Innovation Blog

Ways to Strengthen Your Startup During COVID-19


While the battle with COVID is far from over, global businesses and individuals are adapting to the new normal. Startups in our community and beyond have been impacted particularly hard, whether by stalled or cancelled contracts, or the 30% decline of global venture capital investments.

Still, through creativity and dedication, we have an opportunity to come out stronger than before. Recently, MassChallenge CEO Siobhan Dullea emphasized that investing in innovation is essential and made it clear that resilient startups today will fuel the future economy.

That being said, to withstand today’s climate as a startup, it can be challenging to know what to prioritize in order to maintain progress and growth while saving capital. Our advice: use the time you have now to strengthen your company internally and improve operational infrastructure. Here’s how.

1. Operations Documentation

Documentation is critical, yet it can be a less prioritized component of business for fast moving startups. Looking at internal and external processes, such as the complete sales cycle and onboarding new employees and clients, what documentation is helpful? Below are a few recommendations to get started.

Hiring & Onboarding Process: Reflect on the past hires your company has made. What processes are in place to onboard them? Harvard Business Review found that creating a step-by-step onboarding guide, investing time in goal-setting, and welcoming new hires reduces employee turnover and increases overall productivity. Taking time to create supporting resources will ensure smooth onboarding in the future and ultimately lead to growing a productive team.

Company FAQ Document: FAQs help new employees get up to speed with your company structure and value proposition, as well as understand your product positioning within the market. These are especially helpful if the company has emerging technologies, a complex supply chain, or a proprietary solution.

Sales Cycle: Document the complete sales cycle, including all employee touchpoints. If documentation exists, reflect on what has been most and least successful in the company’s sales process. Update your documentation accordingly. Have these efforts changed in the COVID-19 environment, and how has your documentation reflected those changes?

2. Product Innovation

In the age of digital transformation, technical agility is crucial for growth – and now especially, that agility is key in enabling companies to respond to COVID-19’s impact. Take time now to understand what consumer preferences, if any, have shifted specific to your product or service. What will be the lasting impact of coronavirus on those preferences or behaviors, and how may that influence your product roadmap? Below are two areas you should consider to strengthen your product strategy and overall agility.

Product Strategy & Roadmap: According to CB Insights, the top reason startups fail is due to lack of market need, and out of the top 20 reasons, 9 are related to customers. Do you understand your target customer and market? Dedicate this time to conduct focus groups and gain candid feedback from users, especially during this transition period where new challenges may arise. This can even be an opportunity for your product or service to solve a new, urgent need. Define or re-define a roadmap that responds to user feedback and incorporates the most relevant needs for users.

Technical Documentation: As companies scale, it is common for startups to partner with third parties for customer support, as well as enter into co-selling arrangements. In both cases, third party developers will benefit from detailed, step-by-step explanations of your solution. To save time in the future, create these documents as if the third party never had any prior communication with your company. Developers will thank you for the clear, concise documentation.

3. Legal & Compliance

Entering into an increasingly virtual world means that data and compliance will only increase in importance. Plus, startups are expected to outline how data and security are handled for due diligence with clients and investors. Here are some tips on ways you can become more prepared to answer those questions. Note that these activities should always be checked and approved by outside counsel and expertise.

Standardized MSA (Master Services Agreement): Depending on the stage of your startup, you may already have a standardized MSA. If you don’t have a standardized MSA, these are incredibly important in allowing each party within the agreement to understand the deal points, expectations for delivery, and how potential issues will be handled.

Data Compliance: If applicable, software vendor companies need to obtain relevant audits and implement processes that ensure security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data. The most common standards for data compliance include GDPR, SOC 1 & 2, and ISO 27001. MassChallenge partner, KPMG, has a great guide with helpful information on how to effectively use the audit reports.

Contract and NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) Management: As a startup, it’s likely that you’ve signed countless NDAs with larger organizations to conduct a confidential information exchange. Managing and tracking the dates on these documents protects your company’s proprietary information.

Clearly, the future in light of COVID-19 is uncertain, but innovation has proved to be crucial to resiliently moving forward. Growing startups who use time today to reflect, strengthen operations, and develop their agility will succeed by leading the economy of tomorrow.


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