At first glance, no one would confidently claim that the middle of a pandemic could ever be labeled as the best time to start a startup. After all, the economy’s certainly seen better days, investors are more conservative of their investment choices, and you — as an aspiring entrepreneur — might have found that it was considerably more difficult to establish a startup in 2020.
With that being said, Albert Einstein once said, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunities”. And LITSLINK VP of Growth, Sergiy Tsymbal seems to think that Einstein’s wise words couldn’t serve as a more fitting description of 2020’s startup landscape. He firmly believes that “this time of crisis is a time of opportunity”.
Tsymbal’s experience with startups isn’t limited to his work as the VP of Growth at LITSLINK. He is also the co-founder and COO of Teleport 360 — a startup specializing in robotics — as well as the co-founder of the nonprofit SnC Museum. Tsymbal attributes his well-rounded knowledge on all angles of the startup lifecycle, and the building blocks behind establishing a successful company, to his experience in juggling a multitude of different roles within this industry. “It’s highly beneficial because I know every aspect when it comes to startups,” he says, “from building it, to investing in it and developing the products for it, too”.
Founded in 2014, LITSLINK seeks to provide innovative IT solutions, such as business analysis consultations, software development services, and marketing strategies to startups and SME businesses. The company currently consists of over 220 motivated specialists and technology entrepreneurs. They specialize in building software solutions for their startup clients, and their key services include the development of websites, mobile applications, SaaS, DevOps, augmented and virtual reality services, AI; as well as continuous maintenance and support throughout all processes.
Money never just disappears
As VP of Growth, Tsymbal is in charge of finding solutions that will result in the growth of the company. His roles include leading the opening of new branches, establishing and developing LITSLINK’s international brand image, handling sales, improving the acquisition process of large projects, and diversifying the company’s sales channels.
Despite the increased risk factors of beginning a startup during these trying times, Tsymbal stands by his opinion that those who wish to embark on their startup journey or continue with their existing plans, shouldn’t hesitate to do so.
“If you’re thinking of running a startup right now, I want to say that the startup landscape is still there. It’s huge. There is capital, there is money, it has not disappeared.”
While there are added risks in launching a startup during a pandemic, Tsymbal argues that there will always be risks involved in building a business. “It’s important to identify the risks involved and to know which ones you can and cannot take,” he says, “but this new reality is the new normal and I’m sure that huge players will appear during this crisis.”
Also interesting: Antifragility – When Systems Benefit from Chaos and Volatility
Tsymbal comes up with Zoom as an example of a company that managed to benefit from the crisis. “Look at Zoom for example,” he says, “a few months before [the pandemic] not many people knew about it. But everyone is relying on it now.” He concludes that if there are individuals who are looking to build a new service or product that could better people’s lives during COVID-19, now is the right time to take action.
A key piece of information that Tsymbal would like aspiring entrepreneurs to understand is how critical the Time to Market is right now. “They need to act as fast as possible. The faster you go on the market, the more opportunities you’ll find.” Aside from the common-sense advice of acting quickly but spending wisely, Tsymbal recommends that early startup founders should create a product sample within their first few months, make it public, provide it to their customers and receive feedback on it.
“During this crisis, startups can’t afford to take over a year to produce a functioning product, you need to be able to demonstrate a functional version of your product to customers within the first two or three months.”
Time to Market refers to the length of time it takes to establish an idea, create a product for it, and launch it onto the market. The early indications of a startup’s product or services’ marketability will allow businesses to ensure their profitability. “From there, startups can proceed to further development of their product’s features, recruit more team members, obtain a development partner, as well as an outsourcing partner.”
Scale up with a strategy
Early startups can often neglect to adopt proper marketing strategies, for fear of its notorious high-costs — especially during these challenging times. According to Tsymbal’s expert opinion, a company’s marketing strategy is just as important as their actual business. “If you don’t market your product properly, then it doesn’t matter how great it is, nobody will know about it.” While Tsymbal does not deny that a businesses’ marketing expense could match, and even rival, their product’s development costs, he does suggest that marketing a product is now easier than ever.
“Right now, most of the marketing takes place online, which is especially useful if you’re an influencer,” he says, “crowdfunding is also a good option, you can gain interest and funds with something like an Indiegogo campaign.”
Also interesting: About the Neutrality of Risk
Outsourcing is another business expense that Tsymbal warns for startups not to neglect in their budget. Many skills and expertise are required to ensure a startup’s success, and it’s rare for a company to be able to effectively strategize, build, and market a product without any sort of external help. Outsourcing allows a company to rely on other businesses to provide a high-quality service to them. “It’s difficult to imagine how a startup can survive without it [outsourcing] in the modern business environment,” Tsymbal says, “it is actually more cost-effective for businesses to rely on experts that may not have been locally available.”
When asked about the possibility of startups initially possessing all the necessary skillsets to handle all aspects of their operations, Tsymbal concluded that startups may be able to “build everything by themselves and they might not want to outsource initially, but as they grow, they’ll soon find that they won’t have enough time to handle everything.” In short, there are infinite benefits to outsourcing. However, the two major advantages would point to how it can allow a company to reduce certain operating costs and let businesses focus on more strategically important tasks.
Tsymbal recommends early startups to keep four things in mind when searching for an appropriate outsourcing vendor. These include the capacity to deliver a final product, compatible communication, level of experience, and the size of their company. “If you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go with a huge outsourcing vendor because you cannot guarantee that they’ll be able to allocate enough of their time and resources to your business.”
All in all, Tsymbal does not believe that this pandemic is the worst thing to happen to the startup landscape. “While there are definitely industries that have suffered from COVID-19, startups operating in gaming, entertainment, eLearning, and so on have thrived,” he says. Tsymbal believes that many traditional businesses could benefit from implementing a web app or mobile app elements as an addition or part of their services.
“Even with social distancing and lockdowns, businesses are still able to succeed if their customers are able to have access to their services at their fingertips.”
Tsymbal concluded our conversation by reiterating his belief that those who wish to set up a startup shouldn’t hesitate to do so because of the crisis. He poetically described the pandemic as “a battle” and “a war”, in which all of us share a common enemy and that we all need “to win”. “People are very conscious and they understand that being a player on the market is important. It’s important to use products, it’s important to buy something, and, similarly, it’s important to sell something.”
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Pablo Nidam. The picture “more money” has been prepared by Constantin Stanciu. The photo “working in the times of COVID-19” was taken by Rainer Puster. The infographics have been provided by LITSLINK.
Source: The author interviewed Sergey Tsymbal. Jordan Bar Am, Laura Furstenthal, Felicitas Jorge, Erik Rot (McKinsey & Company) / Felix Richter (Statista) / Luis Gonçalves (Evolution4All)