Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Harun,  the Co-founder & COO of Glorifyapp.com about the effects of Covid-19 on Glorify. Glorify is a Saas design tool created specifically for eCommerce entrepreneurs. It eliminates the need for professional designers, making it easy for anyone to design product imagery and marketing content for their e-commerce business in just a few clicks.

Our interview with Harun:

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

Glorify is performing very well despite the coronavirus outbreak. Our greatest asset is that our company has a solid runway and therefore, all our key players have remained intact and have been working harder than ever to grow the business. 

From February 2020 – to March 2020, we’ve had a whopping  358% growth in our user subscription numbers. This clearly reflects the fact that businesses need a Saas product such as Glorify, in order to propel their own businesses at a time where most are losing money quite drastically. 

Furthermore, with the vast majority of countries on lockdown, the need for online shopping has grown tremendously. This has created a massive requirement for more eCommerce businesses to spring up to fulfil this demand. Glorify offers these businesses an affordable platform to create all the design and marketing material that they need to keep their businesses afloat. 

Have you had to pivot your business and if so?

We haven’t had to pivot the business, however, we have offered a 60% discount on our annual plans to ensure that we are affordable and considerate towards businesses that we know are struggling during this period. 

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We started to fundraise just two weeks before the outbreak began in London. We are still reaching out to investors to secure our first round of investment. If we have to, we will bring Glorify in front of 100’s of investors to eventually find that outstanding investor to partner with. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We understand that most investors will be a lot more cautious in their decisions at this current moment. However, we feel it’s important to let investors know that we are a thriving and growing business, we have a winning team and a superior product despite the current difficulties.

We also feel that it’s important to make the first point of contact with investors regardless of time and circumstance, because it will take a number of contacts before the investment round will be close. 

What message would you have for investors?

Our message to investors is that Glorify is a highly investable organisation, particularly due to the massive surge in eCommerce businesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to online shopping which creates the need for more eCommerce businesses. And for an eCommerce store to do well, they need to have high performing ads, a trustworthy brand, a website/online store with images that represent their products authentically and attractively. These businesses most likely cannot afford the high paid services of professional graphic designers, and so Glorify is the answer to their design and marketing needs. 

We are also confident that once the pandemic ceases, online shopping will remain as popular as it is now, purely due to the ease of just clicking what you desire and having it delivered to your doorstep. 

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

My team and I are coping well with the lockdown. We are all geared towards facing any problem that comes our way with positivity and determination, and to make something good out of a bad situation. 

The co-founders of Glorify have two mandatory meetings each week (apart from the several other calls over the week). These are scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays. The meeting on Monday covers mostly the expectations of team members and what goals and deliverables each department is expected to fulfil. 

On Tuesdays, we have team meetings with the heads of each department and discuss the work they’ve completed the previous week, and then outline the goals of the upcoming week.

The heads of the department then in turn, have meetings with their relevant sub teams to ensure that there is 100% alignment and coordination. 

We use Slack for communication throughout the week and everyone has been responsive, communicative and on top of their game. In fact, most of us even work on weekends!

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Yes. Since our launch in September 2019, we have been involved in charitable ventures. We have offered donations to various organisations such as drop of life, save the children, little hearts, Oxfam International and more. We have also offered free Glorify accounts to registered charities such as Child Aid Gambia and the Namaste Welfare Trust. 

We are now shifting our focus to Covid-19 related charities and have reached out to our Glorify community to suggest charities that we can donate to. More on this here.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

It is indeed reassuring to see the Chancellor announcement to help and support small to  large businesses across all industries. He promises to make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP. 

I think the real challenge will be to ensure that those who need it most receive such funding easily and quickly. Otherwise, many business owners will end up losing everything they have worked so hard for. 

What else do you think the Government should do?

I believe that the government needs to pay attention to the strat-up spaces as much as  the large companies. Big companies no doubt need help at this moment. Airlines, for example, are severely hurting and looking for a bailout. Hotels, cruise ships, national foodservice chains, manufacturers, and more may find themselves in line, too. Assistance should, and likely will, be given.

