It is April 14th, 2020, 32th day of Corona crisis lockdown.
The Vienna Business Agency hosted an important and highly productive discussion: Tatiana Chapovalova (founder & CEO of Bespaced) discussed with Petra Wolkenstein (CEO and M&A Expert at Konsultori, Driving Force at Key2investors) current developments, positive effects and challenges for her company. She used her individual company history to shed light on the difficulties caused by the crisis and the possible solution strategies. The most important thoughts are summarized below.
Thank you Dudu Gencel and Vienna Business Agency for making this session possible. Our mission is to show role models and what’s possible on a strategic level, especially when adapting to new situations. Covid 19 is a health drama and a tough challenge for society. But it has also hit us economically on a scale that ranges from “This is an opportunity” to “This is the biggest nuclear winter I have ever seen in online travel”, if we refer to Johannes Reck, CEO of GetYourGuide, travel industry, in a Techcrunch article. So we got curious how startups are doing and we want to spread the word and exchange best practice no what works and how to deal with the situation and prepare for the time after the health crisis. We will find ourselves in a different world.
We were quite happy that the CEO of Bespaced joined us for the online Q&A session on lifeboat strategy in April to talk about her experience. Bespaced connects event producers and room owners. Its mission is to maximize the business capacity of a room or event. The business plans of founder Tatiana Chapovalova are therefore fundamentally shaken by the crisis. So please find below a summary of what was discussed as an inspiration.
Change of plans: As you can imagine, the expansion plan for 2020 has looked totally different 6 weeks ago. Petra had the chance to meet Tatiana mid-January during an expert session at female founders accelerator in Vienna about the investor process and getting funding. When we sat down, Tatiana had a full expansion plan to several new countries for 2020 laid out and as she is a full execution person, this would have taken place exactly like planned. But Covid-19 has changed this completely. Expansion is not the topic for the rest of 2020.
Challenges during the crisis: As you can imagine, the first weeks were basically about handling cancellations for events in the physical spaces. It was a dramatic drop of revenue. But then, what happened next, was a re-focus on extending her network and new product development. Her communication within the team has not changed, really. They have been used to collaborate digitally and this is still the same. When we asked her how she balances short-term adaptation actions and long-term potential planning during these dense times, she referred to Otto von Bismarcks “Strategy of Small steps”. A lot of little things and being patient changes still the whole outcome. She had her three recommendations for managing as a startup through the crisis: manage your cash wisely, use the power of your network and develop new products for the time afterward.
Preparing for the time after the crisis: Bespaced is looking into combining its core assets into a new hybrid online / physical product to support the same use cases as before. She will not change her target customers but their needs are still there and they need to be serviced.
Apart from the questions Petra asked Tatiana, she had some questions to Konsultori and the advisory business. Petra gave her a status of how we see the situation. We got a little lucky here at Konsultori. Some workshops and coachings had been delivered already online (e.g. Turkey in January) before the crisis. Also our advisory business has been roughly 50% delivered online until this lockdown kicked in. For sure, we had to adapt and also start using new tools like Mural, Mentimeter, etc. to provide a better customer experience on the advisory side. We have launched a new online product within 2 weeks (the liquidity plan for your bank) and jumped into delivering the most complex training we have (term sheet negotiations for startups) online with parallel negotiations of startups. It was a hell of a ride and still is but we see the positive side of it: At lot is possible. People are more open to connect, talk opportunities, collaborate. This is the nice side of it. For our digital platform key2investors it is a booster that accelerators are increasingly delivering their programs now online. With our whitelabeling offer we were well prepared. With sales we were not well prepared. That’s the downside. Keeping the team motivation up, everybody connected and having still routines is one of the challenges we have. We are doing fine but this could be a lot better. We are looking into our next months delivering in two worlds and increasingly combining them – onsite and digital. It is interesting times at least.
We would like to thank Tatiana Chapovalova for her openness to discuss, the startup participants for all their valid questions, Dudu Gencel for bringing this up and hosting. The feedback so far was: We need more of that stuff.