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2020.03.31 08:00

Startups and Covid-19: Who will thrive and who will struggle?

LRT.lt2020.03.31 08:00

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis is noticeable in a variety of businesses, with particularly severe consequences for the tourism, entertainment and cultural sectors. What will be the impact of quarantine on Lithuanian startups? 

The period can be a time of recession, but also a great opportunity to adapt and offer the market what it needs today, according to a press release by MITA, the government's agency for science, innovation and technology.

“People spend a lot of time at home and online. There are certainly opportunities if a startup sells or offers something that will improve peoples’ lives in this difficult time,” said Gintas Kimtys, MITA’s acting director.

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“Examples include home delivery, online learning, home-based solutions, virtual consultations or even tools that can simply brighten your mood,” he added.

According to a survey conducted by Startup Lithuania, a state agency for startup development, even with the global downturn caused by the pandemic, some companies today have seen an increase in business.

“This situation created by Covid-19 can be described by some sectors as a period of new opportunities. Examples include startups in education technology (EdTech), e-commerce, food delivery services and the gaming industry,“ said the head of Startup Lithuania, Roberta Rudokienė.

Opportunities also present themselves to those who can find solutions to today's problems, like helping doctors, according to Živilė Glaveckaitė, the founde rof bznstart.lt, a Lithuanian business news platform.

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“The fact that as many as 30 percent of doctors in China are infected with coronavirus shows that special attention and decision-making is needed in this area,” she said.

According to Glaveckaitė, startups around the world are beginning to fill this market.

“Solutions are now being developed to remotely monitor patients with the coronavirus. Robots are capable of disinfecting various spaces and providing people with food, while bracelets are capable of monitoring temperature, and there is the UV light that kills 99.9 percent of germs on mobile devices,” she said.

“There are a lot of opportunities, the question is who will show leadership and mobilise to achieve results,” said Glaveckaitė.

Startups that don’t adapt will suffer

According to Rudokienė from Startup Lithuania, startups that are directly influenced by the quarantine will struggle most.

“The tourism sector will be the most affected one, as well as startups offering event-related services and those directly involved with physical shops, restaurants, or other places with restricted access at this time,” she said.

The biggest challenge will be to quickly redirect resources where they can create value today, said Glaveckaitė from bznstart.lt.

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“Startups will only be negatively affected if they remain at the level of ideas without making changes,” she said. “It will also be difficult for those who are just following their current direction and not trying to open up to a different mindset – not necessarily inventing something else, perhaps offering their resources to someone in need, and thus being able to reorient and utilise the current situation.”

MITA’s Kimtys emphasised that startups, even in restricted sectors, must look for opportunities to survive.

“For example, startups related to the sports, beauty or education industries can provide virtual training. It is also important to remember that these services will become more relevant when the pandemic ends, so it is important to mobilise resources and adapt in order to survive in this difficult period,” he is quoted in the press release.

For startups and other businesses that have innovative ideas and want to be more efficient, MITA runs a project, TechHub.

Its experts will advise on strategy, business financing, tax incentives and other topics. MITA expects around a hundred innovations to be created as a result.