The current crisis triggered by Covid-19 has caused problems for businesses and for small companies and startups in particular. Nevertheless, huge opportunities are also arising for reinvention and even growth, as some of Colombia’s most successful entrepreneurs assure.
Entrepreneurship has always been a journey of challenges and perseverance. In situations like the present even more uncertainty can arise for entrepreneurs and small business owners, but now is precisely the time when the most opportunities for reinvention and growth present themselves, as discussed in a webinar organized by Invest in Bogota that featured Camilo Sardi, the founder of Maestrik; Javier Cardona, the founder of 1Doc3; and Julián Torres, the creator of Fitpal.
Analyze the outlook and adjust your products
Forced isolation took the whole world by surprise. “Everything turned on its head and, as is typical in entrepreneurship, you have to reinvent yourself very quickly,” says Julián Torres of Fitpal, a platform whose business was based on enabling people to attend gyms in person. However, with all such facilities closed for at least a month, the app seemed to have lost its purpose.
“We made a very rapid shift to the digital medium (…) very often in these situations, when you are forced to become 100% digital, there is an opportunity to move forward, because it is either that or you disappear,” says Torres. Out of this necessity emerged Fitpal Home, a service that is now taking gyms to users’ homes through video calls and live streaming. A sales success.
Something similar happened with Maestrik, an educational platform that offers academic reinforcement and classes in over 300 subjects. According to its founder, Camilo Sardi, formerly 70% of the classes were taught in-person and only 30% took place online. Everything changed a few weeks ago.
“In view of this we had to adjust the product and provided some training for teachers enabling them to give online classes. Fortunately, we have a workforce of over 4,000 teachers here in Colombia, so what we are doing is giving them more work because the online classes have increased,” claims Sardi.
Believe in your idea. This could be the moment to keep growing
Contrary to a completely negative outlook, this could be a time for business growth if your products and services are adapted to the current market conditions. The medical portal 1Doc3, for instance, has included a Coronavirus risk test among its services, through which it aims to identify people’s level of risk not only in Colombia but also in Mexico, where the use of its services has grown considerably during this situation.
For its part, Maestrik has managed to attract more than 50,000 new users per month in Colombia and Mexico, and has created a new line of business: Maestrik Technologies, which helps entrepreneurs to put their ideas into action and grow.
By starting to create classes related to fitness and wellbeing, Fitpal says it is shifting to a “business model that is much more akin to a television channel or a content production studio” and is assessing its internationalization as, unlike before, it will no longer need physical gym facilities.
Despite the global economic uncertainty, this could be the time to attract the attention of investors. In the words of Juan Gabriel Pérez, the executive director of Invest in Bogota, “this could be a good time to invest and support projects, if the current stock market conditions are taken into account.”
Ask questions. Learn from others
According to Pérez, “we are ever more open to collaboration, which nowadays is the basic common denominator in the business sector, not like before when everything was an industrial secret.” And this is exactly the way that Bogota’s solid system of entrepreneurship is organized: through collaborative networks, incubators, project accelerators and other players that act in coordination towards a common goal: to see companies grow.
Javier Cardona of 1Doc3 says that “looking for help and crying out for help is great. That is what has to be done, and it is not viewed poorly”. This is precisely the way that networks of collaboration can be formed and synergies between companies can be found. “Part of starting to act is starting to interact”, says Julián Torres of Fitpal.
Make the most of technology and create value
An important lesson provided by the pandemic is that all businesses must have a digital component. “It does not mean thinking about complex technological development or an app, because that is a big mistake (…) before building an app, you can do tons of things instead of spending the money involved in app development,” advises Javier Cardona of 1Doc3.
For that reason, when starting out, and depending on the type of product or service, it is best to use another kind of already existing platform with a better cost-efficiency ratio, such as Instagram or WhatsApp. Companies need to “find a way to sell more through these platforms that already exist,” Cardona points out.
This also enables you to get to know clients better and “carry out controlled tests to make sure mistakes are short-lived and inexpensive,” advises Julián Torres of Fitpal.
Finally, as Torres states, at present the world is looking for profitable businesses that also contribute to society in some way. “Businesses that manage to integrate that solution effectively are those that will have the most access to capital,” he assures.