The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting businesses all over the world. But amid all the news of layoffs, operations scaling down and closures lies something that I hope will never go away: hope.
It’s not just established startups that can help ease the pains of the current crisis.
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Adeo Ressi, CEO and co-founder of Founder Institute, believes the current situation should fuel the birth of new startups to help revive the economy and yes, help save lives. And his pre-seed accelerator is ramping up its operations to reach those goals during the crisis.
“This is a call to arms to the best equipped people to help us restart the economy and get humanity back to work. Like now,” Ressi told Crunchbase News. “Entrepreneurs are the people who are going to get us out of the pandemic and build the future we want to live in.”
Founder Institute is currently seeing historically high volumes of people applying for its programs. The organization helps entrepreneurs as early as the idea stage to help make those ideas a reality.
Over the years, it has created over 4,500 companies worldwide and has an estimated portfolio value of $20 million. Eighty percent of the companies that have gone through Founder Institute’s 14-week program are still operating.
Today, Founder Institute is enrolling more entrepreneurs than ever, with more than 60 city programs currently accepting applications, Ressi said. It doesn’t expect all its applicants to give up their jobs, though. The organization accepts applicants with full-time jobs who are building “side hustle” projects. It is also rolling out a number of new scholarships as part of its FI for Good initiative.
The ‘great restart’
Certain sectors such as travel, hospitality, retail and restaurants are being hit particularly hard.
“Many of those businesses are going to be impacted for months, or even years,” Ressi told Crunchbase News. “But someone needs to pick up the slack and it’s startups. I’m calling this the great restart, not reset. We don’t want to go back to zero and wind up where we were. We need to restart and do something new.”
He believes startups will be the ones to create cures, tests, vaccines and the technology to distribute those vaccines, among other things.
Already, a few of Founder Institute’s graduate companies are flourishing amid the pandemic, Ressi said.
One telehealth startup out of India is in the right place at the right time. SecondMedic provides second opinions digitally and is primarily focused on the Indian market. Since the country recently allowed for primary care to be done virtually or digitally, and SecondMedic had all the infrastructure in place, the startup was positioned to step in.
“The regulatory change in India caused the business to blow up,” he said. “Since no one was previously allowed to do virtual or remote care in India, SecondMedic was able to jump into primary care.”
Another company, Umni, provides chatbots for the beleaguered hotel sector.
“Hotels are getting thousands of calls about changes, cancellations and rebookings,” Ressi noted. “Many don’t have the staff to deal with it all. So this company is just exploding because it’s able to provide a really positive customer support experience for users using AI and other tools.”
While it may feel like the world is falling apart, it’s important to stay optimistic and looking forward. After all, some of the world’s most impactful and successful companies today were, too, once startups.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias