Startups

What are the micro impacts of macro issues? We asked 4 founders

The leaders of the DMV's Urvin Finance, Ally Power, AppDrop and SnapCalorie on what it means to find a balance amidst the macroeconomic problems of the world, as well as how they can impact a startup.

Clockwise from top left: Founders Alex Cohen, Adrian Abrams, Joseph Alfred and Scott Baron.

(Photos via Linkedin)

Pandemic pivots. Arranging safe passage for employees abroad. Just managing to stay afloat while the world is completely unlike the one we knew just a few years ago.

Becoming a founder and entrepreneur involves many stressors, but leading a team during an international crisis is not an expected one. Still, since those fateful first weeks of 2020, being a founder and CEO has required confronting many new challenges beyond just keeping a company alive. Still, some have managed to nail down some advice.

Last week, we gathered some of our 2022 RealLIST Startups founders for a conversation on what it means to be a founder when the world is, you know, on fire at all times.

Alex Cohen, founder of Urvin Finance (a project that followed a pandemic pivot from his first startup, TwentyTables) said that the events of the last few years have changed what it means to be a founder.

“What the pandemic did was give a global reset for a lot of people’s perspectives of their relationships to not just their work and their workplaces, but to the way that they relate to one another,” Cohen told Technical.ly. “You start prioritizing your time and your interactions in a whole new way.”

For some, the news of the world can actually have an unexpected, positive impact on a local startup. Founder and CEO Joseph Alfred of Ally Power, which is developing hydrogen-powered charging stations, said that the current energy crisis has made the company explore new markets earlier than planned.

“It’s interesting how the pandemic is made everybody more remote and that has, you know, kind of broadened their horizons of where potential businesses can spring up,” Alfred said. “And trying to merge those ecosystems together can lead to unexpected and really great outcomes.”

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Adrian Abrams, cofounder of no-code software developer AppDrop, noted that even if local, national and world events aren’t directly impacting a startup, it can be difficult to compare the needs of a business to those of the people around you.

“How do we solve some of the challenges that we’ve got going on, from a business standpoint, that pale in comparison to what’s going on in a person’s livelihood — for people’s livelihoods, for an entire nation’s livelihood?” Abrams said. “That’s just a constant balancing act.”

Alongside the pandemic, Abrams said movements like the protests following George Floyd‘s death in the summer of 2020 illuminated a potential world where more venture capital funding went to BIPOC founders. Despite that clarity, Abrams noted that the numbers still weren’t following the social trends.

“Those macro issues definitely have micro impacts, for better and for worse, and I think we’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, to be honest,” Abrams added.

Scott Baron, cofounder of food-tech startup SnapCalorie, acknowledged the difficulty of caring about a company in the context of global issues. Despite that challenge, he finds it helpful to manage what he’s consuming about the world.

“The thing that’s kind of helped has just been trying to be more intentional and mindful about when I engage with [world news], and trying to keep a balance between getting overwhelmed with everything that’s going on in the world and still having the energy and focus to continue building,” Baron said.

Cohen agreed and noted that he finds it important to remember that others have their own balance in mind. As a leader, he said, it’s crucial to encourage employees to push themselves and maximize talent while also understanding where they are at.

“The way I find that employees and I manage it is with authenticity and empathy and grace,” Cohen said. “Because my level of tolerance is not the same as your level of tolerance— and that’s fine — I might be able to handle something a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you can or should be able to. So it’s a matter of recognizing where other people live in terms of their comfort area.”

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