(Photo: Former eSports King Exec Amit Raizada)
For many in the general public, the word “startup” conjures up a certain image. Whether groups of twentysomething Harvard and MIT grads wearing sweatshirts and playing ping-pong or office spaces with generous open floor plans and profuse natural light—the image of the archetypal startup has been ingrained in popular culture.
Amit Raizada, investor, entrepreneur, and CEO of Spectrum Business Ventures, sees it differently. Raizada was previously a well known and respected figure in the eSports world who has since moved onto other ventures but was kind enough to share his wisdom with us.
“In a year defined by crisis and upheaval, bookended by a deadly pandemic and contentious election, I cannot help but think that businesses have a lot to learn about nimble management and organization from our country’s blossoming startup sector,” Raizada said. “I work closely on a regular basis with a variety of startups from around the country. In my twenty years of experience, startups have been some of the most efficiently managed ventures I’ve come across.
At some point over the last seven months, nearly all organizations have been forced to abruptly reevaluate their business models, retool their products, and implement new protocols and procedures—both internally and for the public, Raizada said.
For well-established firms with enshrined company mores and institutions, this has often proved difficult. After years of practice and calculation were subverted by a mid-March week, companies and ventures around the country struggled to find their footing and adapt to this unfortunate new reality, Raizada said. To firms endeavoring to find their purpose within this mire, startup-thinking can offer solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all a lesson about just how quickly our everyday lives can be inexorably transformed. When the virus arrived in the United States, offices were moved online seemingly overnight—coworkers were barred from collaborating with their teammates in person, management from convening employees in many non-essential workplaces. Organizations needed solutions, quickly.
“In this situation, startups were excellent models,” Raizada says, adding that he learns from some great books that he recommends to both amateur and veteran entrepreneurs. “Few, for example, employed the traditional cubical office layout. Many allowed employees to work at least some of the week at home, and others permitted employees to work entirely remotely. Startups’ stereotypical open floor office plans provided fitting examples for firms looking to rearrange to accommodate social distancing measures.”
Most importantly, Raizada said, startups excel at leveraging small teams to make big impacts.
“In this situation, many firms found themselves short-staffed or unable to hire new staff,” said Raizada. “Startups invest in their employees and harness their abilities to get the job done, no matter how big. I think more traditional firms, which tend to be more bureaucratized, can learn a lot from this flexibility and responsivity.”
Focus on Innovation
Innovation is inherent to the startup model.
“Startups are centered around developing novel products or services and scaling them to meet changing and burgeoning market demands,” Raizada said. “I’ve often appreciated the way startups have worked to see the world differently, to invest in the markets that will define the future while still in their infancy. I’ve long sought to incorporate this approach into my investments at Spectrum Business Ventures.”
During this difficult time, Raizada suggested that organizations should think about how they can follow suit. Is there a way they can reorient their product or service during COVID to meet new challenges and needs? Is there an opening within their industry to pioneer a new vertical, tailored to the COVID reality but aimed at the consumer of the post-COVID world?
“Startups embrace innovation and incorporate it into every level of their services and operations,” he said. “During COVID, traditional firms should do the same.”