June 25, 2021

Growing a Start-Up in a Pandemic

by Michelle Winsor, Product, Strategy & Operations at Accelera

That “downtime” created by the pandemic turned out to be a gift.

OMG! We didn't see the pandemic coming.

But of course, nobody did. There we were on February 14, 2020 –– Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love. But also, a day to celebrate the birth of our new venture. Sam and I were excited and nervous, yet thoroughly prepared: Our business plan was ready, our idea was validated, and it was time to open the doors to Root Evolution.

WHAM! Enter COVID-19. We thought: There goes our business plan … When you set out to bootstrap a business and product build through advisory services, and then no one wants a trusted advisor –– they’re all shifting to pure survival –– that puts a big kink in shiny new business strategy.

It turns out, that’s just what it was: a kink, a minor setback. However, it was also an incredible opportunity, thanks to people, amazing energy, and perseverance.

Our first two months were incredible, full of interest and new contacts, with callbacks lined up and more champions in the wings. That’s down to the unbelievable resilience of my partner, Sam, who hit the ground running the moment we opened our (virtual) doors.

I was pleasantly shocked –– and suddenly terrified –– that we were going to scale too fast! But the huge interest also confirmed the need for Root, our fledgling company. However, as the summer approached, those callbacks were pushed back, and all went silent. It’s so frustrating when there is definite interest in a product, but no purchase commitments –– businesses were experiencing their own uncertain futures.

So, we made a decision that turned out to be the best possible move. We started to rethink our way forward. We focused solely on the product and postponed the launch. It gave us the opportunity to finesse and finetune the product, plus workshop it with some clients to refine our direction.

That “downtime” created by the pandemic turned out to be a gift.

We had golden opportunities to research, discover, and reflect … and learn about the incredible value of strategic partnerships, government programs and mentors. We embraced all of them. Our strategic partners GoAutomate and SystemBind became part of our cherished circle. We were fortunate to gain the support of our bank and BDC. Both were invaluable, helping us continue to grow while the world awakened from the impacts the pandemic had on their strategies.

We learned the value of networking and grants. We paid attention to the paths of other entrepreneurs. We sought out even more technology that our clients might need –– and there were a lot of fun discoveries! We connected with Export Development Canada (EDC) and learned about their services. We were sponsored by and graduated from the Vancouver Trade Accelerator Program. We made so many connections and look forward to continued relationships as all of us launch our Canadian products internationally.

It also reinforced to us that our people, located all over the world, are at the heart of Root’s resilience. We couldn’t have achieved what we did without their flexibility and drive. When you surround yourself with creatives who bolster your own expertise and are open to unconventional working conditions, you get magic. I can’t thank our team enough for lighting the way through some of the darkness created by COVID-19. Over time, some team members had to shift to other things, but we still consider them Root family.

It has been a whirlwind journey. The pandemic has not quashed our dreams and goals. We are still here, and we are even more ready for 2021’s demand for digital acceleration.

Are you? Let’s have a conversation!