Twin Cities Startup Week Recap: Reacting to Crisis

As part of Twin Cities Startup Week 2021, Kipsu invited four leaders from the startup community to share how they navigated crisis in 2020.

Reacting to crisis—something the whole world did together in the year 2020. 

However, although the crisis impacted everyone, not everybody navigated through it the same way, especially when it came to the startup world. Some organizations found it more beneficial to close doors and pick a different path. Others found a way to keep both business and morale alive. But, what does it take to hone a stable company in times of crisis? 

To find out, Kipsu invited four inspirational business leaders to tell all the ups and downs they found themselves facing as the world shut down around them.

The panelists

When everything turned upside down

"It literally all fell apart in one day," was the starting quote by Shultze when asked to describe the beginnings of the end of 2020, and no one on the panel disagreed with him. 

First came the pause of business. Next came the freeze of any current or future deals, upcoming releases, and income. After that, the phone calls, all with the same topic of conversation, "where do we go from here?" And, as Shutlze put it, "that was only day one." 

All four panelists had no other way to describe the beginning of 2020 besides what it felt like, an "oh sh*t" moment. 

They now had to find answers to questions that would impact both themselves, their employees, and the company. But, the panelist knew what the first steps had to include, and Peter was the first to say it, "My co-founder and I did what was best for the team. We got rid of our salaries - that was without question - and started looking at how we could keep our employees." 

The panelist believed that keeping the core of their businesses secure - their staff - would be the first key to success.

The great pivot

"We definitely knew there would be some hard decisions coming," Courtney conveyed because each panelist knew that they had to take extreme action to better grasp their companies again.

The first step for Tyler was to have serious conversations with his customers, "We showed our customers we were going to continue to make value to their experience. We kept the communication open, consistent, and transparent on why we were making the decisions we were." 

The whole world was under duress, so they had to accommodate. For Charlie, it meant discounts, "... we started matching hotels' occupancy with a discount plan so we could try to keep our consumers going and happy." And, for all the panelists, they agreed that business was never going to be "as usual" - for better or for worse - but they embraced the change. 

"We had to transfer all we do to digital. The night we opted to close studios, the next day, we were on Instagram live,” said Peter. “Through that, we created a community experience around it all." 

So, after having a moment of disbelief, all the panelists flew into action quickly, tactically, and with compassion.

What happens next?

Pressure makes diamonds, precisely the thinking each panelist held as they started to see the light on the other side - 2021. 

Courtney began to view her work differently as she revealed that her business "started dedicating office space with fewer desks and more open spaces" in light of what the pandemic exploited as toxic office spaces geared toward division and lacking in community. 

Tyler had a newfound respect for his employees and his company, one with the belief that his team can endure anything as he confesses to how close they came to losing everything, "[Alchemy] met with bankruptcy thinking 'should we just give up?' But I'm very glad we didn't. And because of that, it showed that if we had to do this all over again, I'm confident we could." 

For Peter and Plyo they tell a different story, "We are actually an example of when things don't go well. But you have to keep the ball rolling. And, it took a while to get the idea of Plyo out of our heads, but we were burnt out, and my co-founder and I made the difficult decision to search a different path. But, as long as you stay alive, inevitably, opportunities will eventually show themselves." 

Lastly, Charlie saw the true value of community between customer and employee as he states, "Hotels, gyms, and restaurants are what got hit the hardest. You couldn't think of a worse thing for our businesses. But we made it. And now you have this team that went through the trenches together and built a community. And we are better for it."

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