Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

Startup Investments Post COVID-19.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has affected nearly every industry globally. Supply chains have been disrupted, businesses have had to close or operate at limited capacity for months, and even founders have had to expand their fundraising timeframes as we saw in our 2020 Female Founders Data Report.

https://survey.500.co/female-founders-survey-download/

As a VC firm, we’ve had to adapt many aspects of our business as well. From taking all aspects of our accelerators digital (including our Demo Day) to rethinking the opportunities of the future, we’ve taken this moment to analyze what innovations can come from this time and new opportunities that arise from our changing environment.

As society begins the delicate phase of re-opening, we have also given much thought to how we invest moving forward. To that end, we developed the following framework for evaluating the impact that COVID-19 has had on different sectors, with a focus on the nature and the duration of the impact.

Passing Need

While experts have said that this will most likely not be the last pandemic, there are some products and services that we realize have experienced a surge in demand, but the surge will likely be short-lived. Some of these items include the technologies for contact tracing and other supply-constrained items like PPEs, ventilators, and hand sanitizer. To be sure, there may be long-term benefits from processes and infrastructure developed to create a vaccine in record time, even if the product itself meets short-term demand. However, it is easy to overstate the permanence of a change when we are in the midst of experiencing it.

While venture investments typically focus on creating value over a long period of time, we are extremely proud of the 500 community and our portfolio that has adapted part of their main operations to help meet some of those needs. For example, OmniLabs is deploying “telepresence robots” in hospitals around the world that allow people to communicate via video with quarantined relatives and friends stricken with COVID-19. We hope to see companies continue to band together for our collective health and well-being during these tough times.

How the 500 Startups Community Is Helping Those Affected By COVID-19

On Pause

Various sectors are impaired in the short-term directly due to COVID-19 or as a result of the second-order effects from sheltering in place or constrained demand but will revert back to pre-COVID-19 levels in the long-term. Examples of sectors that are currently on pause include public and private transportation (e.g. ride-sharing) and oil and gas. In some cases, these paused services may even see a return that is even greater than levels prior to COVID-19 for a period of time, such as could be seen in the case of elective surgeries that have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Our New Normal

Industries in this category were already experiencing headwinds from existing trends, but COVID-19 accelerated that decline. For the most part, we expect these companies and industries of our “old reality” to return, but not at the levels that existed prior to COVID-19. Instead, existing businesses in these industries will return, but to a lower baseline that will become the “new normal” if they fail to innovate and embrace disruption.

This acceleration of existing decline heightens the urgency for the likes of retail, travel and hospitality, and food and beverage to reconsider every aspect of their business going forward. Ironically, the sudden and complete existential threat posed by the impact of COVID-19 may provide these businesses with a rare opportunity to make necessary changes to survive. Consider, for example, how businesses like Barnes and Noble and Blockbuster might have reinvested their efforts had they been forced to shut down every physical location at the height of their popularity.

Our current opportunity is to redesign these industries from scratch and to invest in technology that helps transform them to become a thriving part of the modern economy. Local restaurants, for example, have been decimated despite increased demand for delivery and take-out orders, but a fundamental shift in approach (e.g. with ghost/dark kitchens) will be required compared to the current food delivery solutions that are unsustainable.

Accelerated Future

A quote that has been borrowed and used in the context of venture capital is a belief that “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Over the last decade, 500 Startups has identified and invested in industries that have gone on to become widely distributed trends such as the rise of AI, FinTech, e-commerce, and more.

Trends in this category gained momentum even before COVID-19, and the changes required by the global pandemic have radically accelerated–or rapidly distributed– that future. One trend in which we’ve invested in the past includes the rise of distributed teams like that of GitLab, the largest fully distributed company in the world, and with whom we discussed the best practices for fully-remote teams back in March when many businesses made that switch for the first time.

Tools and Tips for Working Remotely From 500 & GitLab

Some of the other existing trends that we believe may be further accelerated by COVID-19 are the following:

  • Healthcare (e.g. telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, mindfulness and behavioral health)
  • Productivity tools (e.g. enterprise SaaS, distributed teams)
  • Education
  • Entertainment (e.g. e-sports, media, digital events)
  • Logistics/supply chain

While some businesses in this category are experiencing demand that we think will likely diminish post-COVID-19 (e.g. use of video-conferencing), they will likely return to a baseline that was much higher than prior to COVID-19. Sheltering in place and remote work have created behavior for a long enough time that some will turn into habits, and that change in behavior has the potential to benefit sectors similar to emerging platforms in the past.

