Now is a Great Time to Build Your Startup

Now is a Great Time to Build Your Startup

By Lisa Bajorinas, Vogt Awards Program Director

It’s true. Life is not the same as it was prior to mid-March. Our world is experiencing a global pandemic and adhering to the many precautions to decrease exposure. Our work and family life have been dramatically changed with approximately 80% of the U.S. workforce is now working remotely either part-time or full time.  Unfortunately, the additional impact to 

business, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, is a national unemployment rate of 14.7% and Kentucky’s state unemployment rate at 16.1%. Talented people are being furloughed and, like you, they might be re-examining what they really want out of life. This period is now referred to as the “Coronavirus Recession.” 

And yet in the midst of all this chaos, now may be the best time to dust off that idea you’ve been noodling around with or to tackle that “there’s got to be a better-way idea” that’s been nagging at you, and start your own business. 

If you find yourself seeking a new start or in a position to go after that great idea that’s been on the back burner, there is no better time than now to build your own startup. But it comes down to this: only you can make this happen – and if you’re waiting for the perfect moment, you just might be waiting forever. But here’s the upside, when one door closes, another one opens — even if it’s not obvious at the time. The challenge for all of us right now is making peace with uncertainty and finding out what this moment is trying to teach us. How can we come out of this experience stronger? Can we use these difficult days to dream up a better life? 

Whether due to necessity or curiosity, many successful businesses began during the Recession of 2008: WhatsApp, Venmo, Groupon, Instagram, Uber, Pinterest, Slack, and Square to name a few. Further, powerhouse tech and non-tech firms such as Apple, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and Walt Disney can trace their origins back to various recessions.  Locally, NaugaNeedles, Stonestreet One, 3DR and The Learning House were getting underway at the same time. While it wasn’t easy, these startups were led by founders that were passionate about solving a specific problem, relentless in their pursuit for a better way (solution), and diligent in their execution to get to market. But they didn’t do it alone and neither should you.

At a minimum, these past recession-inspired founders required capital, commercialization understanding and mentorship — the very elements of the Vogt Awards program:  non-dilutive funding, lean startup education, and mentorship from some of our region’s best startup CEOs. 

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but if you have the opportunity my advice is simple: “Go for it!”  Think big but set realistic milestones and hold yourself accountable. Surround yourself with good people and keep in mind that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of it.  Most importantly take advantage of available local resources (see The Vogt Awards program surrounds you with experienced founders, assists in driving your startup forward, and holds you accountable for developing your minimum viable product (MVP) and/or attaining your first customer. This, together with $25,000 in non-dilutive (FREE) grant funding, gets your startup off and running.  It also places you in an elite peer group encouraging your success through your Vogt Awards 2020 cohort and past Vogt Awards alumni, see the Vogt Awards Portfolio companies. 

Business interruptions are often the precursor to disruption and opportunity. As this pandemic continues to impact almost every part of our lives, there are going to be major opportunities for new startup companies that will leverage either an opportunistic or a longer-term opportunity. In general, startups launched during a downturn tend to be far more durable and resilient than those started in a better economic time. Look around for problems not being solved well and come up with a solution that could be a great company. Tap your creativity to meet the moment. 

We all have things to improve on or opportunities to explore, but we didn’t have the time to do so before. Use this time to take some creative risks. Apply for the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Vogt Awards by May 31. Our region and our country’s entrepreneurial spirit will eventually fuel an economic rebound with the silver lining of amazing innovation solving big problems through great startups.