During the Covid crisis, I’ve been regularly discussing the dramatic amplification of inequities that already existed. From a business perspective, some businesses have benefited during this crisis, while other businesses (and entire categories of business) are being wiped off the face of the earth.
Here’s a blunt statement of what’s going on that showed up in a Slack channel yesterday.
Working through my market portfolio this am and thought This metric would be of interest to this group. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Microsoft have added 3 trillion dollars to their value since COVID started. This is a deep wealth transfer from small businesses. These 6 companies have more market cap than the entire emerging market sector.
I’d like to introduce a new project – Can Do Colorado.
Covid has had a dramatic negative impact on local (or main street) businesses. Energize Colorado was set up in March to help companies with less than 500 employees survive and emerge from the Covid crisis. As part of the rapid scale-up of a new non-profit (now hundreds of active volunteers across the State), Energize Colorado has worked with many other non-profits supporting small businesses and has engaged in several public-private partnerships such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.
Can Do Colorado showcases small businesses’ hard work across the state through a series of short videos that strengthen customer confidence by connecting Colorado’s consumers with small businesses. The campaign extends a direct call to consumers to support businesses within their communities that are open, adhering to public health orders, and following best practices.
None of these activities would go anywhere without the deep, embedded, and optimistic spirit of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Starting today, let’s all embrace Can Do Colorado and help our local small businesses survive and emerge from this crisis.
We’ve learned many things in the last six months that help slow the spread of the Covid, such as social distancing, outdoor vs. indoor activity, and mask-wearing. We’ve also learned a lot about how to treat the disease.
But, regardless of what you think of the severity or impact of Covid, the transmission characteristics of the disease remain unchanged.
Many people worldwide, and in Colorado, are working tirelessly on controlling and mitigating the disease. Technology-based solutions around exposure notifications have been under discussion since April (here’s a post of mine from 4/23/20 titled Names Matter: Exposure Alerting vs. Digital Contact Tracing.)
Last week, the State of Colorado rolled out an exposure notification application built on and integrated into the Apple/Google approach. It’s privacy-first – completely anonymous, confidential – and extremely simple to turn on and use. In one week, over 10% of Colorado residents have enabled it.
The team at the State, led by Sarah Tuneberg, have been working intensely on this for many months. They’ve evaluated many different approaches, made privacy a critical feature, along with ease of implementation and use.
I’ve also been deep in this with several other initiatives, including a national Covid Tech Taskforce led by John Borthwick and Andrew McLaughlin. After seeing many different tech approaches, I’m confident Colorado has chosen the right one and built an application that can help mitigate the spread of Covid.
Coloradans – please help each other keep each other safe from Covid!
Since Covid started, I’ve had many conversations about office space. In April, almost all of our companies were unable to use their office space because of stay at home orders. Today, even though strict stay-at-home orders are no longer in place in most of the country, the vast majority of our companies are still in a primary work-from-home mode.
Most of these companies are locked into long term office leases. Over the past few months, they’ve all tried to negotiate some relief with their landlord. While, in a few cases, there have been small rent deferrals in exchange for tacking on a few months at the end of the lease, and in a few other cases landlords have offered “meaningful cash now to buy out the lease” deals, these have been few and far between.
Most of the time, the answer is some version of “Tough luck.” And, if you dig into the lease agreement, it usually reinforces the message of “tough luck.”
In a moment where landlords could generate enormous goodwill, especially with smaller companies, I believe they are doing the opposite. Rather than showing some flexibility, they are telling their customer (the tenant) who literally cannot use the physical space they are renting, “sorry – not my problem.”
All over our portfolio, I’m seeing CEOs increasingly asking the question, “why am I spending all this money for something I can’t use?” Since work-from-home is continuing, and these CEOs realize that remote or distributed work, rather than having an expensive, central office, is attractive both culturally and economically for many of their employees.
When we discuss this, I always ask the question, “If you could allocate 100% of your rent expense to your employees, would this be a positive or a negative to your employees?” That’s easy to answer, and when I remind CEOs that their all-in cost of being in an office is probably double what they pay in rent, they quickly realize it’s not a zero-sum game.
I think we are in a phase of total denial by the commercial real estate industry about the dynamics going on. It’s a classic example of short-term, zero-sum thinking, which is antithetical to my way of approaching things, so it grates on me.
I hypothesize that there are massive structural, cultural, and financial changes that are happening that are being exacerbated by the behavior of the commercial real estate owners. We’ll see, but I know the amount of money that we are indirectly spending on commercial real estate via our portfolio will be dramatically less in 2023 than it is today.
Colorado now has a statewide mask requirement.
Individuals will be required to wear face coverings for Public Indoor Spaces if they are 11 and older, unless they have a medical condition or disability. Kids 10 and under don’t need to wear a mask. All businesses must post signage and refuse entry or service to people not wearing masks.
It is well understood that wearing a mask substantially helps slow the spread of Covid.