Moving Forward

Following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, we witnessed an unprecedented bull run for technology, fueled by emerging platforms like mobile and cloud that ultimately became mega-trends that continue to provide opportunities for innovation. We believe COVID-19 will have a similar impact on accelerating the demise of businesses already experiencing a slow-motion decline or fueling the arrival of new behaviors and trends that provide a massive opportunity for innovation. While many are closely observing the impact of COVID-19 on the immediate term for understandable reasons, we remain focused on the opportunities created by the New Normal and the Accelerated Future and what that means for our next generation of founders.

Courtesy Tony Wang on 500 Startups website 

We Need Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a perfectly irrational behavior, says author David Sax during a recent virtual interview hosted by the Kansas City Public Library.

“Statistically, it doesn’t make sense. Statistically, you are better off taking a job at an organization where you can work your way up and gain the benefits and the stability and the networks and the salary and all of that. You, on average, will be better off. And yet people every day go out and start businesses. There are dozens of people that I know that are starting businesses in the midst of this pandemic. Some out of necessity and some because they see an opportunity there.”

Yet, the inequities many think the coronavirus outbreak has exposed have been present for a long time, says Philip Gaskin, Kauffman’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship, who interviewed Sax for the event.

“There are barriers,” says Sax, “and it makes it far more difficult and stressful for these entrepreneurs. It puts them at a disadvantage before they even start. It sets many of them up for failure.”

He says for all the research on IPOs and venture capital, all the media on high-growth firms, sexy accelerators and coastal tech-startups, when he thinks about the kind of world he wants to live in post-pandemic, it’s one where someone can start a pizza shop.

“And if they want, they can grow it into 10 locations or 20 locations or some national franchise. Or they can just make a hell of a damn good slice of pizza in my backyard and build that fabric in the community,” Sax says.

He says the American Dream is the heart of capitalism, which is this promise that if you are someone who’s willing to take a risk and you have an idea, then you have a chance to do that. It shouldn’t matter what your background is, where you’re from, or what your last name is, or your caste or lineage. “You should be able to go out and have a fair chance at starting something on your own and growing it,” he says.

“We want a country, and a world, where people can start the next fantastic, super-successful company that becomes high growth and incredibly successful, but we also want one that has family companies. We also want one that has companies that are mission-driven and community based. We want all of that.

“It is such a fundamental human behavior of hope – and the reasons people do it is a desire for freedom with your time, is a desire to build something in your community, it’s a desire to live through your values, or to work in a family business and build on that legacy,” Sax says. “It’s a human behavior that you can’t put in a box, you can’t stifle.”

Led by Gaskin, the Foundation’s entrepreneurship strategy aims to break down barriers so America’s entrepreneurial energy can thrive in all communities. Gaskin hopes that the interdependence shown during this time of crisis can be sustained. “As a former community organizer, building movements block-by-block, door-by-door, the power of communities is certainly there,” he said.

Sax shares in Gaskin’s hope. “There are barriers. Capital is going to be hard to come by, but labor is going to be easy. There’s going to be lots of talent out there,” Sax says. “There are things that people need that they didn’t need: masks, different ways to get food, different types of delivery services, ways to entertain your kids.

The American Dream is the heart of capitalism, which is this promise that if you are someone who’s willing to take a risk and you have an idea, then you have a chance to do it.

“I think that entrepreneurs are already rebuilding the economy before everyone else has figured out how to save what they have. And you see that in entrepreneurs who own businesses who are like okay, ‘We were a fine dining restaurant. [Now] we’re a burger restaurant; we’re doing takeout; we’re starting tomorrow. Rip out that sous vide machine; put in a grill. You’re going to work over there. I’ll be 12 feet away. We’re going to wear masks. This is how we do deliveries.’

“Entrepreneurs have the freedom to do that because it’s only them they have to answer to, and they know that the only risk right now is staying inactive,” Sax says. “That’s the greatest risk of all.”

He says the big picture concern coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is how to rebuild so much of the economy and rebuild so it opens access to entrepreneurship for a far greater number of entrepreneurs. How do we rebuild better?

