“What did you do during the Coronavirus Crisis?”

“What did you do during the Coronavirus Crisis?”

by Stephen Bloch, 30 April 2020

It’s up to you.

In the early stages of the pandemic we saw a popular response from many people and businesses volunteering support for the health system, food banks, Covid19 tracking apps, calls for manufacturing of ventilators, PPE etc; now as the situation begins to shift, how we respond to the coronavirus crisis may be a measure of future business success.

As we enter the next phase, the question for the tech community is not, “What did you do during the War?” But, “What did you do during the Coronavirus Crisis?” Or more simply, you should ask yourself “what can I do?”

This question becomes more relevant as the eventual restoration of the economy look to be long process. The end of the lockdown, when it comes is unlikely to be universal, and ‘business as usual’ appears to be unlikely for some time. Normality as we knew it will take some time to return, perhaps in the second half of 2021 when a vaccine might become available.

So, we are asking our portfolio companies, current members of the Innovation Warehouse community, and the wider start up and investment communities – what can you do now?

Early stage tech companies are by their very nature agile, they should in many cases be able to turn their creativity to the development of deployable solutions in response to the current crisis, to swiftly produce products or services which can help people, organisations, and society at large, even if there is limited or no substantial profit to currently be derived. One could argue that there is a social duty to do this provided there is no detrimental effect to their companies, and that the social benefits and goodwill engendered should be the metric of success. These products and services could then be folded into their business plans in the post-crisis environment.

This is a generational global crisis where all our preconceived ideas of normality have been challenged. Events on this scale bring with them unforeseen longer- term changes to our outlook and social values. While none of us can accurately predict the future, we can begin to see possible patterns for change or scenarios that might emerge.

There are voices arguing that this should drive Governments and societies to be more committed about the environment, others that shortcomings in social and healthcare systems have been brought into sharper focus by the pandemic, so now should be the time to take the hard decisions to increase long term funding and improvements of these vital services.

There is the non-partisan hope that governments will begin to look more closely at the economic value and benefits of societal improvements (health, social care, the environment, education, housing, scientific research, and infrastructure), than was the norm in recent history. The correlation between growth of income, social mobility and investment in ‘society’ is well established but has to some extent been overshadowed by austerity, over reliance on supply side economic policies, and using increases in GDP as a measure of the nation’s wealth which has masked inequalities in wealth distribution. The resulting imbalances in our society have contributed to a rise in populism, nativism, and a sense for many people of having been left behind.

This view is not born from any particular political standpoint, Left or Right, but rather from a desire to see this crisis as a once in a generation opportunity for a reset and change; perhaps for a better way of doing capitalism, and not just a return to the old ‘business as usual’.
It is reasonable to expect that after the sacrifice endured people will wish to see a new Social Contract between themselves, business and the State.

The challenge for Government will be how to balance sound fiscal policy and stimulus with the demands for greater public spending in the recessionary aftermath of the crisis. So responsibility for effecting change and recovery cannot simply be dependent on ‘top down’ policy, but also on ‘bottom up’ efforts delivered by companies balancing societal benefit with good business and innovation.

We have been told repeatedly that “we are all in this together“, however we should also be ‘in this together’ using our energy and creativity to aid the economic recovery. If we get that right we should all benefit in the longer term.

The tech sector has the creativity, agility, and the ability to make a significant and dynamic contribution to change – we must not fail to rise to the challenge.

Stephen Bloch