I can’t, for the life of me, understand why the message isn’t getting through. The mask prevents other people from you if you are infected. And, you often won’t know if you are infected, since you could be pre-symptomatic (which is often confused with asymptomatic) for 14 days.
So, let’s keep this simple. You can have Covid, not have symptoms, but be infecting other people for up to 14 days. Wearing a mask significantly cuts down on your spread of the virus if you have it, because the mask catches your spread of the Covid “droplets.”
The mask doesn’t do a lot to protect you from others. So, if you say “I’m not afraid of getting Covid”, that doesn’t matter since the mask doesn’t protect you. It protects others from you. And, you can’t know if you are infectious.
Some people will say “I’ve had Covid so I don’t have to wear a mask.” That’s not true either, for several reasons, including social convention (if we all wear masks, then it’s socially acceptable; there is still ambiguity about how long immunity lasts; there are some concerns, but not scientific evidence, that you can still be a spreader if you think you’ve recovered.)
If you wear a mask, you are respecting your fellow humans. And, if we all wear masks, we can dramatically slow the spread of Covid.
So please, wear a mask.
I woke up thinking “this has been the strangest quarter of my life.”
I used to think in days, weeks, months, quarters, years, and decades. I stopped doing that around the time I turned 50 because I was exhausted from the rhythm.
I’ve been thinking about Q2 the last few days, which has been the Covid quarter. March was pre-quarter insanity as March 11th through the end of the month was completely disorienting and chaotic. I wrote the Three Crisis post on March 31st, which meant that I had gotten my mind, at least at a high level, around what was going on. Near the end of the post, I wrote:
Finally, this is not just going to “be over.” That’s magical thinking. There will be many different phases of this, but if you prepare for a long-term experience, you’ll be in a much healthier emotional place. I personally believe that April is going to be an awful month in the United States as the true extent of the health crisis finally hits in our country. The actions we are taking right now will determine whether April is the worst of it, but know that May will be rough, and the summer will be unlike “a normal summer” as, even in the best case, we being existing in the context of meaningful long-term societal adjustments.
April was awful. When it was finally over, Amy and I joked that April had 92 days in it. We ushered in May together on a Friday night with Life Dinner at home and then proceeded to have another miserable month with 57 days in it. I took a week off the grid in the middle of May, just as I was about to break.
On May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. A fourth crisis, one of racial equity, was added to the mix, and while June only felt like it has lasted 43 days, it has been exhausting.
Unfortunately, I’m incredibly pessimistic about July. For the last 30 days, our country has engaged in the magical thinking I worried about at the end of March, and the Covid caseload has exploded. I get that it is summer, people can’t handle being cooped up in their houses, and everyone wants life to go back to the way it was before the emergence of Covid.
I simply don’t think that is going to happen. Ever.
Q2 sucked so much worse for so many people other than me. I’m healthy. Amy and I are safe. We are isolated in a comfortable place and enjoy being together all the time. I’m able to work from home without any significant challenges. Amy loves me, and my dogs love me. I’m aware of my privilege and thankful for it.
I fear July is going to be awful, just like April was awful. I hope I’m wrong. I really want to be wrong. I’m usually optimistic. I want to be optimistic at this moment. But I don’t see any signals anywhere that I should be. So, I’m emotionally prepared for a really rough month.
When I reflect on that, I realize that what weighs on me are mostly things I can’t control. So, as I’ve been doing for the last three months, I’m going to continue to put my energy into things I can impact, be available to many who I can help and support, and try to affect positive change. But, unlike the past three months, I’m going to take better care of myself.
And that starts now, with a run in circles around my 40 acres.
Misty Robotics’ goal is to create a robot platform (hardware and software) that any developer can use to build useful and immediately applicable robot applications.
A number of early customers have started building solutions. When the Covid crisis hit, companies started to realize that to be safe, checking people’s temperature on entry into a building would be a powerful preventative measure. So, Misty decided to build a specific application for temperature screening.
It took about 30 days to go from idea to beta application that is validated in office environments. The application includes:
- Automated, contactless, and touchless temperature screening
- Interactive health question survey with configurable screening questions
- Customizable greetings
- Immediate pass/fail result determination and recording
- SMS or email notifications/alerts
- Web-based administration and reporting
- Choice of 25 languages
- Polite and engaging interaction experience
I think it’s an awesome alternative to the approach of having a human being do the screening. The idea of having a human greeter temperature screen people on entry into an office environment just sounds like an unsafe, tedious, and uncomfortable job to me right now.
Misty is in beta with this and already has several paid beta customers. If you are interested in learning more, sign up for a demo.
Oh yeah. That Covid thing is still around. And in the US, it’s getting worse again because it never went away as much as our magical thinking hoped it did.
I’m an optimistic worrier (like Madeleine Albright, who explores that concept with Tim Ferriss in this wonderful podcast that I listened to while running in loops around my 40 acres.)