“It’s not just going to be a small but super-successful number of tech startups that rebuild this,” Sax says. “We need to rebuild our communities and the ecosystems of entrepreneurship on every block and in every town and city and in every state and country.

The Soul of an Entrepreneur

“We need to rebuild the hair salons and the restaurants and the mechanics and the small company that made a particular type of part for a tractor or something like that,” he says. “I mean all of those businesses not only support economies and jobs, but they are the fabric of the communities.”

David Sax is a longtime business and culture journalist and the author of The Revenge of AnalogThe Tastemakers, and Save the Deli. Sax released his latest book, The Soul of an Entrepreneur: Work and Life Beyond the Startup Myth, in April.

Through the Pandemic: Advice for Entrepreneurs, 4 Scenarios.

Wharton’s Karl Ulrich speaks with Wharton Business Daily on Sirius XM about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs during the pandemic.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:

Planning for the Post-COVID-19 Workforce: Four Scenarios

Significant uncertainty surrounds what the “new normal” could look like for firms beyond the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in terms of human capital. But scenario thinking can help organizations better anticipate and adapt to dramatic changes, increase agility and resilience, and turn uncertainty into advantage, write Scott A. Snyder, Eric Skoritowski, Jarrad Roeder and Alex Libson in this Wharton Knowledge opinion piece. 

As Edward Lorenz postulated in his 1963 paper on Chaos Theory, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas? Substitute a bat in a Wuhan wet market for the butterfly and the spread of the coronavirus for the weather, and you have the same effect showing how fragile and uncertain our world is. In his efforts to model such phenomena, Lorenz realized that the imprecision inherent in human measurement could become magnified into wildly incorrect forecasts. Things are not much different in the business world.

There is a well-documented human tendency to be overconfident about our ability to forecast the future. Even experts in a given field will generally be more certain than they should be about their own accuracy. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity across all geographies and industries. Scenario planning provides a framework for combatting natural human biases and challenging entrenched mindsets of leaders and organizations amid uncertainty and crisis situations. While living in scenarios can be a humbling process, it helps to mitigate risks of overweighting the present, building plans based on a predictable future, and being excessively overconfident in forecasts. Scenarios are more than just engaging stories; they are plausible “what ifs” that challenge prevailing beliefs and instill agility, adaptability, and resilience to plan for a world that is much more uncertain than we tend to acknowledge.

Summary of Four Future Scenarios and Human Capital Implications

In order to help leaders and organizations manage uncertainty driven by COVID-19, we have developed four scenarios for the future of human capital in the year 2023, with implications for companies operating in different industries as well as regions of the world. Each scenario presents unique opportunities and challenges. And with those opportunities and challenges, winning operating models, organizational structures, leadership profiles, skills, talent and organizational cultures can be identified for each scenario.

1. Digital enclaves: A world in which the global economy has bounced back, but social scar tissue from the pandemic persists, changing behaviors and lowering trust between people, institutions and countries.

In this scenario, winning organizations will be those that can restructure and retool their delivery models at pace with the recovering “low contact” economy while operating with a largely virtual employee base. A generation scarred by the economic disruption and stay-at-home shutdown creates a more risk averse workforce, attracted to companies that offer job security and stability. At the same time, the heads-down 9 to 5 jobs of the past are fast disappearing as more companies follow Twitter’s lead in encouraging remote work and further blurring the lines between work and home life. Flatter and more nimble organizational structures developed in this future will require more engaged, empowered and capable employees, giving significant advantage to firms that have invested in training and development. As many firms restructure to take advantage of new digital tools and ways of working, strong in-house training capabilities, specifically in the digital realm (e.g., to build widespread awareness and proficiency in data science and machine learning), will be needed to develop the workforce of the future. Likewise, a strong developmental and people-focused culture will be key in attracting external talent into the fold while also maintaining connections between their virtual and physical workforces. Chief Culture Officers emerge as important advocates to drive on-going engagement across a largely distributed employee base.

2. Tech-powered humanity: A world in which the global economy has fully recovered and the COVID-19 protection measures have accelerated some significant tech advances in how we interact, but the pandemic has taught us the real value of human interaction.

