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Ideas for startups are often clouded in uncertainty during the best of times. In the midst of unprecedented global uncertainty, you might think it’s best to shelve any such plans for the time being.
In reality, it could actually be the best time ever to launch. With the growing demand for new ways to work and sell in light of health concerns and desire for new ways to access in-demand products, your startup idea could be just what’s needed. Here’s how to decide.
Ask whether your business idea is in demand
Over the course of the last two months, it has quickly become clear what type of gaps exist between what’s needed during right now and what’s actually available. Quick searches uncover where there are supply chain issues and a lack of domestic manufacturing for much-needed products and for services to expedite those products.
Now’s the time to create the type of change that could help solve such issues. This might not be the only time we face a crisis of this magnitude. The question is whether your business idea fills the right role or not. If it does, then move quickly and find ways to accelerate its launch. If it doesn’t, then it may be better to wait until the environment is more conducive to your offer.
If your idea is in demand, contact the organizations that need what you plan to provide. Reach out to government and private funding sources to get a financial boost and identify a strategy that will bring your offering to market more quickly.
Determine whether you can pivot or change the idea slightly to meet the new demand
If your small business idea isn’t quite ready for primetime just yet, consider whether it meets the new demand with some slight modifications or a pivot. If you are willing to redirect your business vision, it might be well worth putting in the necessary extra research rather than wait for the next good economic cycle to return.
Business owners will need to explore ways to alter their current business plan and evaluate the costs, resources, skills and timing necessary to do so. Evaluate the competition and funding availability to make the pivot possible. You might even be able to return to your original idea later on. For now, though, consider the type of response you get from investors and your target audience in order to determine the viability of your pivoted idea.
If that evaluation proves viability, then you can proceed. Otherwise, you’ll need to put your plans on hold.
Seek grants and funding to help launch the new business idea
One of the biggest deciding factors will be your ability to obtain funding. The challenge here is the lack of funding now available, thanks to the ongoing crisis. Investing in general is down, but a Crunchbase analysis of company funding statistics since the Great Recession shows there are certain sectors and business types that may be worthy of investment, even now. These include both early stage companies and later stage ventures. Slack, for example, held its seed round in 2009, while Coupa and Box did their C and B-1 rounds respectively that same year.
Some of the largest companies around were actually founded during deep recessions. From General Motors and Disney to FedEx, IBM, Google and Salesforce, some of today’s biggest successes launched before or during economic downturns like the Great Depression and the dot-com bust. These companies either operated on bootstrapped budgets or received funding from investors desperate to put the economy back on track.
If you can make the case that your business model helps to solve a problem and can put people to work, then you might be able to attract investors looking to help reignite the success of small businesses worldwide. Also, explore programs like The New Business Preservation Act. Policymakers’ focus on these programs, along with an historical perspective, should provide a positive framework for doing the same with today’s startups.
Search for talent to help get the business idea off the ground
Another critical factor is whether you can find the talent willing to join your startup and take a chance on it during such uncertain times. We’re talking about graphic designers, coders, virtual assistants, bookkeepers, copywriters and the like. Depending on the financial position of available talent, they may or may not be able to work on an equity basis. Ask potential talent about whether they would consider working for a startup and under what conditions.
Alternatively, you might be able to recruit freelancers who are currently dividing their talent and time among many startups. For now, this approach can get you the required skills to launch. Later on, if the situation improves and your startup develops, you might be able to convince them to leave their other freelance roles and join you full-time.
Start your talent search on online job board sites and through tech recruitment agencies to gauge interest and availability. Be prepared to provide a detailed description of the role and opportunity.
Pressing the pause button is an acceptable choice
If you decide that this is not the right time for your startup idea, don’t feel bad about pressing the pause button. These uncertain times will pass and you’ll have another opportunity to launch. This moment to reflect may even give you more time to research, plan and develop your business idea to improve its odds for success down the road.