“With all my planning, in no scenario did I imagine I’d be personally liable for a space that is now illegal to operate.”
That line comes from an amazing op-ed that Workaround founder and Chairman Mom power user Amanda Munday wrote in the Globe and Mail last week.
That’s it for business owners right now, isn’t it?
As much as our human brains may try to make sense of this, we simply can’t. There wasn’t anything most business owners did wrong. There wasn’t any way to predict this a year ago, or hedge against it. And there’s no gray zone if your business is not allowed to operate in this climate. Even once things open up, will consumer behavior be—in some ways—changed forever?
You are pinned in between something so absolute—the inability to operate and ongoing fixed costs—with something that is utterly amorphous—when and if anything will revert back to how it was.
How do you react to such an insane, irrevocable, and oppressive black swan that has transformed all the laws of gravity? Should you fight or should you walk away? And what about the emotional, financial, and mental toll? How can you come up with an answer with the data we have now?
Adding insult to injury, as Amanda writes, is all of these government programs that don’t actually solve the problems of founders like her.
We’ve seen that in the U.S. as well.
This past weekend, I got a note from a female founder who was shaking with rage. Silicon Valley Bank, where I bank as well, had no experience with SBA loans given startups usually aren’t eligible. It had multiple, major issues when it came to taking applications for the Paycheck Protection Program. As has been reported widely, it mattered greatly where you already banked, as the demand was so great, banks were only serving existing clients. Many banks had issues. But many Silicon Valley Bank customers were not even able to apply by the time the funds had been fully allocated.
None of us could have anticipated that banking at the go-to bank for startups could in the future risk being put out of business in an unpredictable global pandemic. But for a lot of companies, that is exactly what is happening.
There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not startups should morally apply for these funds. But if one thing has become clear “startup” is an insufficient catch-all phrase. About the time Facebook won it’s gazillionth Crunchie for “Startup of the Year,” it was clear that that phrase encompasses the haves, the barely-have-two-dimes-to-rub-together, and anything in between.
A company founded by women of color that managed to get a tiny infusion of angel funding at one time is hardly in the same boat as Uber or Lyft or The Wing, for that matter.
Bankruptcy is bankruptcy and unemployment is unemployment. Certainly it hits people with privilege and education and savings differently. But there’s enough tragedy to go around in these times. None of it should be celebrated, and it leaves everyone who was trying to build anything feeling so helpless because you can’t think or reason or plan your way out of it.
For a group of people who are used to “hacking” reality and the way things are done to create something new, it’s like coming up against the ultimate brick wall that there’s no way around.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- How much news are your reading/watching?
- Yoga/pilates mat suggestions?
- How do you manage mom guilt when your job requires traveling?