Startups may be small companies but they can play a significant role in economic growth. They create more jobs which means more employment, and more employment means an improved economy. Not only that, startups can also contribute to economic dynamism by spurring innovation and injecting competition.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Improvise! We understand that not all businesses can thrive at a time like this, but it’s crucial that start ups come up with coping strategies. Remember, Covid-19 will pass. And when it does, it’s important that you come out of this pandemic ahead of the game, and not remain buried under it.

If you have the resources, try to invest in essential and fast moving products that you are certain will sell. If you are not, we would advise you to come up with coping strategies such as using relevant ebook lead magnets, offering giveaways that would be useful during a lockdown, create content strategy around the current hot topic as Glorify has done here.

Regardless of what you choose to do, Glorify is here to help you out. We are offering our annual plans at a whopping 60% discount purely because we understand that businesses are running on low fuel during this unfortunate time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

Startups & Covid-19

This we spoke to Chantal, the Founder of the music licensing for performance sports platform ClickNClear, to find out how Covid-19 is effecting her business.

Our interview with Chantal:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

It has certainly affected our market (we license music to performance sports) and slowed a few things down but it has not drastically impacted our business yet. We are still early stage and technically pre-revenue and were planning on launching in the summer. It may delay our launch slightly but we do not see it drastically affecting when we will be revenue generating. Sports events will happen again, it’s just a question of when so we just need to be as prepared as possible.

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

To some degree, yes. We are a music tech company licensing music to performance sports teams. We have been in beta for the last year and are planning on doing a launch this summer. All events have been cancelled however and whilst that would seem like the end of the world for a business like ours, we actually see it as an opportunity.

We have been busy focussing on our technology and continuing to sign more deals with music industry labels and publishers so when we are ready to launch, we have the best tech and the best music possible. Now that sports teams are closed for training, sports federations and coaches have the time to engage in conversation, browse ClicknClear and think about their music for next season. Instead of attending events and meeting people, we can focus this time on building education around music licensing and closing deals with international and national sports federations which will help us generate revenue as soon as events start up again.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We had just started a new fundraise when COVID19 hit and have seen a slow down in response and interest. Many are looking after existing portfolio companies and are less interested in investing in new companies especially if they are in a market that has been negatively affected. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now so we have been re-thinking our raise and ways we can continue for longer without additional funding or ways we could close less funding now, with a potential bigger raise once this is all under control.

Another consideration for us is that we are a global company. We work with national federations all around the world and each of them will go in and out of lockdown at different times. We are keeping up to date with all the latest news and keeping conversations going with those federations so we are in the best position possible.

What message would you have for investors?

The time to explore and start conversations is now. Most people have more time. Some of us are still very busy but if we start conversations now, you can learn how founders operate and react to some of the most difficult challenges. It is possibly the best test of the capability of a founder(s) and should mean that an investor can become much more comfortable with their investment and more understanding of the businesses plan. 

We are open to having initial conversations and keeping potentially interested parties up to date as things progress.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We all remotely work so we’ve been fairly accustomed to lockdown for a while! It hasn’t affected us too much at all. It’s actually been really nice to not be on an aeroplane every couple weeks and spend some much needed time to focus on new ideas and projects we’ve been wanting to do. We are a small team but this has essentially increased our resources! We can get more done, we are becoming even better at communication and are getting creative with solutions to challenges.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We have been thinking of some potential ways to help but given we are still pre-launch, we are still building some of our community. We have been putting out themed positive playlists of music to help support people but are really focussed on building all of our educational material covering music licensing so coaches have additional resources and understanding of it.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

These are challenging times for us all. Some will make it but others won’t and we can’t be too hard on ourselves for something that is out of our control.

You have to focus on the small things that you can control in your business – scale back expenditure if you need to, ask yourself the difficult questions, have a plan a, b c, d and more! Be ready to adapt to anything that comes your way and try and remain positive but accept that you will have bad days and know what they will pass. 

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

#SixtySecondStartup

This week we spoke to Sara, Co-founder of On Good Authority – a premium outdoor lifestyle brand with sustainability at its heart. In the middle of fundraising before Covid-19 struck, Sara spoke to us about how they have had to change their business plans and why shopping sustainably is more important than ever.

Co-founders Sara & Hannah

Our interview with Sara:

What does your company do?

