It has been more than a month, and life in Amsterdam has been slowing down and adjusting to the pandemic. Businesses have shut their doors, public gatherings have been banned, and strict restrictions have been implemented should you leave your house. Amid this global economic crisis, working from home, social distancing and self-isolation, we’ve been thinking about what some of the leading startups in Amsterdam have been up to? And how are they meandering through COVID-19 crisis?
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Speaking to different tech startups in a variety of sector and asking them about their survival strategies — in what ways the novel coronavirus outbreak has affected their opportunities, and how — we found out that they are discovering new ways to cope and be creative during these unprecedented times. They all are finding unique approaches to meet newly-shifted demands of their customers. Above all, they are still hopeful about a new future.
If you are running a startup and looking for some inspiration then go through these tips by Sabine Bartelse – Van Zeijl, Marketing Manager OneFit, Perry Oostdam, Co-Founder & CEO of Recruitee, Rajiv Laigsingh, Founder of Bringly, Marnix Broer, co-founder of StuDocu, and Piet Hein van Dam, CEO and Founder, Clear.
‘A strong foundation, creative mindset and a flexible team’
Known as the ‘Netflix of fitness’ in the Netherlands, OneFit is a monthly subscription-based service that gives access to the best gyms and studios in the main cities of the Netherlands including Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and more.
On dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, Sabine Bartelse – Van Zeijl, Marketing Manager OneFit says, “OneFit is a sports platform which gives members access to 1200+ gyms and studios. Since March 15th, all the doors of our partners are closed, and we froze all the active memberships. After that, we managed with our partners and members to come up with something new. We are offering OneFit Live for a few weeks now.”
‘Stream unlimited live classes from your home and discover workouts from dozens of gyms and studios. Easily via the OneFit app and website.’
“This is a way our partners can still earn some income, and our members can stay fit from their home. We believe that as the crisis is not over yet, but for now ‘a strong foundation, a creative mindset and a flexible team’ should be our mantra for success.”
Founded in 2012 by Serge Brabander and ex-basketball player Camille Richardson, the ambitious startup has raised €5.2 million funding from leading investors like Peak Capital, INKEF and more. In 2016 and 2018, OneFit also expanded its wings to Germany and Spain.
‘Necessity is the mother of all innovation’
Clear, the healthtech startup from Amsterdam, which focuses on improving health through nutrition precision completed its first investment round during the pandemic. They scored funding of almost a million euros from investors headed by Healthy.Capital and early-stage venture capital and startup generator Antler. Other investors included Omri Amir (founder EasyToBook), Paul Veugen (founder and Usabila Human), Wouter Broekhof (founder of Wakoopa) and Peter Driessen (founder of Spil Games)
On raising a successful round during COVID-time and talking about corona times, Piet Hein van Dam, CEO and Founder, Clear says, “We’re suddenly experiencing a huge demand from healthcare including designing personalised diet programs to fight obesity. There is a correlation between overweight and corona mortality rate. Clear collects the data and evidence to personalise someone’s diet and support (health)-care outside the walls of the hospitals. Both very topical. These are all very important yet long term projects. From day-to-day, we see some participants postponing their Clear program, not having the (mental-)space to work on their diet during the lockdown. And others joining because of the lockdown, because they want to stay in shape (the trip to the fridge has become a short one).”
Further, he adds, “None of us knows if and how we will survive. We are only humble co-inhabitants of this earth. Yet, we must realise our role and mission as startups. We are collectively a part to recovery and drivers of new and more employment for the GDP growth. By far, the best thing to do right now is to drive your startup through this storm, and answer to the calling that we all had when we started our new venture: solve the world’s biggest problems. Necessity is the mother of all innovation. We have no excuses. We must find and be those exceptional people to get out of this crisis.”
Launched in September 2019, Clear claims that hundreds have signed up for the program, including Dana Albers (Dutch Olympic snowboarder), Yuri Leeflang (radio host and biohacker), and Radmilo Soda (personal trainer and known to the Dutch TV program Obese). Further, Clear expects to grow to 100,000 new customers in the next few years.
