(Photograph copyright The International Beer Bar)
In Switzerland, people are hunkering down for their second full week of social distancing as non-essential shops and businesses are shut and other companies have implemented mandatory work from home policies.
The coronavirus is shaking up society and the economy. Personally, I see it happening from two perspectives: as a partner at The International Beer Bar, as well as an expansion marketing specialist at Sherpany.
Uncertain economic impact on SMB around the world
On March 13, ahead of the Swiss Federal Government's call to limit the number of people in bars and restaurants, we made the decision to close The International Beer Bar until the situation would improve.
As cases of the coronavirus continued to increase each day, our only priority was the health of our staff and patrons. While my team can hopefully rest reassured that they are safe and healthy, the economic fallout for our staff and the business is currently hard to evaluate. Sadly, this situation is a reality for many small and medium-sized enterprises in Switzerland and around the world.
This photograph courtesy of Hansjakob Frey (emptyzurich.ch) shows a vacant Schaffhauserstrasse on March 20, 2020:
(Photograph copyright Hansjakob Frey/emptyzurich.ch)
A tool for remote business meetings
That same weekend, Sherpany management decided that all offices would need to close, and staff would be working from home. Sherpany is a nearly ten-year-old tech company based in Zurich with offices throughout Europe.
We are a remote-first company. On any given day, 30 to 40 percent of staff work from home or on the road. We always take our laptops home with us, and we were ready to start working remotely at the drop of a hat.
Since last Monday, Mathias Brenner, our Chief Product Officer, has been providing daily tips to new staff not yet used to working remotely for extended periods.
As the Swiss government strengthened their social distancing measurements on March 16, we here at Sherpany quickly realized how lucky we are to be able to work remotely and in a field that is currently more relevant than ever.
Sherpany produces a meeting management solution that allows firms to organize formal meetings: with agendas, supporting documents, preparations, voting, task assignment and minutes all done in one elegant and self-explanatory software application.
While small and mid-sized businesses are feeling the brunt of the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, everyone from major banks, insurers, and manufacturers to NGOs are facing difficult times and need to reach business-critical decisions.
Remote meetings are now the norm, and our software has become very appealing to leadership committees everywhere.
The Swiss eSolidarity campaign
Understanding that there is a need for companies to react quickly in order to secure the livelihoods of their employees and also meet obligations to customers, Sherpany initiated the eSolidarity campaign.
In true agile fashion, Sherpany also got several other Swiss startups and growth-stage firms onboard to offer their services and expertise to help others quickly adapt to the new world in which we find ourselves.
The start-ups represented in the eSolidarity campaign offer a broad spectrum of products and services. With Neon, you can eliminate the need for touching cash, pay with contact-less cards and stop spreading germs.
CARU is a digital roommate for the elderly needing assistance in their home and connects them to healthcare providers and family members. While many companies like Sherpany can move to remote work without friction, this is not always possible for certain sectors.
That's where Beekeeper helps. A mobile-first application, Beekeeper has already been working with companies like Heathrow Airport, Dominos Pizza and Holcim to communicate better with their workers.
There are also many other firms offering unique solutions to issues from finance (Rivero) and bookkeeping (Bexio) to baby food (yamo), parttime staffing (Coople) and delivery (LuckaBox).
Solidarity means each party gives what it can to help the other
The idea of solidarity that these firms are offering is simple, with bureaucracy free onboarding and usage. They understand that getting budget approval takes time and effort, both of which are better invested right now in solving the problems at hand.
The hope is that once the crisis is over, customers will reimburse the startups the value of the service they have received. And if they can afford it, that they would continue to use these services.
For me, the eSolidarity campaign is a very Swiss answer to a highly complex problem because first and foremost, it is based on trust.
If you have ever taken the train in Switzerland, you will notice you can board without anyone checking a ticket. There is trust that you will only board with a valid ticket.
The same thing goes for the eSolidarity program. There is no obligation to pay or continue using the service after the crisis, but a trust that companies will do their best to support the startups that helped them.
How to contribute to the eSolidarity campaign
As we enter the second week of the coronavirus crisis in Switzerland and many other countries, I hope that everyone reading this article is (and stays) healthy and safe.
If your firm is looking for a solution for dealing with the Corona crisis, visit the eSolidarity website to see if one of Switzerland’s many tech startups has a fitting service or product.
Furthermore, if you are a Swiss startup with a solution not yet listed, there is a form to become part of this initiative. Solidarity is needed today more than at any time in our lives.
As Mark Kermode said: "Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright it’s not the end."
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