In this scenario, winning organizations are those that have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to learn and disrupt themselves through rapid innovation and digitization. Businesses retool their operating models to reach new markets characterized by heightened consumer expectations and global connectivity. Simplified organizational structures with less matrix, flatter hierarchies, and more network thinking enable companies to grow at pace with the surging global economy and technological innovation happening within industries. Visionary and progressive leaders with essential business knowledge (e.g., M&A experience, venturing capabilities) take their organizations to new heights. Furthermore, the influx of new roles such as Chief Data Officers and Chief Robotics Officers causes the market to place a premium on leaders that have a combination of technical and people skills – those who can understand emerging technology at a high level while also managing human relationships. Organizations mandate baseline levels of digital fluency in areas such as artificial intelligence, but also make their employees feel valuable and essential through benefits, compensation, and incentives. Physical spaces and talent hubs matter again for both collaboration and innovation, but are balanced with the freedom for employees to optimize their balance of virtual and physical work. Employees are attracted to industries and companies that have strong mission and purpose and can provide relationship-driven work. Company cultures that promote inclusion and diversity in background and thought thrive.

3. Growing divide: A world in which a prolonged economic recession fractures trust between people, communities and institutions.

In this scenario, winning organizations are those that can cope with cratering and redefinition of entire industries in a necessarily virtual-first world. Lean operating models that drive efficiency with lower-cost resources succeed as cost outweighs quality in most markets. With limited capital available for new technologies, organizations will need to restructure to reduce waste and cost without relying on heavy investments in automation. Companies will increasingly need to tap into the gig workforce or flex talent models to support strategic projects and urgent tasks while limiting fixed costs of full-time employees. Thriving in this scenario will require execution-focused leaders with strong financial acumen (e.g., debt refinancing capability) and operational skills (e.g., Six Sigma). While a more digital workforce will be needed in this future, the high digital divide and limited resources for people development will underscore the importance of cultivating external networks and strong recruiting capabilities to bring in top digital talent. Company cultures that promote empathy and mental health (e.g., through virtual counseling, mentorship) will also help attract and keep top talent in this harsh business environment. Chief Medical Officers become a key part of executive teams in all companies to help manage the growing health risk in the employee base.

4. In this together: A world in which the economy struggles to recover from a long lockdown, but families, communities and NGOs have come together to support one another.

In this scenario, winning organizations are those that can engender trust in their brands and missions amidst a faltering economy. Companies revamp their operating models to facilitate ecosystems and partnerships (e.g., industry associations, continental trade ecosystems, government relations). Organizational structures promote efficiencies but also place high value on human interaction. For instance, many companies utilize gig, flexible, and seasonal workers for specialized projects or to meet increasing business demands. Companies seek empathetic and courageous leaders to instill purpose and guidance in their mission and across their workforce. The market places a premium on “soft skills” (e.g., networking abilities, negotiation tactics) while requiring a baseline digital fluency in areas such as remote work and collaboration. Companies and employees value breadth of skills and experiences over depth in industry-specific knowledge. Portfolio careers increase, as many employees hold more than one job or make radical career changes. The interpersonal cultures of firms – how employees communicate and look after each other – are now highly valued. Company cultures that promote social impact and work-life balance that allows employees to spend valuable time with family and friends thrive.

Moving from Scenarios to Decisions

Looking at the types of organizational strategies critical to not only survive, but also thrive in each scenario, it is apparent there are certain “no regret” strategies that apply across scenarios such as developing digital leaders or the ability to recruit, on-board, and manage virtual workers. There are also scenario-specific strategies where we want to maintain some level of flexibility through strategic options or small-scale experiments to be ready. An example could be deploying more pervasive health monitoring solutions for employees or retooling the use of physical spaces or employing cloud-sharing models to reduce dependence on physical spaces while keeping the option to re-open and scale up in a “Tech-powered Humanity” future. Using this type of scenario analysis to inform our human capital strategy can help leaders know where to commit and where to monitor/adapt as needed based on which future unfolds.


Laid-off Workers Start Side Hustles, Why Not Entrepreneurship?

An unemployed stagehand is suddenly an e-commerce mogul, peddling hard-to-find items such as toilet paper and home fitness equipment. A laid-off personal vacation adviser may have found her true calling — teaching English online to students around the globe. A recruiter is paying the bills as she awaits her unemployment benefit checks by day-trading stocks.

