Business development / COVID-19 / Startups / On the Record: Inside one startup’s bid to stay alive amid COVID-19

For the fifth episode of's interview series taking you inside our journalists' virtual notebooks, D.C.'s Michelai Graham discusses the story of OurStreets, which just shuttered its business operations.

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The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the U.S. economy to its core, prompting a recession that (so far) has resulted in tens of thousands of small businesses shutting their doors forever. And tech startups are not immune.

In the fifth episode of On the Record, our new interview series taking you inside the reporter’s virtual notebook to explore local economies in change, this editor chatted with DC reporter Michelai Graham about her recent story on the pivots and, ultimately, end of OurStreets’ for-profit operations. Graham spoke to the Wharf-based startup’s cofounder, Mark Sussman, about what happened and what’s next for its driver safety crowdsourcing app.

Since the company is certainly not alone in its demise, Graham also pulled out this big lesson: Prepare for a possible shutdown as soon as things seem rocky.

“Start to have these conversations early, exhaust all options,” she said. “They were able to secure a PPP loan [and] a D.C. microgrant. The founders stopped taking salaries.” While those didn’t ultimately save the company, they did buy it some time to make a better transition to volunteer advocacy project.

Listen to our conversation below:


And watch it here:

Reminder that in On the Record, you can expect to hear from at least one reporter per week, to get a quick rundown of all our markets’ biggest stories (aka the kicker), and to hear the why, how and what’s next of each featured topic.

In this episode, I also shouted out these big stories published in our other markets over the past week:

Series: On the Record / Coronavirus

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