The coronavirus pandemic has been considered by some to be a black swan event. There are those, including the man who coined the term, who believe otherwise. As defined by Investopedia, a black swan event is “an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.”
Regardless of your stance on the subject, COVID-19 has undeniably shaken up the startup world. While, given their nature, startups are undoubtedly not best positioned for these types of situations, entrepreneurs—and startup employees more broadly—very much are.
Let me explain, using my company AeroPay’s response to the pandemic for context.
*For quick reference, AeroPay is a financial technology company specializing in payments.
Adapting to Unfamiliar Situations
One of the few constants of startup life is change. For many employees at AeroPay, going into our office was the norm; others spent most of their time selling face-to-face with prospective businesses. When the pandemic forced everyone at AeroPay—like many companies—to begin working from home, our team members seamlessly adjusted to the remote work lifestyle (thanks Zoho and Zoom!), allowing us to keep operating without a hitch.
It may seem simple, but this set the stage for everything that came next.
Thinking on Your Feet
With our team set up to work from the comfort of their homes, it was time to find creative ways to maintain our current business. For starters, that meant reaching out to our current customer base—almost exclusively physical restaurants and retail businesses—and seeing how we could best support them during these difficult times. That led to the creation of our Virtual Tip Jar, which allowed patrons of these businesses to generously provide them some financial relief as they experienced a pandemic-induced drop in sales.
Next, we turned our attention to our Mobile Pay product. While our usual benefits of lower cost, faster settlement times, and enhanced security still resonated with potential customers, we suddenly found our contactless capability as relevant as ever for businesses and consumers alike. As people began forgoing the use of cash and governments started taking measures to ensure its safety, it was the perfect opportunity to reframe a feature that had always existed for the new normal we were living in.
Always Being Resourceful
Finally, we were determined to act quickly to find new channels to get our technology out into the world. Given our resources and obvious timing constraints, AeroPay didn’t have the option to reinvent the wheel when the pandemic hit. So instead, we used the wheel we had to power a different vehicle. In just a matter of weeks, our developer team repurposed the backend of our in-person payments platform and designed a new user interface to enable it to power a suite of online payment solutions. We could now service e-commerce businesses and facilitate B2B transactions while most of our brick-and-mortar customers were mandated to stay closed.
Keep Pushing, Despite the Circumstances
Even though startups face unique challenges during a pandemic, the people they employ are resilient and thrive in the face of uncertainty. More than anything, a shared vision—and a passion to realize it—drives them to continue pushing despite the circumstances. At least that’s what keeps us going at AeroPay: our mission to bring better payments to businesses of all sizes and in all industries.
What startup challenges have you been facing during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.