Covid-19 Survival Tips Startups Should Pay Attention To


Brandon Bruce

Startups are in the business of changing the world – disrupting the status quo with new technology and business models. But what happens when startups get disrupted? Analysts are referring to the COVID-19 pandemic as a Black Swan event like 9/11 – a sudden and unexpected event that changes just about everything.

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In a memorable slide deck presentation to his portfolio companies on March 5, venture capitalist Mark Suster at Upfront Ventures writes, “In a tough environment, funding is like constipation. Nothing comes through.” His number one piece of advice to startups is to preserve cash through this period of triage and uncertainty because new rounds of investment capital may take longer than expected or may not come at all.

Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, and Stanford professor who started the Lean Startup movement, posted an article on March 17 titled The Virus Survival Strategy for Your Startup. He invites startup CEOs to ask themselves a series of questions:

  • What’s Plan B?
  • What’s my Burn Rate and Runway?
  • What does my new business model look like?
  • Is this a three-month, one-year, or three-year problem?
  • What will my investors do?

He concludes on an upbeat note, “But remember no winter lasts forever and in it smart founders and VCs will be planting the seeds for the next generation of startups.”

As we leave winter behind and welcome the arrival of springtime in Knoxville, what can we do to help the next generation of local startups launch and grow?

We can start by connecting people with the bounty of local startup resources in our community. To do so, my friend John Bruck (Entrepreneur in Residence at UT Knoxville) and I compiled a first-of-its-kind Startup Knox 2020 Ecosystem Guide. It’s a comprehensive guide to the local startup ecosystem in the Knoxville area. It’s a free resource available to everybody on the web and in printable PDF format.

We organized resources into seven sections: News, Events, Organizations, Programs, Places, Funding, and Education. Each resource has a name, a clickable website address, a brief description, and a QR code that you can scan with your phone, which is especially useful if you’re reading the print edition.

Thanks to all of the people and organizations that make Knoxville a great place for entrepreneurs to live, work, and play. It takes a network of diverse, energetic, determined people to launch and grow new ventures.

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Whether you’ve lived here your entire life, or you recently moved to the area, or you’re visiting, we want you to know that our community is friendly, inclusive, and ready to help you grow both personally and professionally.

Let’s support each other through this pandemic and sow the seeds for the next crop of successful local businesses.

Brandon Bruce is the Chair of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, co-founder of the Knoxville Technology Council, and member of the Innov865 Alliance.


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