With the coronavirus pandemic throwing tens of millions of Americans out of work or reducing their hours, many are scrambling to make ends meet by taking on part-time jobs and other side hustles, launching new ventures, or playing the market – often from the safety of their homes.

The phenomenon isn’t captured by the Labor Department’s employment data because of the overall devastation wrought by the virus. In April, a record 20.5 million U.S. jobs were wiped out, and Labor’s May jobs report Friday is projected to record another eight million layoffs, driving the unemployment rate near 20%, highest since the Great Depression.

But some private surveys are picking up the trend of laid-off people snagging part-time work and side hustles. Sixty-four percent of Americans age 24 and older who lost a job or had their hours reduced have landed, or plan to seek, a side hustle, according to a TD Ameritrade survey conducted April 24-May 4. And 54% of all adults are planning a side gig, according to a mid-April survey by Self.inc, a personal finance site.

FlexJobs — which advertises work-at-home, part-time and temporary jobs – has seen a 50% jump in traffic on its site compared to a year ago, says CEO Sara Sutton.

“There has been a surge of this in the past few months that is definitely attributable to the number of people being laid off,” Sutton says.

Normally, big job losses trigger massive searches for full-time jobs, but this crisis has been anything but normal. With much of the economy shut down, there have been relatively few jobs available. Many unemployed people aren’t looking for traditional positions because they fear they’ll catch the virus, says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of Glassdoor, the job posting site.

The COVID-19 crisis March 2020 has caused massive unemployment, and a “New Normal” will be slow to form and have eliminated millions of jobs.  Nothing offers a more promising solution to individuals than starting a small business using lean startup entrepreneurship. By using a passion, an interest, or acquired trade, people can learn entrepreneurship by validating a viable concept using customer development.  “Lean” enables anyone with desire to design a successful business model that can be scaled and repeated.

More than 40 million people have filed for unemployment in the past three months, and the U. S is predicted to experience  a coronavirus-induced recession through 2021.  Then, working in an office could become a status symbol, most meetings could be replaced by email, business travel as we know it could be gone, office building may become “elaborate conference centers”, mandatory on-the-job medical screening could become the norm, middle management positions could be cut forever, 9-to-5 office hourse a thing of the past, and automation accelerated.

The need for large scale training of “lean” entrepreneurship is now enormous.  ERI, Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc., an educational non-profit has dedicated itself to lean launch training and the spread of entrepreneurship currency.  See clintoneday.com and ERI-learneship.org for more.

1st 8 paragraphs courtesy of USA Today

Jobs at smallest US businesses most vulnerable to crisis

 

As US unemployment claims continue to rise, the hardest hit are workers at companies with fewer than 100 employees.  30 million jobs are vulnerable, a higher share than at larger, private-sector employers.

To read the article, see “COVID-19’s effect on jobs athttps://www.mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/covid-19s-effect-on-jobs-at-small-businesses-in-the-united-states small businesses in the United States,

A precipitous surge in unemployment continues to shake the US workforce in the wake of COVID-19. Total claims reached 30 million in the six weeks since March 14th. And even as initial steps are underway to ease lockdowns, up to a third of all US jobs remain vulnerable.1 One of the challenges for policy makers and executives is figuring out how to get these employees back to work.

The challenge is especially acute for small businesses (those with 500 or fewer employees), which account for a disproportionate share of the vulnerable jobs.2 Before COVID-19, they provided nearly half of all US private-sector jobs, yet they account for 54 percent (30 million) of the jobs most vulnerable during COVID-19. Specifically, half of jobs at firms with fewer than 100 employees are vulnerable, compared with 40 percent of those at large private-sector employers (Exhibit 1). That estimate is based on our analysis of whether jobs are typically deemed essential and whether they require close proximity to others.

Vulnerable jobs in small businesses largely mirror those in larger ones. Nearly half of these jobs are concentrated in a handful of industries, especially accommodations and food services, construction, retailing, and healthcare and social assistance. Two occupational categories—food service and customer service and sales—account for more than four in ten vulnerable small-business jobs.3 There is a serious danger that the loss of work will disproportionately affect those who can least afford it, since workers in these occupations have lower wages and educational attainment, on average (Exhibit 2).

