The novel coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2 causes a disease called COVID-19 which is rapidly sweeping through the world, causing mass economic shutdowns, worker layoffs and rising unemployment. “Social distancing” has become the key trend lately – but I’d rather think of it as physical distancing + social collaboration. Each and every individual can produce a positive impact during this crisis, whether that’s a form of self-sacrifice like staying at home, helping a neighbour, resisting panic-buying, or even investing your time and money into producing an innovative solution. The important thing is to stand up for something which produces a positive impact for others – working with a collaborative mindset. We are all in this together – all people everywhere united to fight against a common enemy. What’s your impact?
COVID-19 Forces Entrepreneurs to Adapt
Entrepreneurs play a vital role within our economy, creating jobs, creating innovative products, services and solutions. There is currently a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to capitalize on, while faced with this coronavirus crisis. At Altitude Accelerator, we often coach entrepreneurs to take a pragmatic approach to innovation – capitalizing on market needs as they appear, mitigating risks, adapting to market opportunities and pivoting their strategies fluidly as required. When something unforeseen happens such as COVID-19, it shakes up and disrupts everything. While many people are severely impacted in negative ways, there are opportunities presented that entrepreneurs should jump on.
As coronavirus causes these disruptions, entrepreneurs are forced to look at doing things in different ways, adopting or inventing new business models, and proposing new kinds of solutions. The world has been forced to adapt to working from home, and to conduct many daily activities in different ways. I spoke with a company the other day who has already developed product specifications for an innovative software platform to make working from home easier for example. Whether working on a new solution for COVID-19 directly, or needing to adapt an existing business to these new conditions, most entrepreneurs will find themselves pivoting in some way. Innovation thrives under these difficult conditions.
Innovative COVID-19 Solutions
One company in the GTA – BIOSA Technologies – is working on creating new kinds of environmentally friendly antimicrobial disinfectants and products to protect people from the coronavirus. BIOSA’s technology platform optimizes and enhances enzymes so they are more effective, efficient and last longer. This can be used to improve the function of enzymes which kill viruses and bacteria. BIOSA has used this innovative technology to create an alcohol-based spray which first responders can use to disinfect surfaces that may have become contaminated such as automobile interiors (ambulances), clothing and personal protective equipment like masks and goggles. BIOSA has also invented novel nanomaterials with antiviral properties to enhance the efficacy of their products.
Another company mentored by Altitude Accelerator, LigandCorp, is working on a portable battery-powered ventilator called DBOX. The scary thing about COVID-19 is that many patients develop severe pneumonia to the point where they can no longer breathe on their own. These patients will die unless they receive support from a ventilator in the hospital. The number of patients requiring ventilators often exceeds the total number of ventilators available in many countries. Italy for example does not have enough of these life-saving machines, and has to choose which patients get them and which don’t (essentially choosing who will die). This is a terrible position to be in.
DBOX is currently still pre-commercial, but the founder of the company, Dayo Olakulehin is working hard to adapt his product for use in COVID-19 patients. This product is cheaper to produce, and is portable compared to conventional ventilators. Dayo originally developed this product to meet the needs of hospitals in developing nations where they cannot afford to purchase ventilators at all. Instead, doctors in those nations resort to manually ventilating patients with a hand-powered pump. He’s now pivoting his product and strategy to help support efforts in the war against the coronavirus.
These are just a few examples of the fantastic innovation occurring with support from Altitude Accelerator. I’ve worked with many others who have great innovations also. There are apps that help connect people virtually to ensure isolated people can stay connected to friends and family. We have companies working on virtual reality applications to help with mental health concerns. Therapeutics companies who are attempting to solve antimicrobial resistance (an issue with COVID-19 as patients may acquire secondary infections such as MRSA).
A common theme with all of these startups is that they struggle greatly to continue to exist. It often feels as though there is no material support for them. While some live from small grant to small grant, others spend their life savings to keep going. There is only so much government funding to go around. Entrepreneurs need help and support from their communities, governments and social circles. Working together is the only way to overcome our challenges.
Recently, there have been announcements of government support for innovation. Below are a few links to explore to learn more about what supports exist for entrepreneurs and small business.