For all of its historic challenges and unwelcome public health impacts, 2020 has been a not-so-subtle reminder of the critical importance of biomedical innovation. The world is figuratively holding its breath, counting on the promise of life-changing breakthroughs in vaccines and therapeutic treatment options to help us begin to get back to a pre-COVID normal. The power and potential of new ideas and new medicines has perhaps never been more evident. But bringing them to life and to market is not easy: it requires not only big ideas and expertise, but the technical and economic resources needed to infuse promising possibilities with the entrepreneurial energy that translates to practical results.
Launching a biotech startup is one of the most complex processes in new business. So what happens when a startup working on technology to identify pathogens in real-time has to roll with the punches during a pandemic? Joe Shanley serves as a consulting attorney and business consultant at Seraph Biosciences, a Detroit-based medical device company that has navigated an evolving technology platform, iterative software development process, and a multifaceted R&D strategy all while working with multiple stakeholders. We wanted to highlight the issues Seraph is navigating, because it’s a great illustration of what so many startups are handling right now. We hope that you find some ideas or encouragement in the story of Seraph’s progress growing a company during challenging times.
Companies everywhere are looking for best practices and tech tools to make work from home work for entire organizations overnight. Now that a few months have passed since companies across the U.S. started adapting to remote work, we checked in with metro Detroit-based software and AI company that offers enterprise solutions to other companies to see if they had any insights into what makes work from home software really work.
So you’re laid off, or already thinking of starting a new company, but now it not the ideal time to apply to an elite startup incubator. What does a company that doesn’t quite qualify as tech or can’t get funding do right now to fill in the mentorship gaps on the road to starting a new business in Southeast Michigan? Kristin Gapske is the Director of the Washtenaw Community College Entrepreneurship Center, which helps new startup and Main Street small business founders get the help they need to:
We’ve spoken with a number of executives in the past 3 months who are responding to COVID-19 for their big tech business or small startup, and we noticed some trends in how businesses are responding to the pandemic. Quite a few people from virtual panel attendees to readers to interviewees have asked Cronicle questions about what we’re seeing in our interviews with Midwest Tech. It’s the million-dollar question: what’s next? How are businesses coping, and how does that impact their workers and public health? Here are the top trends we’ve noticed behind the scenes in Midwest tech in our interviews from manufacturers and scientists pivoting to produce PPE to tech startups creating new software for public health initiatives. All of this is based in our limited interview time and virtual networking, not an official survey. Here are, in order that they appeared, the behind the scenes trends we’ve noticed in Midwest tech businesses responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2011, Eric Ries rocked the business world when he published The Lean Startup. His ideas about how to bring discovery of customer behavior to the forefront of everything was a revelation for millions. Since that time, Eric has himself been on a journey of discovery. He has learned that his ideas are valuable to organizations of all sizes and in different ways than even he imagined at first. During the ensuing six years, Eric worked with companies large and small to implement the ideas that he and his team developed. The culmination of that work was delivered in 2017 to the rest of us in the form of a book entitled The Startup Way.
Many Michigan small businesses and startups are scrambling for resources to bridge the COVID-19 outbreak gap, or to pivot to thrive beyond the coronavirus shutdown. Resources for small businesses are often only known by those founders who have already been through the startup process, so in addition to recently posting a number of small business loan resources for Michigan tech startups, we wanted to catch up with someone who is known for mentoring founder through the challenging startup phase. Melanie de Vries, who mentors both at Desai Venture Accelerator in Ann Arbor and as Technology Business Consultant for the Michigan Small Business Development Center, was gracious enough to answer some questions about what it’s like helping business owners navigate challenging times.
If you’re a tech founder or a tech worker who has navigated a tough set of decisions in your career, you know the scenario: maybe you have to find a new job under less than ideal circumstances. Maybe your business is gaining traction, but you’ve lost yourself in the hectic grind of making it happen for yourself and your employees and now you’re worried about a new set of hurdles to keeping your business running. Wellness coaching and business coaching are a support in times like these to tech founders all over the globe, and nowhere more than in places like Ann Arbor, which is home to a wide variety of coaches and wellness professionals. What do they wish you knew? That they’re here for the hard times and the early days of starting a business, not just a luxury for the more affluent. This is because business and wellness coaching is a support that saves individuals and founders the very practical resource of time–and therefore a lot of runway. That isn’t to say that coaching is something everyone can afford, but it can be a lifesaver in more ways than one.
Incubator programs are the newest way to get a business off the ground. They offer mentorship, free rent on office space, guidance through customer discovery or clinical trials and securing early funding. Who wouldn’t want that kind of help through fragile early stages of building a company? But incubators don’t all work the same. We’ve been pitched lately with everything from revenue sharing to rapid cycle business development processes and realized that there is a broadening landscape out there of what an incubator or accelerator really is.
This spring, I gave a talk at an agile conference about blameless culture. During the presentation, I asked, by a show of hands, how many people work in a culture ruled by fear. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, well over half the crowd raised their hands.