Given the distribution of industries and occupations in each of the states, 42 of the 50 states will have a larger share of their vulnerable jobs in small businesses than in large ones. Vulnerable jobs in the other eight states are nearly evenly split between large and small businesses. More than half a million small-business jobs are at risk in 22 of the 50 states. In California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas the number of vulnerable small-business jobs ranges from 1.0 million to 3.5 million per state.

Small businesses are a recognized proving ground for entrepreneurs, a vibrant source of innovation and competition, and an essential source of employment. They are suppliers and customers to the broader economy and deeply embedded in local communities. Many were vulnerable even before the crisis, with the median small business holding a 27-day cash buffer in reserve.5

The public and private sectors have taken significant steps to support small businesses and their employees. They have made some resources available to help small business weather the immediate crisis.

There is still a long journey ahead. More should be done to understand the underlying fragility of individual sectors and firms over the medium and longer term. Such an analysis will be helpful in understanding how to best support small businesses, their owners, and their employees through and after the COVID-19 crisis.


The COVID-19 pandemic is constantly evolving, and at the time of writing the data do not allow us to draw firm conclusions about the most effective way to fight it. Although we focus on technology in this article, we acknowledge that it is not the only solution but one of a range of measures to combat this global humanitarian challenge. We also note that the use of technology in the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic does have risks such as data breaches and a deepening of the current digital divide. Further, countries differ markedly from each other economically and socially, so solutions that seem successful in some may not in others. Businesses and policy makers need to understand these risks and differences, and be proactive in managing them to ensure that technologies deliver positive impact across the community.

COVID-19ECONOMICS

Executives we surveyed view two economic scenarios as most likely—one where the virus is contained (A3) and the other where it recurs (A1). The potential difference between the two is $5 trillion in lost US GDP alone, and as high as $15 trillion to $20 trillion globally.

19EChttps://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/coronavirus-leading-through-the-crisis/charting-the-path-to-the-next-normal/tag/economicsONOMICSCourtesy McKinsey & Company 

  F I N I S

Real Training Needs Is…Entrepreneurship!

Jist of this great article in today’s USA Today by Jeb Bush and Terry McAuliffe is these COVID times are unprecedented, and USA needs a swift recovery through a massive remobilization of workforce through “training and learning”.  We believe nothing can do more good nor empower more jobless workers than learning entrepreneurship.  The modern startup planning method known as “lean” launch or startup has proven anyone with desire can learn how to become self-employed.  Our non-profit is so convinced of this truth we have dedicated our efforts to reaching as many in need as possible by “training the teachers” to help as many as possible quickly.  More on ERI-learneship.org and clintoneday.com.  Lean works because it validates a carefully designed business model through customer development which works with the potential end-user or buyer to create a winning concept or solve a problem.  Entrepreneurship is a huge solution to the problem of massive workforce disruption.  Editor

Businesses from the Military Community.

We’re recognizing active-duty, veteran, and military spouse entrepreneurs who’ve made great contributions with their businesses
Did you know that fully 2.5 million businesses in the U.S. are veteran-owned? That includes veteran Dan Foust, who, along with co-founder Dan Joseph, built an artisanal coffee roasting business named FoJo Beans. Started in 2012 out of a garage, the company expanded into a brick-and-mortar space last year; now they host a sewing center to create masks for first responders. That’s just one reason why we’re proud to announce that Foust is one of the latest recipients of our COVID-19 Business for All Emergency Grant (which, by the way, is still open for applications).

With an unemployment rate that ranks among the highest in the U.S., many military spouses have taken to entrepreneurship. That’s why Flossie Hall and Moni Jefferson decided to help their fellow military spouses create thriving businesses with an online community called the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE) (below). Started in 2019, the group’s mission is to connect military spouses with networking, mentorship, and resources.

.https://blog.helloalice.com/amse-moni-jefferson-flossie-hall-military-spouses/?utm_source=Alice&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=Blog&utm_content=MilitaryConnected&mc_cid=f0110c8f02&mc_eid=52fac6600c

Their efforts are leading to more and more military spouse success stories. Consider Selena Conmackie of Fort Hood, Texas. The Army wife and AMSE member launched her boutique digital strategy firm, Hauoli-Socially Inspired, to help clients get the most out of their online presence — currently a growth market.

