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The Pandemic Hasn't Changed What it Takes to Start a Business

Nov 10, 2020

Even in a pandemic, good business ideas can find funding, said panelists during a Puget Sound Business Journal virtual Straight Talk event on founders.

“There’s plenty of good money even in times like this,” said James Wong, co-founder and CEO of construction company Vibrant Cities. “People will support crazy entrepreneurs with great ideas.”

Founders, in any time, will need to be resilient and passionate, but above all they will have to be persistent.

“When everybody gives up, you still go forward,” Wong said.

Leen Kawas, CEO and president of Athira Pharma, a Seattle-based life science company that went public in September, agreed with Wong. She said success will be different for different industries.

The life sciences, for example, have had record funding this year, in part because of the spotlight Covid-19 has put on the industry, she said.

She advised to just be comfortable because at any time it’s hard to start a business. With persistence and a passion for the project, money will come.

Recessions have been known to birth great companies, like Uber, Airbnb, Square and Microsoft.

Being successful is a matter of having enough of a cash runway and having clearly defined goals to entice investors.

“You can’t go into starting a business and think it’s going to be all smooth sailing,” Wong said. “Starting and growing a business is one of the hardest things you’re going to do in your life.”

Kawas said having short-term goals and an understanding how you’re going to accomplish them will lead to success, all the while keeping the ultimate long-term goal in mind.

Lisa Nelson, a startup adviser and board member, said businesses will also need to be agile and have the ability to pivot. Nelson said that, like many businesses already have, pivoting to adapt to the times has been the saving grace of businesses during the pandemic.

Nelson also said that companies need to move into the digital sphere, a trend that Covid-19 has accelerated.

“These elements are really helping a lot of startups transform the Covid challenges into opportunities,” she said. “There have been some silver linings with Covid. I think one of those for companies that make it through, they’ll be stronger for it. There’ll be a renewed focus on business fundamentals and a renewed focus on cost cutting and improved options for success, strengthened by possibly a less competitive environment for them.”

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