ORIGINAL POST (March 27, 2020):
As I write this 12 days in to sheltering in place with my wife and kids at home in San Francisco, the Coronavirus crisis is unfolding across the world. Members across Founders Network‘s 10 Global Chapters, located in densely populated urban centers, are especially hard hit. It’s a scary time for everyone, as cases and death counts rise at an alarming rate. We can only hope that our loved ones stay healthy while we wait to see if our collective efforts help flatten the curve…or as fnMember Natalie Torin of our London Chapter did, we can organzie a message of hope.
It is critical that founders adapt quickly to the changing macroeconomic environment.
Against this backdrop, we have our startups to distract us – thank God! In this time of uncertainty, it is critical that founders adapt quickly to the changing macroeconomic environment. Offices are closed and teams are challenged to maintain productivity and morale while working remotely from home, fundraising and sales pipelines are freezing up and founders must overcome new objections while finding ways to move their fundraising process forward, and together with their CFO’s, founders must develop various scenarios that suggest cutting expenses. Thankfully, just today a $2 Trillion USD COVID Economic Rescue Bill was passed and could provide relief to startup founders (we’ll explore next week) — but for the time being, the focus of everyone in FN is how can we help each other successfully navigate this crisis and downturn.
The focus of everyone in FN is how can we help each other successfully navigate this crisis and downturn.
FN’s response is to tap into the collective wisdom of tech founders who’ve survived the Great Recession, the DotCom Bust and recession of the early 90’s to transform our founders into Ben Horrowitz’s ‘Wartime CEO’s‘.
Just this week, we’ve organized 6 webinars on the topic. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Cultivate investor relationships: Investors may not be cutting checks, but as fnMember Nathan Beckord of Foundersuite.com advised (and showed how) during his Funding Hacks Virtual Mentoring Session, now is a good time to build your funnel of investors and start cultivating relationships.
- Perfect your pitch: Our partner Tony Pollace of Early Growth Financial advised (and showed how) in his “How to Create a Winning Pitch Deck” presentation, now is a great time to work on your pitch.
- Maintain a steady hand: As a leader, we set the tone of our organizations. As FN’er Vivian Chan of EyeExpo shared in our Peer-to-Peer Discussion: Developing a Contingency Plan for COVID-19, it’s critical to have a steady hand, not overreact or under react, but rather maintain calm.
- Agree to triggers on your contingency plans: This small yet vital detail shared by FN’er Dr. Alexandra Greenhill of mybesthelper.com filed in the “I wish I knew then what I know now” folder from ’08: Work with your CFO or Accountant to develop forecast scenarios, agree upon triggers and when you act, cut deeper than you’re comfortable with.
- This is a good time to cut non-performers: As the saying goes, never let a good crisis go to waste. This might also be a good time to look at non or under performers to cut. When you let someone go, be direct and offer your support for their careers.
- Lay off employees the right way: One member in the hard hit travel sector joined a call moments before laying off 9 employees. In addition to moral support, the advice provided emphasized the importance of being direct, honest and offering to support their careers with references and advice. Remember: your laid off team members will talk to your surviving team.
FN’s response is to tap into the collective wisdom of tech founders who’ve survived the Great Recession, the DotCom Bust and recession of the early 90’s.
While just a small sampling of the hard earned experience shared on FN in the past week (full session recordings), it provides a glimpse into the quality of experience our founders have managing startups through economic downturns — and, just how helpful they are.
Now keep in mind, this is both the first pandemic and economic downturn I’ve managed through in 9 year history of FN. So, in the spirit of dogfooding, I attended all aforementioned webinars this past week and spoke with Will Bunker, founder of Match.com and member of FN’s Membership Committee. He offered up the following helpful advice:
- The value of a peer support group is amplified during tough times. You don’t need to disturb your spouse, employees, investors, etc. with your startup concerns — you can alleviate your anxiety and successfully navigate the crisis by commiserating with peers.
- When funding and revenue is drying up, there’s less margin for error. Startups have to execute right the first time, and FN helps you de-risk your decisions by tapping into the collective expertise of experienced peers.
- FN has always had a thriving virtual community with the forum, webinars, virtual meetings and calls with the staff. *In fact, we have 90% Monthly Active Users. So really, FN is a great alternative to all the cancelled conferences and networking events.
Spirits boosted, we thought a lot about how we can adapt to better support our founders as they navigate the COVID Crisis. How can FN help our founders navigate the COVID crisis with speed, efficiency and peace of mind from following the well travelled path of founders who have successfully navigating downturns in the past?
How can FN help our founders navigate the COVID crisis with speed, efficiency and peace of mind?
Here is FN‘s Startup Coronavirus Response so far but will update as the situation evolves:
- 100% Virtual Events: we’ve made events 100% virtual across our 10 global chapters (Note: fnSummit is still planned for Quail Lodge in October. Members can RSVP here). Stay tuned as this is updated.
- 2x Curriculum Webinars: each week we’ll deliver a new peer mentorship track on managing through a recession including the unique challenges of COVID-19 Pandemic response. This is on top of our existing curriculum on product, funding, recruiting, growth and leadership.
- Ad Hoc QBR’s: we’re offering extra Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) for our founders in sectors especially hard hit by the crisis who need help selling, fundraising, managing remote and managing their own psychology.
- Cut Your OPEX: we’re announcing new group discounts each week on top of the existing $500k in discounts e.g. up to $100k AWS, Google, Stripe, etc.
Kevin started Founders Network to help tech founders achieve success through peer mentorship. Prior to Founders Network, Kevin advised hundreds of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs from idea stage through funding. Kevin was named “40 Under 40 in Silicon Valley” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal for his work with startups and promoting entrepreneurship. He has served on the adjunct faculty at both Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business and the University of San Francisco School of Business. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Business Administration from Santa Clara University.