Military spouse Amy Schweizer of Tiny Troops Soccer is also full steam ahead with her business. To date, Tiny Troops Soccer, a developmental sports program for military families, has grown to 35 locations and employed more than 100 military spouses (below). And COVID-19 is not slowing her business down; Tiny Troops recently pivoted to offer virtual training sessions for kids up to 9 years old.

https://blog.helloalice.com/tiny-troops-soccer-amse-milspouse/?utm_source=Alice&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=Blog&utm_content=MilitaryConnected&mc_cid=f0110c8f02&mc_eid=52fac6600c

How Military Spouses Are Helping Their Own Achieve Business Success

If there’s one battle military spouses are losing, it’s the struggle to find a community of like-minded business owners. That’s one reason why co-founders Flossie Hall and Moni Jefferson hatched the idea for the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE) in summer 2019.

“It’s about a need for that one-on-one,” says Hall, a Navy spouse herself. “I’m always hearing, I don’t want to Google it, I don’t want to find it, I don’t want to read it, I just want to ask someone my questions. For us, we would love for AMSE to be a community hub for all the things that military spouses need, period.”

Both co-founders recognized the profound need for such a hub after witnessing a familiar cycle in the military spouse community: As families rotate to a new duty station every few years, spouses accrue dreaded resume gaps that make it difficult to land a job at all, much less one that matches their qualifications. It’s not long before they’re contributing to military spouses’s reputation as a group with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation – roughly 24 percent.

Jefferson, an active duty Air Force spouse, says she found herself in this situation about five years ago when she had trouble getting the type of work she wanted as she moved around. “I just decided to start my own business,” she says, going on to launch her own virtual PR agency. After a similar experience, Hall started a meal delivery service called Healthy Momma. But that independence only solved one problem for each spouse as they quickly discovered how the military lifestyle compounds many already difficult tasks of starting a business.

The Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs gives military spouses a community, resources, and support.

https://blog.helloalice.com/tiny-troops-soccer-amse-milspouse/?utm_source=Alice&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=Blog&utm_content=MilitaryConnected&mc_cid=f0110c8f02&mc_eid=52fac6600c

As we take time to recognize service members and veterans this Memorial Day 2020, join us in supporting businesses from the military-connected community.

Thanks to HelloAlice.com for this article and salute to veterans.

Steve Blank on COVID-19.

The Covid-19 virus is not politically correct. It discriminates against the old and the unhealthy. The biggest risk factor in dying from the virus is age. If you’re 60 to 70 years old, you’re 30 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than if you’re under 40. And if you’re over 80, you’re 180 times more likely. It’s not that the young don’t get sick or die, but the odds are dramatically different.

In the early days of the virus epidemiologists, who believed that the virus would equally kill the young and old, predicting a million or more deaths in the U.S., wanted everyone to shelter. The result has crashed our economy. Meanwhile, economists view 15% unemployment as an unacceptable and unsustainable cost of protecting everyone and want the economy to rapidly reopen, accepting that some additional deaths are inevitable.

They both may be missing the obvious. We’ve created an equal opportunity recession when in fact, the pandemic is not equal at all.

If the data about the demographics is correct, it may be possible to dramatically reduce cases and deaths if we shelter those at greatest risk and pay them to stay sheltered until a vaccine is available. This would allow those with dramatically lower risk to get back to work and bring a faster economic recovery.  Here’s how.

We’ve spent the last 50 years working to not discriminate for age or disabilities so it’s hard to acknowledge what, if these number are correct, or even in the ballpark, the data seems to say that people over 60 are 30-180 times more likely to die of Covid-19. And ~1/3rd of those U.S. deaths have been in nursing homes.

  Age           Relative Death Rate
18 <40             0.07%
40 <50             0.31%
50 <60             1.00 (reference)
60 <70             2.09
70 <80             4.77
80+                  12.64

Compounding the age risk factor are chronic health problems (i.e. heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory diseases, obesity and diabetes.) In addition, racial and ethnic minorities seem to have been at greater risk.

A good visualization of the fatality rates by age is below. It takes data from South Korea, Spain, Italy and China. The relative fatality rates by age in the U.S. seem to track these.

For COVID-19, data suggests that 80% or more of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infection, requiring oxygen and 5% are critical, requiring ventilation.  If you’re under 40, the data says you’re five times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the seasonal flu.

Today, federal and state plans to reopen the economy focus on reducing the density and duration of exposure to the virus equally, across all ages. But little emphasis has been on focusing resources to keep safe the actual people who get sick and die.