‘Now is the time to join forces’
The sustainable Dutch delivery platform Bringly makes its software available to retailers with a physical store in Amsterdam. In this way, retailers can transform their store into a local hub and deliver via bicycle couriers within 2 hours or the same evening. Further, retailers can also use their physical stores to process online orders and reduce the logistical pressure on distribution centres.
Talking about online e-com and COVID-19 impact, Founder Rajiv Laigsingh says,” We saw a significant increase in registrations and same-day deliveries from both local as big retailers. The pandemic resulted in a shift to online orders. Some of our customers experienced even a higher peak in online orders than in December, last year. This also increased the logistic pressure on their warehouses. The traditional carriers couldn’t always cope with this peak, and thus a lot of deliveries were delayed with 3-4 days.”
“We, therefore, decided to open our software for retailers so they could start shipping the same day from their physical stores via professional bike couriers. This way, retailers could decrease the logistic pressure and ship quicker in a sustainable way, even during this pandemic.”
Laigsingh is convinced that retailers with a physical store can also benefit from the current circumstances. Due to the shorter delivery distances, a bicycle courier can deliver faster, more efficiently and more sustainably. “Now is the time to join forces and bring the store to the customer.”
As a tip, he shares, “It’s important to be creative, innovative and keep working together. This is the time to work together and add a significant value to your customers. We should rather focus now on adding value and helping retailers out than putting profit first. We’re all in this together and by working together and keep creating creative solutions, we feel this will also increase the chance of coming together successfully.”
‘Look for opportunities rather than threats’
StuDocu, an Amsterdam-based edtech startup that provides students with free study resources, is a household name among Dutch students. Founded in 2013, the Dutch startup is also active in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Canada, Australia and more. Sharing his experience on the pandemic, Marnix Broer, the co-founder of StuDocu says, “At the beginning of the lockdown and social distancing, it was a bit scary. When the country announced a complete shutdown of universities, we saw a direct decline in usage. However, after a couple of weeks, when they announced they announced online schooling, the usage increased dramatically. For example, in Italy, where we were growing around 80% year-on-year, our growth jumped to above 130%. Overall the coronavirus has a positive impact for us.”
He also adds, “Whether a technology company or not, one should look for opportunities rather than threats. Whenever companies perform in a crisis and keep investing in their business in terms of expansion into new cities/countries or diversifying their product – they come out of it, as strongest. A crisis is a perfect time to prove that you are a real entrepreneur. I know that it is a bit easy to say for someone who’s business is not impacted by the virus that much, but I do think it is the hard truth.”
‘Perform a financial stress test’
Another Amsterdam-based startup, Recruitee, as the name suggests, is a hiring platform that helps teams streamline their hiring efforts and stay efficient while selecting the right candidates. Founded in 2015 by Paul Smoczyk and Perry Oostdam, the Dutch startup aims to focus on their product, build a sustainable team and make the right decisions about the direction of the company during the pandemic.
Perry Oostdam, Co-Founder & CEO of the dynamic HRtech startup, says, “Yes, for better or worse, we saw a 25% more churn and contraction in our ‘small user’ segment (e.g. companies with <10 jobs live). However, in contrast to this – in the SMB segment, we are still seeing substantial deals coming through, indicating that we are also an economical choice for the upper market. Overall, it is safe to say that while hiring slows down, most companies are scouting talent pro-actively to prepare for an uplift again.”
On what advice they can offer other startups, Oostdam says, “Turn your financial planning upside down. Make a ‘worst-case’ scenario – or ‘stress test’ as we call it, to see what level of contraction and churn is green, orange or red. In our case, although we see higher churn numbers than usual, it helped put our most important metrics into perspective, keep our calm and focus.
Main image credits: mangsaabguru/Shutterstock
Did these survival strategies and tips inspire you? Are you fighting the crisis like a gladiator leader? Want to share your pandemic story? Write to us at [email protected].