Strategic business moves during COVID-19


Photo by Bokeh Blur Background for Shutterstock

Last week, Revolution, hosted a virtual roundtable discussion about how startups outside of Silicon Valley are retooling their operations to reopen amid social distancing and other restrictions COVID-19 imposes on them.

After remarks by Revolution CEO Steve Case, the conversation was moderated by Ron Klain, EVP and General Counsel at Revolution and former White House Ebola Czar. The guests included Robin Fleming, co-founder and CEO of Anvl (a company in Indianapolis that produces workforce safety software) and Richard Yao, co-founder of Bright Cellars (a Milwaukee-based company that delivers a personalized wine experience). Both companies are backed by Revolution.

Anvl recently launched a product for helping other companies bring their employees back to work safely. Fleming said that their existing solution was easily adapted for COVID-19. “As a result of how we designed the software, we were able to quickly build a template for COVID. We have a pre-screening, mobile solution that allows employees to check in and use our real-time data before they go back to work,” she said.

What advice does Fleming offer to CEOs of other startups who may be overwhelmed when trying to manage their back-to-work strategies? “The most important thing is communication. Every employee deserves to feel safe and protected so you need to spend the time with employees to tell them what’s going on and what the plan is. It is work and it will be work ongoing,” Fleming said.

Company culture

Bright Cellars currently has 60 employees and has actually grown during COVID-19 (no surprise there!). “I think people have been forced to slow down a bit, eat dinner at home and enjoy a good glass of wine,” Yao said. A unique problem the company is facing at present is how to effectively onboard new hires when there is no physical location to bring them to. “We had a Zoom meeting the other day and I realized that two of the attendees had never met the other in person. Since there was not going to be any watercooler intros and discussions, we’ve had to go back and be more intentional and create a structure around something that usually isn’t.”

Bright Cellars’ employees have been working from home these last few months and now Yao is starting to think about the longer term. “I’m doing a lot of cost benefits analyses about how and when we return to the office. It’s gotten down to phases and we’re looking at how best to roll those out,” Yao said.

Klain said that it’s amazing how these startups are adapting during COVID-19 without the benefit of huge HR departments. “We’re also seeing how startups are innovating during this difficult time.”