On Good Authority is a premium outdoor lifestyle brand that merges contemporary styling with waterproof technology using recycled fabrics and non-toxic water repellency techniques. We bridge the gap between fashion and function in a truly conscious way.

Why did you set up this company?

We felt frustrated at the compromise between style and practically in women’s rainwear. 

How did you get your first customer?  

Like many startups, our first customer was a friend who experienced the same challenge and had been looking for a stylish waterproof for years.

We knew we were onto something when? 

When we started speaking to our friends and wider circles. We realised it wasn’t just us that shared this frustration and with our relevant industry backgrounds it occurred to us that it was a problem we could actually solve.

Our business model: 

We are primarily a D2C fashion brand supported by wholesale partnerships.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:  

Speaking directly to our audience, whether that’s organically through our social media channels, at Pop-Up events or with carefully curated influencers with shared vision, style and values.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Maybe being a bit too conscientious and trademarking our name quite early on in the overall process to then re-brand and change our name! 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

We’re at the forefront of an emerging global movement where consumers are demanding sustainable product and conscious lifestyles. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay because we have to make fundamental changes in the way we live and consume if we are going to secure a future for our planet and the next generations.

Has Covid-19 had any impact on your fundraising plans? And if so, how are you adapting? 

We were in the midst of fundraising when Covid-19 hit the UK. It soon became apparent that investors were unlikely to take risks on new business startups, as they may need to step in and financially support those already within their portfolio. So with this in mind, we decided to put our fundraising efforts on hold.

We are now taking the opportunity to hone our proposition even further and reframe our business plan so that we can relaunch in summer 2021 in tandem with the UK music festival season. We believe (hope) that by then the economy should have settled and people will be extremely keen to get outside and party come rain or shine!

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. Now more than ever, we are becoming aware of the importance of conscious living. From the way we eat, to how we travel and to how much clothing we consume. It feels like the perfect opportunity to continue to spread this message so that when we come out the other side, we carry forward these new learnt behaviours and consume more responsibly.

We are also keeping in regular contact with our family and friends including those that we have met along our start-up journey. It’s not an easy time but knowing that we are all in it together and that we can all play our part in supporting key workers by staying at home is what keeps us going. We are so grateful for modern technology allowing us to get creative with video calls and virtual house parties!

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We are using our social platform to share positive and motivational news to help spread a feeling of community. For every sale we make, we are donating £5 towards our nominated charity: RCN Foundation. This is to support the nurses who are so bravely working tirelessly on the front line supporting our nation through this very difficult time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Rob Pringle the Co-Founder of Kinsume about how they are adapting to the effects of Covid-19.

Kinsume offers unlimited scalability to influencers’ work by enabling them to earn money from recommending their favourite products to their followers and friends. Operating in ecommerce and online shopping, they have had to change their approach to counter the fall in usage that they have experienced.

Our interview with Rob:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As we operate in ecommerce and online shopping, we’ve seen a significant fall in usage and sales through our platform. This is exacerbated by the nature of the products we mostly deal with: fashion, beauty products, makeup – mostly non-essential items purchased after recommendation from influencers and content creators.

Have you had to pivot your business and, if so, how?

We haven’t had to make a full pivot, but we’ve angled our crosshairs towards industries and products we already work with that are more robust (and even performing abnormally well) in the current global market climate, such as sports equipment and health supplements.

We’re now taking this time to take a step back from the sales end and implement a complete UX/UI overhaul of our platform, ready for when the market is more fruitful.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Prior to the pandemic and international lockdowns, we had already closed a round of funding, however we’ve secured additional emergency capital from our investors in case we need it to extend our runway if the situation persists.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We have had to make slight adjustments in securing backup funding and changing our budget to suit the current circumstances.

What message would you have for investors?

Sit tight. As the world panics, you should remain calm and trust in your investments – this is a long game after all. Offering support and demonstrating your confidence in founders you’ve backed will be an exceptional motivator and pay dividends.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Our team, spread out over the UK, mostly work from home anyway so this is not much of a curve ball for us in that regard. Optimism and a positive outlook are key here – this is perhaps a once in a lifetime chance for self-improvement. Being stuck indoors for the majority of each day has turned me to pursuits I’d never given much of a chance to such as yoga. I’ve also increased my weekly reading to 2 books per week and have kept in regular contact with friends and family which I otherwise might not have done.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Currently our CSR program is planting trees in sub-Saharan African countries to help the environment and the communities there. We’re now exploring options for temporarily suspending this program and redirecting contributions to help produce PPE for NHS workers.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

A good start but certainly needs some fine tuning and improvements, I’ve noticed some adjustments have already been implemented.

