Adaptation Leads to Innovation
By Phil Weilerstein, President and CEO of VentureWell
The challenges of the past two years are changing the way early-stage entrepreneurs do business. Faced with a global pandemic, an ongoing reckoning on social justice issues and the climate crisis, and the near term uncertainty of our supply chains, fledgling ventures are navigating an unmapped and rapidly evolving business environment. Early-stage entrepreneurs have developed creative work-arounds and some promising new strategies.
Virtual Environment Opens Doors
Especially in the first year of the pandemic, restricted access to labs and university campuses presented a significant challenge, but the shift to a more virtual world is creating new opportunities and providing advantages for those ready to seize them. Teams have been able to more easily make important business connections, bypassing gatekeepers, being present virtually at tradeshows and conventions they might not otherwise have been able to go to, and networking with potential new partners and customers via Zoom.
Supply Chain Challenges Send Teams Back to Basics
Disruptions in the supply chain have sent shipping prices skyrocketing and limited access to key materials, but here too early-stage entrepreneurs have found ways to pivot. Some ventures that relied on decentralized logistics are avoiding issues by turning to local suppliers. Others are designing to minimize their dependence on long supply chains. And some teams have found more time and opportunity to revisit fundamentals, focusing on basic questions like: How do we best leverage our unique value to our customers? Can we adjust our pricing strategy? Should we be diversifying our vendors so that we’re not reliant on a single source?
Social Justice Crises Inspire Action on Diversity
In tandem with the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation has grappled with social justice crises. A heightened awareness of the need for diversity has encouraged many early-stage companies to rethink their mission and find ways to respond authentically. As innovators recognize the advantages that diverse viewpoints can bring to a venture, teams are bringing in new voices and broadening their market vision to better engage and serve the needs of historically underrepresented groups.
Climate Change Spurs Sustainable Design
Seeing the urgent need to combat climate change, early-stage entrepreneurs are eager to bring green design and environmental sustainability principles into their ventures. Teams are willing to make the business argument for sustainable design. Ventures can have a pronounced environmental impact by designing products that can be recycled rather than sent to landfills, and they may find that using recyclable materials saves money.
Early-stage innovators have always needed to adapt to changing circumstances, but today’s volatile environment is proving to be an extraordinary crucible for creativity. As companies respond to the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic, and use their platforms to address issues of social equity and environmental sustainability, there are opportunities for positive, long-lasting shifts in the entrepreneurship culture.