When COVID-19 first hit, many referred to the “new normal” we would all soon face. By that standard, we now find ourselves in the 3.0 or even 4.0 version of life amid pandemic. We closed down, opened up, dialed it back again, and continue to learn how to live and work as the virus spreads across America and the globe.
Make no mistake, this is a challenging time. Millions are out of work, the economy is shaky at best, and months of Zoom life are taking a personal and professional toll on all of us. But entrepreneurs have shown their signature resilience and are not only still pushing, but finding ways to succeed and even thrive.
One could contend that there’s certainty in the uncertainty. We now realize that this situation is with us and will be for the foreseeable future. Which means the so-called new normal has become just that: normal.
With that in mind, we recently checked in with some of our BAM portfolio founders, to see how they’re navigating these unchartered waters.
Daniela Corrente, Co-Founder, CEO
“The biggest change for us, operationally, was transitioning to a remote-working culture. In March, as COVID started unfolding in the U.S., we had to sit down and dedicate time to creating a system in which my team would keep the open communication and creativity flowing, even when we are not sitting next to each other. Setting those parameters since the get-go was extremely effective, because in a world with so much uncertainty, my team knew exactly what to expect and how we would operate during
“We obviously didn’t anticipate in March that we would not be back in the office for so long. However, the structure that we set up has naturally evolved over time. One thing that has been noticeable is how important it is to have a team with high EQ, or emotional intelligence. I’m extremely happy with the way my team has adapted to the new normal—and open communication has been key during this process.”
Jake Perlman-Garr, Founder
“Like many other early-stage companies, Kanga has moved to a fully remote work model. We’ve adapted in two major ways: The first is operational and the second is psychological. Operationally, we are now focused on asynchronous work. Daily, we do remote standups posted in Slack at the start of the workday, spend our Monday planning, and check in on Thursday, but the majority of the work is done whenever employees are most effective.
“I’ve noticed some of our developers commit late at night, others work frequently on weekends, but ultimately team members work in a manner that is most efficient to them. I made a conscious decision to move everyone to New York for our first year in business, which not only fostered a sense of belonging but also immense trust. This trust is essential, so team members know everyone is working hard and will get tasks done, so the company can succeed.
“Maintaining that sense of belonging is the reason for that second change. The pandemic has been incredibly stressful for everyone, and it’s important for every employee to know their team members are there to support them. Having a constant temperature check on team psychology is necessary. We spend a lot of extra time on how we are feeling, and everyone on the team has a one-on-one catch-up about work and life with every teammate, every other week. Also, we have a special channel in Slack where we post how we’re feeling every one or two weeks. This personal status report is called the ‘PPPM,’ which stands for ‘Progress People Problems Me.’ Finally, we do a virtual team happy hour every Friday afternoon where we play online versions of board games that promote team bonding, such as Spyfall, Code Names, or Mafia.”
Eachan Fletcher, Co-Founder, and CEO
“During the crisis, NestEgg has had an important role in our customers’ lives, to help them operate in the new normal. We helped renters stay in their homes during financial hardship, and we added reliability to our rental owners’ income during an unpredictable time. These stresses will leave an echo long after the event itself is behind us, and our customers will feel renewed urgency around managing their properties efficiently online. We’re focused on that need by pivoting our roadmap around optimizing NOI and cash flow for rental owners.
“Today, we are seeing 100% rent collection success rate versus the wider industry benchmark of 70-80% and we added $1.4M in rent business in the last 30 days alone. We recognized that landlords and tenants tend to have very different personal financial situations, but today’s paradigm for renting forces them to commit to a single shared process that often only works for one party. As a landlord, you want rent from your tenants on the 1st, because that’s when all your loans and other expenses are due, but many tenants get paid weekly or rely on disability checks that are sent mid-month, so coming up with the first big rent payment at the beginning of the month is difficult for them to budget to and sets them up for failure. The landlord-tenant relationship becomes very transactional and adversarial.
“We totally restructured this by decoupling when the landlord gets paid from when tenants pay. NestEgg pays rental owners up front on the 1st, and residents have flexible 30 day terms to pay us anytime throughout the month. They can split rent with roommates, pay across multiple payment methods, and even make installments. Especially now, it’s a win-win.”
Michelle Larivee, Co-Founder and CEO
“The health, economic, environmental, and social crises we have faced in 2020 have led to an unprecedented amount of stress, anxiety, insomnia, physical pain, and other health challenges. WTHN’s mission is to help our clients thrive with both mental and physical well-being. Given our unique offerings of time-tested, science-backed healing therapies—acupuncture, cupping, acupressure, herbal medicine, and more—we are focusing on the best ways to support our community members and their health during this time.
“In late May, acupuncture was designated an essential health service by the State of New York, enabling us to re-open our New York City acupuncture studio, and we have done so with the safety of our team and clients as our highest priority and a heightened sense of urgency around our mission to provide safe, natural, and effective healing. (More on how that experience can be found here and our rigorous sanitization protocols here.) Given the changes in our client base—primarily the large numbers that have left New York either permanently or temporarily since COVID began—we are focusing on rebuilding the base and finding innovative ways to connect with new clients, including partnerships with other businesses/brands as well as referrals from other healthcare providers. There is an increased sense of urgency around the power of preventative medicine and people are thinking about how to stay healthy more than ever before.
“We have doubled down on our digital efforts, including launching virtual healing sessions that are 1×1 telehealth consultations with an acupuncturist for guided acupressure, stretching, herbal consultations, breathwork, and more—so we will continue offering that option to our clients that may need to stay home longer.”
Spandana Nakka, Co-Founder and CEO
“At Sleek, we are reinventing the way people wait in lines. Much long before COVID-19 broke out, we were already envisioning a future where you could step into a venue— and not only instantly know of the wait times, but also choose to have your phone hold your spot in the line.
“As the world grapples with COVID-19, we initially paused to see how our customers’ needs evolved in this new normal. Given safety is a topmost priority for businesses to stay open, not having to wait in lines is now a necessity versus a nice-to-have. And lines have come to exponentially grow by six times given the social distancing.
“We re-adjusted our focus from the live-events market and are assisting essential businesses with our core technology to keep the community safe, from grocery stores to food trucks, and now have added tens of thousands of new businesses as customers. You can check out our COVID-focused product offering here.”
Jordan Glazier, Founder, and CEO
“Even under normal circumstances, building a new business requires a somewhat contradictory combination of focus and flexibility. That’s especially true now with uncertainty in every aspect of life and business. There are a few key elements that help us operate and succeed in this new ‘normal.’
“Fluid communications are essential. We accomplish this with frequent huddles that keep everyone in sync. When we were thrust into a remote work mode in March, we immediately put in place all-hands stand-ups every morning to align around the priorities of the day, twice weekly virtual happy hours to stay connected and have fun, plus the usual sprint planning and demo days. I can honestly say we have more effective and focused communication now than ever before.
“The ability to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand is also essential, and this applies to both filtering out the chaos of the world and also successful multitasking. I think the team finds our work a reprieve from the stressors of the world—I know I do. Usually, it’s the other way around, right?
“And last but not least, it’s essential to have a high degree of comfort with ambiguity, which we screen for as part of our hiring process. We’re blessed with a seasoned, mature team—we take the curves and ups and downs together, with logic and without emotion.”
Also, check out our interview with Shamin Walsh, Managing Director at BAM Ventures