What else do you think the Government should do?

That depends on the timeline of the situation and the measures that will warrant. I expect even more funding in the form of soft loans, as well as easing/extending existing loan repayments for SMEs will become necessary.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Seize this time as an opportunity. It has been noted that 2009, the year after a global economic crisis, was the best year to launch a $1B unicorn. Now is the time to throw everything you have at your startup (you’re not exactly going out for dinner or socialising anytime soon!), as others slack and slow down, you should take the chance to surge ahead. By the time the economy takes off, your preparatory work has been done, the market fit proven and you’ll fly faster than you otherwise would.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #SixtySecondStartup is with Demos Co-founder of Blazon, a new social media service for startups. We spoke to him about why they set up the company, how they started to grow it and what effects Covid-19 has been having on their business.

Co-Founders Nargis and Demos

Our interview with Demos:

What does your company do?

We are a social media services company to help startups be more active on social media channels with a low cost and flexible solution.

Why did you set up this company?

We were frustrated with the types of social media agencies out there not catering for startups. Solutions were expensive and not adaptive to the constant changes in a startup. We know what it’s like to build a startup and we want to champion startups in any way possible to give them a greater chance of success.

How did you get your first customer? 

While at an event trying to build another startup our first customer asked us who actually did our social media. When we told them, we did it all ourselves, they asked for our help because they loved our content. That was the catalyst to start a new service targeting startups just like them.

We knew we were onto something when:

We started asking startups if a service like this was available would they use it. When they said yes and then signed up when it was available, three of them in just two weeks we knew we were onto something.

Our business model: 

Startups £150 per month for us to post across their social media platforms regularly, engaging with their followers and producing 1 x blog per month for them.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Social media is used by almost half of the planet. Many people often look to social media to validate a business or support them if they are customers. In order for that to happen a startups content has to be interesting and engaging for followers. There are so many startups who just do not have the time to get involved in the engagement as they are busy building their startup.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As our business is all about other startups, we’re governed pretty much by their business activity during this time. Some of our clients, particularly those based in countries or localities worse hit by the virus, have understandably slowed down their efforts during this time, so we’ve been making sure their social media reflects that and is kept managed despite everything else – but there are other founders we work with who have flourished despite the crisis and their startups are continuing to gain traction and grow. We’re flexible in everything that we do for our clients, so we’ve altered our business accordingly during this time – offering support and guidance to those startups who need it and reacting to the requirements we’re faced with.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We’re actually really grateful that we’ve been able to trade at all during this time, as we realise not every business has been so fortunate. Our team work remotely anyway, so social distancing hasn’t affected us in that respect (plus we’re already firm friends with Zoom and other work-from-home resources!), plus working with startups at different stages in different sectors means we’re already used to adapting to different circumstances. Lockdown for our team has involved various strategies, depending on the client we work for and events going on.

So, whether that’s creating new content for social media, filming new videos to offer advice and support to the community, writing blog articles on current trending topics, strategising new ideas for when ‘normal life’ resumes or anything else that’s required of us – we’ve been non-stop! Lockdown has its fair amount of challenges as both our co-founders are working parents, but we’ve been able to support each other and our team and make the most of the situation in hand.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Most of our time ordinarily is spent chatting with other founders, and during this time that hasn’t changed. We still talk to startups, about everything to do with their journey – their concerns, their challenges, their triumphs, etc. But we’ve enjoyed, particularly more so now, being able to offer them advice, tips or find ways to connect them with people within our network. Some people just need a sounding board, and founders are no different – talking through a situation with someone who just “gets it” can often give rise to new ideas or help solve problems. 

