A tale of me and COVID-19 : Inside the mind of a Startup CEO

Written by Rohith Sampathi|6 min read|

COVID-19 got me and my business unprotected. It hit me hard, in fact, very. First, I hated the situation and then felt pushed back. But slowly, I started to understand the ground reality and tried to adapt to it. The following is my love story with COVID-19.

Starting Montaigne, a startup incubator in 2017 was called a stupid move. All I knew was how various industries worked and what I can do for bridging products with the right people. I knew little, but the courage I have, made me take the shot.

“Jump off the cliff and learn how to build a plane during your fall,” is what I always tell myself.

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Thanks to my first set of clienteles, I experimented, learned from mistakes, and got better. The thought of simplifying the way a marketer interacted with their product felt beautiful. The idea of LeadMirror – software that can simplify your digital marketing experience was thus born. The journey in building a tech-savvy product when you are not a computer scientist is hard to describe. You fail, you get beaten very hard and pushed back every time. The hustle is real and evident, but not discouraging. Our entire team pushed to their limits, and today I can see the vision I had, taking a faint bigger picture. The incubation projects are growing, and the product is taking a shape.

What additional can a first-time entrepreneur expect? I was all geared to push myself and the team forward!

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First, there was a curfew with only limited people allowed on the streets. Then we had the 1-day lockdown, followed by an 18 day and now a 21-day lockdown. Even the governments today are not in a state to tell precisely when this will end. 

Corona, that was a master move. Kudos

80% of my incubation projects were B2C. They either relied on the customer visiting their storefront or getting the product delivered at their doorstep. Neither can the customer visit the store nor the good can be home delivered. My clients fell to a 0-business situation. The same is the case with many of my peers who relied heavily on e-commerce and offline services. I have people looking at me with not knowing what to do. They not in a state to self-sustain, forget paying me, and sustaining my business.

Did surprise catch me? Maybe, maybe not!

I have heard of the 2008 global economic crisis. I was in my UG then. I was hearing that people are laid-off globally, and the stock market collapsed. I never felt the intensity of a global crisis as a student. However this time, COVID-19 gave me a first-hand experience of it. Bill Gates might have said in 2015 that “the world is not ready for a global pandemic.” But, who would expect that it will happen this soon and this worse? And what can a budding company do when there is no work to do and no one to pay for its sustenance?

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Come back is Real. We are just getting started!

Re-investing whatever we made back into the team building and product development felt very necessary. Being bootstrapped, I didn’t have a massive treasure chest that could sustain us without work for even 6-months. Having not lost hope, my team and I re-grouped our will and thought of what do we do now. Not just us, we have eight other companies tagged to us, that are eagerly anticipating to come out of this fiasco and earn their living. So we took our stance, recouped our spirits and initiated our come back.

Corona here we come!

What is working for Montaigne and me?

  1. What is necessary and what isn’t? – We started prioritizing every work of ours, and we dedicate our time to a task, only if, it is urgent and essential at the current situation
  2. United we stand – Understand what each of your team members is competent at and delegate complete ownership. Everyone should be able to bring food on to the plate. We are a community, not a company. We work together, and we stand, else we fall.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel – I understand that many of us love innovation and want to do everything differently. I don’t think this is the time for innovation, especially in an area where a solution already exists. Sustenance is the key now. If someone already did what you are doing now, take that work as a reference. Continue the legacy of your predecessors. Think of all the innovators being part of a single human community. Don’t think of building a process that is already there. And don’t make the market space competitive now. Try to add value to the market, not competition. 
  4. Stop worrying and start acting – COVID 19 is real. As real as the earth is a sphere, Hubble showed what our observable universe looks like, and man can make a voyage to mars one day. There is nothing you can do about it. Stay home, stay safe, and understand what to do next with your business. 
  5. In the middle of great difficulty lies wonderful opportunity – Can your business get completely online? Do you have a virtual product? Can you think of making one? Explore your business model and hunt for those products and services that a customer can access sitting at the desk. There is always an opportunity in the middle of every difficulty. Keep yourself open, and it’s not pivoting when you are struggling for survival. 

“Nothing is stupid as long as you can make it work.

p.c. quick meme

A lot of thoughts were going through my head over the past two months. Many ideas were hitting my brain. I thought of limiting my incubation projects and focus more on product development. Having watched many of my peers hustle during these hard times, I decided to contradict my earlier decisions and help more businesses. We started taking up more incubation projects now. 

As a whole, the above narration is my relationship with COVID-19 and a love story that taught me how to live entrepreneurship better. I hope this acts as a case-study and an experience on what is working for others. 

Remember, COVID-19 impact might not be a rubber band effect. 

The overall impact of it on the market might last as long as January 2021. So #Stayhome#StaySafe and #ThinkDifferent. (:P Apple must’ve got the phrase from a similar thought process)

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Picture Credits: Imgflip.com, Innovationdrive.co, Quickmeme.com, Me.me and Medium.com