We Got it Backwards – Protect the Old Versus Everyone
The consequences of mixing young, largely asymptomatic and much lower risk, with the old who are at significantly higher risk seems like a deadly game of whack-a-mole.

As states loosen shelter-in-place restrictions, mixing young versus old as we reopen restaurants, live entertainment (theaters, concerts, sports venues,) crowded office buildings etc. guarantees unnecessary deaths.

20% of those over 60 work. 12.5% of workforce is over 60
What if we acknowledged that the virus (much like the flu) discriminates against the old. As a thought experiment, how would we design a recovery that protected the old but required minimal restricting of our economy and a rapid return to normal?  Here are some ideas.

  • Continue sheltering in place adults over 60 (or some other age that the data shows most elevated risk), plus those with chronic health risks as well as other affected populations
  • Open up the economy to everyone else
  • Offer everyone over 60 (and those with chronic health problems) whose job can bedone remotely the option to work at home. Pay for their computer, network, etc. Offer their employer an incentive to compensate for lost productivity – until a vaccine is available
  • Provide Americans over 60 and those with chronic health problems whose job cannot be done remotely with a “personal payroll protection program” –pay to have them not show up at work – until a vaccine is available.
  • Focus our scarce testing tools first on nursing homes and their employees and front line medical workers, next to everyone over 60, then those whose illness puts them at risk and then to the general population
  • Provide this protected population with full health care
  • Provide resources ($’s for separate housing via empty hotel/airbnb rooms etc) to protect the elderly who live in multi-generational housing
  • Where possible continue wearing masks and distancing to the risks to those under 60
  • Broadcast the comparative risk of getting sick/dying from Covid-19 to typical risks we lived with pre-pandemic. This would allow everyone to make comparative informed decisions.
    • For example, car accidents ~39,000 deaths in 2019 and over three-fourths of a million dead since 2000, ~70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2019 and over three-fourths of a million dead since 2000. All of these are avoidable, but as a society we decided that we are not shutting down our economy to solve these problems.
    • Understanding deaths from seasonal flu in 2018/2019 ~34,000 deaths (~25,000 deaths >65, ~8,000 <65) provides a reference to the current prediction of 150,000 deaths from Covid-19 this year (5 times the risk of dying with seasonal flu.) Just for scale Covid-19 fatalities are closer to the 100,000 died in the 1968flu pandemic, and the 116,000 dead in 1957/58. We made different decisions in those pandemics. We may want to think about why.
  • Remove all business restrictions for workers and customers under a certain age. As a thought experiment, imagine restaurants serving only those under 40 (carding at the door). They would have no distancing requirements. Or that business rate themselves based on how age appropriate their virus safety is. Imagine movie theaters with special distancing showings for those over 60, nightclubs for under 30 or over 60. Same for sports and entertainment venues. Those who do attend will understand that the risks are not zero, but within the range of those they live with today.  Same with offices.
  • Create special hours and venues (stores, restaurants, workplaces, etc.) for those who need to shelter. Offer businesses who cater to them large financial incentives.
  • Create special mass transit options with over 60 subways cars, buses, etc.

This would do five things:

  1. We’d protect the most vulnerable at-risk population
  2. With those over 60 sheltering, jobs are now opened up for unemployed younger people
  3. Businesses can return to normal without the burden of significant additional overhead costs
  4. Businesses can make additional revenue catering to those who remain sheltered
  5. The potential burden on the healthcare system would be lowered by removing the vulnerable from risk
  6. And this plan would dramatically reduce the overall economic cost of sheltering and accelerate the recovery

We’ve spent the last 50 years fighting age discrimination, but the virus is the ultimate discriminator against the elderly. It’s unequal and unfair. But it exists. Let’s look for ways to move beyond the choice between exploding death rates and economic disaster by acknowledging what the data is showing. Shape a plan to protect the most vulnerable and let everyone else get back to work.

Note: the author is over 65 and willing to abide by these restrictions

Steve Blank is recognized for developing the customer development method that launched the lean startup methodology.  He is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford;[ lectures at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and is a senior fellow at Columbia University. He has written four books: The Four Steps to the EpiphanyNot All Those Who Wander Are LostThe Startup Owner’s Manual, and Holding a Cat by the Tail.