How startups are starting again
While it’s inspirational to see stories of quick-pivots and opportunistic founders capturing new markets, that’s not the reality for all startup founders. As we enter the new normal (yes, we said it!) some founders are back to square one.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen success, resilience and an amazing community spirit. Our most impressive pivot to date has been our community’s ability to reframe success. Rather than being just a program or a launchpad for student entrepreneurs, UTS Startups has become a reference point, a community holding each other up. A place of belonging.
Entrepreneurs don’t observe from the sidelines
As we learnt of how things might change due to COVID-19, our community of student entrepreneurs knew that UTS would figure out a way to support them. But even then, some decided to do what they could instead of waiting to be told.
Accounting for change: Kindershare
Vanouhi Nazarian, founder of Kindershare. Photo by Liam Kennedy
Kindershare provides families with an easy way to find and share children's equipment like cots, prams and car seats. But under new social distancing guidelines, the business couldn’t continue as normal.
The days that were usually spent managing team members, responding to hire enquiries and watching a growing list of users, suddenly became quiet.
With a successful career as an accountant before becoming a startup founder, UTS Business School alumnus Vanouhi Nazarian didn’t wait, but took to public channels to offer her expertise in business accounting and growth hacking.
For founders who were navigating their first steps into entrepreneurship, or trying to steer their businesses into survival mode, this was a valuable resource which came right on time.
Affordable to free: Resolution123
Carly Stebbing, founder of Resolution123. Photo supplied
Estimates show over one million Australians have lost work since the start of the pandemic. Workers were seeking quick, simple and affordable employment law advice. Resolution123 quickly transformed from an affordable model into a freemium model.
Founder and UTS Law alumnus Carly Stebbing, put her skills and knowledge to good use, sharing expert advice and fielding interview questions from employees, employers and news networks, who were all scrambling to find answers to the problems created by the shutdown of many parts of our economy. They focussed on digital channels as weekly Facebook lives, a Facebook Group, a newsletter with resources and a chatbot to answer questions on stand-downs, pay cuts and job keeper.
When the job keeper package was announced, Carly noticed that it left startups and scale-ups behind, and only supported established businesses. She quickly raised awareness of this unfairness and rallied support around the startup community to ramp up the conversation around policy measures that support new startups that will go on to build Australia’s economy.
It was no longer just about employees and unfair dismissal, it was about saving businesses like hers, by any means possible. Sure enough, the conversation gathered momentum and in the following days, an announcement was made in support of early-stage startups.
Shifting focus: Tech Gym
Tech Gym provides robotic rehabilitation products that assist patients with a range of disabilities. Before the pandemic, founder and mechatronics engineering student Rowan Smith was set to meet with prospective clients and suppliers (between uni work!).
As meetings were cancelled, Tech Gym shifted its focus to research and development (R&D). Rowan started working on the robot from home, as well as from the UTS labs while observing social distancing guidelines.
Despite navigating such a significant shift in work and focus, Rowan also played a critical role in helping faculty staff and subjects engage with UTS Startups via zoom and online learning.
Through his presentation, Rowan helped MBA students learn the basics of pitching their startup ideas and developing an effective presentation slide deck. This was completely separate from the work and mission of Tech Gym, but a selfless way to give back to his fellow students.
Rowan Smith, founder of Tech Gym. Photo supplied
Resilience is in the DNA of entrepreneurs
We’ve discovered a surprising and powerful lesson about the underlying resilience demonstrated by our founders. Despite a complete transformation in the way we work, learn and facilitate collaboration, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on in our vibrant community. These are just three stories out of the hundreds of startups navigating this new normal. We share a common sense of togetherness. Our reliance on each other and our shared passion to make a positive difference is driving us to persevere during these tough times.