This morning I read Joanne Wilson’s post Where Are We Going? and nodded my head up and down all the way through it. She starts off with “There is so much change going on that it is hard to pinpoint where we are going? One thing is for sure, we are chartering new territories.” Then, she covers COVID-19, Trump’s Tulsa Rally, Protests, Facebook, Hydroxychloroquine, Juneteenth, Bolton’s book, Voting day as a holiday, the Senate, Healthcare, Consumption behavior, anger, incompetence and wraps it up with
“There is no doubt we are living in a changing world but the bigger question is “where are we going?”
Yup. All those same things are wandering around inside my brain.
And then CovidTennis. Djokovic thought playing unprotected and horsing around was a good idea. He’s not the only one. It will be informative to learn how well athletes recover from Covid and if there are any lasting downstream effects. Generally, I’m a big Joker fan, but c’mon.
The first is one with me where Brian is the interviewer titled Brad Feld (Foundry Group) on never having “fake days”, how to be a better ally, the impact of second order effects, and the failure of warning systems to warn you when they are failing.
The other is from The Full Ratchet and is an interview with Brian titled Breaking into VC; Excelling at Goldman Sachs; and the Origin of BLCK VC (Brian Hollins).
Brian did a great job with both of them.
While I was trying to get my soul to reset a little yesterday, I worried about short attention spans. As humans, we naturally have short attention spans that are amplified by the extremely short attention span of the media.
We are at the beginning of two new crises intermingled with multiple other crises we are dealing with as a result of Covid. The four crises that Covid has amplified (so far) are health, economic, mental health, and racial inequality. But they are not the only crises we are dealing with (anyone remember gender inequity, especially in tech, or #MeToo?)
Sustained leadership to address each crisis – over the long term – is required. I’m committed to that and I encourage everyone else who is writing, listening, talking, and trying to affect positive change to make a long term committment.
I’ve seen many posts and a few videos from white male CEOs talking to their companies about Black Lives Matter. I thought this one, from Bryan Leach, CEO of iBotta, was spectacular.
Emmanuel Acho was even better.
On Wednesday, June 3rd, a team led by the COVID Tech Task Force is putting on the first of several free public conferences on the topic of Contact Tracing and Technology. Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, TechCrunch, Betaworks Studios, and Hangar are also part of organizing the effort.
I’ve gone extremely deep down the contact tracing and exposure notification rabbit hole. In February, I had never heard the phrase contact tracing. Today, I not only understand it well, I have a lot of perspective on the current state of contact tracing technology, along with emerging “new tech solutions” to contact tracing, and the incredible challenge of operationalizing these new technologies.
More importantly (and thankfully), several tech leaders motivated by Harper Reed recognized that the tech community that began talking about “contact tracing” in April was creating massive confusion given the long history of contact tracing. The tech folks (me included) tried to separate it from classical contact tracing by calling it “digital contact tracing.” But, this wasn’t really contact tracing at all and needed a different name. Harper labeled it Exposure Alerting which has finally found its true name as “Exposure Notification.”
Contact Tracing and Exposure Notification are different but related. And the way contact tracing is currently implemented is on a spectrum from legacy software systems to paper/whiteboard tracking. Not surprisingly, a number of tech companies and consulting firms have “contact tracing products” coming out. Some are excellent. Many either inadequate, not contact tracing, or mostly vaporware.
Two weeks ago, on the bi-monthly call that Fred Wilson and I do with several of the leaders of the Covid-19 Task Force, we suggested that they do a series of public events – as inclusive as they could – to help convene anyone who is interested around the issues of contact tracing, exposure alerting, health care, public policy, and technology. Fred wrote about this yesterday. We are both delighted that this has come together so quickly as the public forum on this is badly needed.
This event has several key speakers along with a bunch of demos of emerging products. It’ll be three hours long and live streamed on the web.
RSVP to attend. And, if you are working on a contact tracing or exposure notification application and want to be part of the demo mix, send me an email and I’ll get you connected.
Energize Colorado, working with Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), has just released business templates that offer best practices, direction, and information on how businesses can restart operations safely and effectively.
These templates are based on OEDIT’s recommendations along with input from Kroger who has been a leader in evolving better practices as an essential business.
- Part One: Let’s Keep COVID-19 Out of Your Workplace: Best practices in screening your workers and customers and how they need to be balanced with privacy and HIPAA concerns.
- Part Two: Let’s Not Pass it Along: Learn the underlying principles of social distancing to support creation of specific guidelines for your business and industry.
- Part Three: Let’s Plan for When it Does Happen: COVID-19 will come to virtually every business. Learn how to limit the impact and spread through your workforce.
- Part Four: Let’s Care for Our People: Special programs to check in frequently with workers and tools to respond to what you learn.
As businesses start opening up in Colorado, we are entering a very tricky phase of the Covid crisis. I appreciate the work that the 200+ volunteers at Energize Colorado are doing to help the companies with less than 500 employees navigate things.