Our regular features, #startupshoutout and #just50, create opportunities for us to champion startups and give them a bit of free promo on our social media pages – and during this time, we’ve tried to ramp that up. It’s hard for some businesses to attract those customers when so much has shut down, so anything we can do to give them a voice, we’re more than happy to do so. The most recent feature we posted was a link to the Save Our Startups petition that is challenging the UK Government to support and save startups from collapse. It’s important to get startup businesses thinking as a community and helping each other – it’s the only way you can grow and economy to flourish.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

Startups & Covid-19

In this blog series we are speaking to founders of startups to find out how coronavirus has effected their business, how they have adapted, and any tips they have to help others cope with these challenges. If you are struggling to adapt or looking for some advice, make sure to have a read of our interviews.

Our first interview is with Edward Upton, Founder and CEO of Littledata, which is an ecommerce analytics app and Google Analytics consultants for Shopify and Shopify Plus.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

Luckily for us the impact has been mainly positive. We work as a globally dispersed team in normal times, so operations have not been disrupted. We saw a slight uptick in churn as smaller clients reacted quickly to slash costs, but our sales cycle for larger clients has been accelerated: people working from home have more time to take sales calls!

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

The core need – helping ecommerce companies get a complete view of the customer lifecycle – is more pressing than ever, as every retailer switches their focus to online sales. So there’s no need to pivot, but we have scaled back hiring plans as we push for breakeven later this year.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Yes – our fundraising strategy had been to raise little and often as our recurring revenue and valuation increased, and with hindsight that was always at risk to a big change in investor sentiment. We closed the latest round this week.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

Unfortunately we saw a number of new investors pull out of the process in March. The reasons given were a combination of wanting to keep cash for funding calls from their portfolio, a reluctance to sell their public equities at a big discount to fund our company and a general uncertainty about startup survival in the downturn. We’re very grateful for a few of our current angels who actually offered to double down and invest more than initially planned.

So we’ve closed a smaller amount than we’d planned, but we can adjust our burn rate to compensate for that – and carry on fundraising later in 2020.

What message would you have for investors?

Now’s the time to back startups! Huge global disruption will lead to acceleration of long-term trends such as the shift to online sales and marketing, and the automation of knowledge-intensive processes. Startups with a quick route to profitability and a robust business model will grow faster than before.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Most of the team work from home normally, so there hasn’t been major disruption. We’ve been turning the video on more often for internal calls – it’s just nice to see another human sometimes –  and been buoyed by some funny memes on our #random Slack channel. I’ve also encouraged the team to get outside and take exercise where they can. Sitting in front of a laptop all day is not good for anyone, and we all need to stay fit and healthy in mind and body.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We’ve been involved in a cross-agency initiative https://offline2on.com/ to help retailers that need to switch to online trading fast to survive. I truly believe local small businesses are the foundation of our liberal democracy, and they all need a way to keep trading and keep afloat during the lockdown. We’ve been giving free advice on tactics for trading in the crisis, and extended free trials of Littledata’s software to assist with measuring their website performance.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

The job protection scheme to pay for furloughed staff, and parity for the self-employed with small businesses, is the most helpful measure. I do worry about the bureaucracy of claiming back the money from HMRC – and whether launching a new IT system for HMRC to make the payments is possible within a month – but it is a bold and inclusive initiative.

Unfortunately the offer for government backed loans to SMEs is less useful. This is channeled through high street bank lenders, who still apply deeply risk-averse lending criteria – and are asking for personal guarantees from directors, even when the government is underwriting 80% of the risk. Last time I tried to tap bank funding the loan assessor didn’t even understand the economics of a SaaS business, so I won’t be wasting time on applying for now.

What else do you think the Government should do?

I am a libertarian, and I believe people’s liberty to move, socialise and shop should only be restricted in extreme circumstances. I see the UK government had no choice but to restrict movement but before this lockdown is extended again I’d like to see an open debate on weighing the massive costs to national health and wealth of restricting everyone against the assistance to the small percent of people getting hospitalised from this virus.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Persevere and adapt where necessary. Startups thrive on disruption, and economic shocks like this bring huge disruption which smaller, nimble companies can exploit. Funding will be difficult in the short term, so get creative on ways to fund your growth: prepayments from customers, loans from friends and family or cutting costs.

For software companies, the main problems in many sectors have been the war for talent (and huge salary inflation for developers) and rising customer acquisition costs. Hiring and marketing should get a lot easier as big companies scale back, as long as you’re still around to take advantage.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.