This article is published in partnership with Startup SG, an initiative of Enterprise Singapore that provides comprehensive support for startup development in Singapore.
Fundraising without meeting face-to-face is the new norm in a post-COVID-19 world. While startups fight to stay afloat, it is also important to continue to seek funding to drive business growth.
As companies and decision-makers are forced to make deals and conduct business virtually, take this opportunity to reach out to investors who may now have more time to hear out and aim to close these deals.
Get ahead in the new climate of investment
In the current economic climate, a good leader in times of crisis is more defining than being a good leader in almost any other scenario. This is the time your values stand out and you show who you truly are. This means, being empathetic to your team, stakeholders, and customers. Listen first and be transparent. Take care of yourself and your team, support your teams with kids, and check in on each other. Here is some advice I have for startups to tide them through the crisis:
Find one thing to focus on
When growth has stalled and certain industries have come to a standstill, turn your focus to improving and building a killer product in preparation for the recovery. Ask yourself these questions: What drives usage? How have habits changed? What features can I improve on now? What are the barriers to growth? During this time, you should think about how you can prepare yourself for the next spurt of growth.
Pivot to temporary revenue-generating activities
Consider temporarily pivoting to cash-generating activities, or in some cases, structural solutions. One way would be to team up with a vertical partner. A good example of this is when Elon Musk merged his startup X.Com with Confinity during the dot-com boom to form Paypal.
Extend your cash runway
This is a challenge for many, and we recommend keeping enough runway for at least 18 months. If you do not think you have enough, think of contingency plans and what non-essential expenses the business can function without. For example, if your team is small, can you do without office space and go fully remote for the near future?
Similarly, focus your energy and time on what drives the business forward. If you do this successfully, you will be in pole position to benefit from the next decade’s worth of growth and be part of the path to recovery.
Despite the current economic climate, VCs are continuing to invest in startups, and some are even being done virtually. Startups need to ride this trend and proactively reach out to people who may now have more time to hear them out. However, they also need to bear in mind that valuations have been slightly lowered, so it is important to strike a balance between fundraising and reaching their goals.
Rising to the challenge
As a Startup SG Partner, Antler has worked with Enterprise Singapore to build a strong base of startups in Singapore. These startups have mitigated short-term challenges while seeking new opportunities to grow. Some homegrown startups that have benefitted from Antler’s mentorship and Startup SG’s support include:
Sama (Singapore), a platform built to address labour exchange in Singapore has now pivoted to address COVID-19 by offering a solution for companies seeking to transfer foreign construction workers across sectors to manage their manpower needs during COVID-19. They hope to help workers find jobs while helping companies fulfill their labour needs.
Cognicept (Singapore), offers a human-in-the-loop robot intervention system and teleoperation service. During the current global crisis, they have pledged to donate this service to any businesses using robots to support COVID-19 efforts and response.
Calling on the community
A fundamental belief at Antler is that we support and invest in businesses that are solving real problems and have a positive impact on the population. This pandemic has been the largest humanitarian crisis we have witnessed in our lifetime and so we called upon the best and brightest to come up with solutions to chart the way forward and help humanity.
Antler committed US$500,000 to startups tackling COVID-19 to propose solutions in Mitigation, Medical Equipment, Remote Health, and Digital Tools. I am pleased to say that the community response was overwhelming, as we received over 1500 applications from 100 countries.
Additionally, with support from Enterprise Singapore, we have developed another layer of support for the companies, holding frequent webinars with our global network of advisors, partnering with organisations in various regions, and making our teams available for more frequent coaching.
We have also continued investing and building companies, with an additional 58 companies invested in and supported globally. In Singapore, we have been part of Mentor for Hope, a mentorship program where Antler Southeast Asia’s leadership give advice to startups affected by COVID-19.
We are holding our first virtual Demo Day out for Southeast Asia out of Singapore for our fourth cohort on July 16.
To the class of 2020 graduates
What you are doing right now is incredibly important. Now is the time to create growth, new employment opportunities, and solve the world’s largest problems. If you look at the companies that came out after a crisis, they are some of the biggest companies right now.
A final call-out to all students graduating this summer. Look out for the imminent launch of Antler Launch Academy, an online free five-week offering for aspiring entrepreneurs.
We understand you are entering one of the toughest job markets in generations. Use this as an opportunity to kick-start your career by getting out there and learning. What you will learn will enable you to realise your dreams and build your own company in the future.
Register for our next webinar: How to pivot your growth strategy post COVID-19
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