt decided it was imperative to launch its planned “Jolt Remote” product to ensure education doesn’t get derailed by the pandemic. The product wasn’t scheduled to launch until next year, but the team rallied to expedite the launch to meet the increased demand for virtual learning.

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These are just a few examples of how startups are staying nimble and working quickly to solve new problems caused by the vast effects of COVID-19. Nobody knows how long this will be the new normal, so founders need to think critically about what they need to do to ensure their companies not only stay afloat, but continue delivering meaningful value to their customers.


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