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Advice for Founders During COVID-19

M13 Co-founder Courtney Reum appeared on the Road Untraveled: VC Perspectives podcast with host Brian Hollins to discuss advice for founders who are building a business during a global crisis, specific industries that are thriving in this macro environment, and other predictions for the future. Courtney’s dual background as both founder and investor informs his perspective on leading with empathy, the importance of transparent yet direct communication, and why wellness and self-care are more critical now than ever. See a recap of this discussion below, and listen to the full episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

How would you advise someone who is continuing to build a business through COVID-19?

  • Entrepreneurship is not a solo mission. Expanding your ecosystem and support system is key, especially during crises. Arm yourself with a strong team and a solid network of advisors and consultants. We take a very hands-on approach with our founders at M13 for this very reason.
  • Have an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset in your business. As challenging as this may seem, your mindset is everything, and holding onto limiting beliefs can really hinder success in the long run. 
“In any time of crisis, the first thing you can do is expand your ecosystem.” - Courtney Reum

What are some best practices for founders communicating with investors?

  • You have to be transparent. Being transparent and direct is always good, but you have to double and triple down on it now, especially amid so much uncertainty.
  • How you communicate says a lot about your business. Be extra forthright and extra communicative. If you don’t do that, that’s how your reputation changes. And in those pressured moments where you have material updates, do it as close as you can to face-to-face. Although Zoom fatigue is real, be mindful that a face-to-face call is far more appropriate than an email or text when delivering difficult news. People deserve that kind of communication. 
“Being entrepreneurs made us better investors, and being investors made us better entrepreneurs.” - Courtney Reum

Are there industries in particular that will benefit because of this pandemic?

  • Many consumer tech companies have been thriving in this environment. M13 portfolio companies like Daily Harvest, Capsule, Thrive Market, and Heal have seen monumental growth in the last few months, because their business models (in telehealth and healthy food delivery) are perfect for instances where real life contact must be limited. 
  • Fitness, health, and wellness are also seeing an uptick, given self-care is now more important than ever and fitness routines have been entirely reimagined.
  • Experiential products and services are also a good space to consider for the future. Once the world is able to safely re-open, I think consumers will be eager to experience a variety of offerings after being self-isolated for months.

For those with supply chain elements in their business, what advice do you have for consumer businesses who don’t have a ton of visibility into the future?

  • It’s a different world when you go to Amazon and something that normally takes two days to ship is now going to take two weeks. Last-mile logistics still count as supply chain, and that affects it because everything, until it gets into the consumer’s hands, is supply chain. In a world of next-day shipping and surprise and delight, there’s no surprise and delight if not even the basics are readily available right now.
  • There are going to be a lot of interesting opportunities for founders to present themselves in a unique way. You’re going to have to find ways to bridge messaging without bombardment, and create a community without over-saturation.

It’s important to show what your brand is doing as a company to help employees and help their community. Have you seen any best practices that have inspired you in this pandemic?

  • When you truly have an opportunity to put humanity ahead of profits, your consumers will notice. I mentioned Thrive Market before but it’s worth another mention here, because they’ve seen great success lately by building trust with their community during COVID. I think they’ve set a great example for how a brand can effectively do this. If you’re doing good things in a time of need, share it with your audience.
  • Be loud about your efforts. Social media is an effective way to broadcast what you’re doing.
  • But don’t just talk about it -- be about it. People want to know what a brand stands for, but they also want to ensure the brand can back up what they’re saying. Authenticity is now more important than ever.
“You should do well by doing good - it’s not about getting credit, but you should broadcast it… it’s easy to find out who’s doing what in the world of maximum transparency.” - Courtney Reum

When it comes to navigating this pandemic, Courtney provides insights on what’s down this untraveled road for investors. One of the key themes in this discussion is transparency–– within your company, with your investors, and with your brand’s audience. Take a listen to Courtney and Brian’s full conversation on Road Untraveled: VC Perspectives.


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