Dealing with corona lockdown: A startup seizing an opportunity

Here we are – in the middle of the corona pandemic – the known world is on lockdown; people are barricaded behind toilet paper in volumes easiest measurable in metric tonnes. And people are dying. The corona virus has turned our world upside down. While most hope that this is just a “glimpse” that is passing by, many are starting to realize the enormous impact it has on how we used to live our lives, and to realize that we will not be returning to the same life as before the corona pandemic. Not ever again. Change and adaptation is the new normal, and the game changer is if we are ready. The businesses that will survive will be the ones that are best at this transformation act. They will be the winners in this game.

Our start-up, Tagion, was founded almost three years ago. We are working on building an alternative monetary- and banking system. A system with which we seek to reinvent the basic structures of the current financial world. A system favouring fairness and a system that is immune to political interference. What we are doing, seems more important and relevant than ever, as the world’s money presses currently are running wild. In the US alone, you need to use 13 digits on your calculator, to count the trillions that in one way or the other are making their inroads into the suffering economy. So yes, the time is ripe for a monetary- and banking system that’s out of reach of political influence.

This piece is, however, not to brag about what we are doing.That ”tale” will be told later in another article.Rather, I would want to share a story on how we are fortunate enough to be able to continue with “business as usual”, some on our digital tool box, used for online collaboration, but first a little on our team and its wellbeing.

Tagion is a digital business from the outset. We are truly global, and despite being no more than ten people at present, not all have yet had the chance to meet in person. We have people living and working in Ukraine, Thailand, Romania, and in Denmark. Half the workforce have families with kids, all of us are currently tied to our homes, as each of the countries have declared lockdowns at different strengths. In the management team, we have had many discussions on how to prepare and prioritize as the lockdowns approached. Health first, then collaboration tools, and then strategy and business continuity.

Health

Health coverage is a part of our contracts for all employees. We never paid much interest for what is in the contracts, as we all consider us being young and strong. That changed recently, and after duly inspection, we now know that no one will be left on the pavement outside a hospital.

Our CTO, Carsten, foresaw the reality of an approaching lockdown already in February, and he “forced” the rest of us to stock up on bare necessities, such as masks, personal hygiene products, and food, so we would all be in good shape in case of a “work from home lockdown”. This was at a time where corona was seen as ‘just a normal flu’.

Collaboration Tools

The internet is the backbone of our business model, and being able to work efficiently online, has been engraved into the company DNA since day 1. We depend so much on the performance and usability of tool box that a tool is always - at any time - only inches away from being replaced with a more suitable choice. Of course there is a switching cost, but being the type of business that we are, we need to be very adaptable to change and to learning new ways of working. We have spend quite some time on experimenting with various solutions for files, mail, communication and collaboration, and we have been through at least three major provider shifts. An example is our mail system where we started out on Protonmail, moved to Microsoft (O365), and are currently on Google’s G-suite platform, which we moved to just recently. Some of the other tools in use are Trello, Skype, Zoom, the MS Office suite, various office products on Ubuntu, a wealth of social media tools, and a whole lot of different products for development, most notably GitHub.

Some of us already worked from home, while others were sharing offices We did ensure that our office based workers had the necessary bandwidth and 4G phones ready as backup, in case of an ISP blackout. Strong PCs, good headsets that are optimised for calls were already in place. So check marks on all, and the team is now happily working away, some of us being into the 5th week of the Corona lockdown.

Business continuity

Many, both small and larger businesses are struggling to survive due to the lockdowns. Some have adapted quickly to the situation, like restaurants starting to do takeaway and home deliveries and other types of brick and mortar based businesses that quickly have enhanced their online presence and made online orders an opportunity. Many smaller businesses are really struggling - imagine the hairdresser, who has been demanded to shut down his or her store for an unknown period of time? The bills for rent and salaries are still ticking in.

We, being self-funded since we started, and being internet native, have an unfair advantage at the moment. Firstly, we are able to keep our plans on product launches. And secondly, we are on the lookout for a couple of new developers in Kiev. The job market in Kiev has been the employees’ market for quite some time. Up until the end of March, it has been close to impossible to find suitable and reasonable applicants. However, corona lockdowns are causing a number of projects and businesses to be closed at a rapid pace in Kiev. Where we recently would get very few CVs on job postings and salary requests that we would claim to be arrogant, we are now in a situation where we can get to choose from a much broader set of CVs. Soon enough we will land contracts with at least two skilled developers, offer them good salaries and health coverage, and pay a tiny positive contribution to a disastrous job market.

In conclusion, we can say that we have been very fortunate in many ways. Being a digitally born company, having good health coverage, a strong and tested set of digital tools that we all know how to use. And not least having the economic strength to add more employees to an already fantastic team, certainly gives us the robustness to move through this crisis. And, our cause of building a monetary- and baking system, which in a crisis like this, cannot be touched by political influence, certainly seems more important than ever.

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