In times of crisis, true innovators and dreamers are often the ones to rally, finding creative solutions to our problems or identity opportunities that weren’t there before. It shows us that as humans we are resilient and adaptive, creative and courageous. Even in the last few weeks we’ve seen many examples of fantastic innovation in business, from startups to larger companies alike. Some of these businesses must adapt to stay afloat, while others simply seize an opportunity. It’s more important than ever to think outside the box by leveraging existing capabilities and pivoting to new areas. Below we take a look at twelve examples of business ingenuity and persistence.
Mercedes F1 team
In light of the cancellation of the Formula One season, the talented engineers in the Mercedes High Performance Powertrains team worked alongside engineers and clinicians at University College London to reverse engineer and develop a Covid-19 ventilator ready for mass production. These items are essential for more serious cases but are in short supply worldwide. This clever solution has been approved by the UK’s National Health Service. The efforts, dubbed Project Pitlane, are also being assisted by the other UK-based teams Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Renault and Williams. Nice to see even the strongest of rivals ban together!
Restaurants and cafes
With social distancing laws in full effect worldwide, and at home, we’ve seen the hospitality and dining industries hit particularly hard. We’ve also seen some great ingenuity from all sorts of local institutions in converting their offerings to accommodate these new restrictions. Even the fanciest of high-end restaurants are offering takeaway options (including cocktails, yes), online cooking classes and DIY food packages. This enables these businesses to stay in business, and help keep at least some of their staff onboard. For our team, getting a special takeaway has also become the highlight of our week. $5 tacos and $12 margaritas from Bondi’s Carbon come highly recommended.
Atomo HIV Testing
Rapid blood-testing startup Atomo is an HIV testing company looking to soon list on the ASX. They’re funded by some big names including The Global Health Investment Fund, backed by Bill Gates. With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, the company is repurposing its technology and capabilities to develop self-testing kits for Coronavirus. Not only is it looking to provide accurate testing, but also accessible and user-friendly systems that other solutions are currently lacking. Founder John Kelly hopes to have the tests ready in weeks, before proceeding with clinical studies and regulatory approvals. Read more here.
LVMH Hand Sanitiser
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) is usually known for their high-end fashion items, perfumes and alcohol products. The french conglomerate, with 76 portfolio companies, pivoted in just 72 hours after the French Government called on industry to help meet the needs of doctors and nurses. The 71-year-old billionaire quickly approved the pivot from luxury goods to hand sanitiser which is produced and donated to hospitals to bolster their supplies. Using existing capabilities and connections, the company is able to produce tonnes of the product, resulting in this truly impressive act of generosity. Bravo!
Detmold Face Masks
Adelaide-based business Detmold normally produces packaging for companies such as Subway. It’s now working to create 145 million face masks for medical staff in-need, with 45 million for South Australia and the rest shared across the country. Not only does this move provide a massive boost for those on our medical frontlines, it also means the company is employing an additional 160 staff for mask production, saving lives and stimulating the economy simultaneously.
Breweries Hand Sanitiser
Owing to their capabilities in alcohol production and products, an increasing number of Aussie breweries are answering the call to help bolster Australian supplies of hand sanitiser. They’re using existing capabilities and resources to produce the new liquid gold. CEO of Carlton and United Breweries, who are producing 30,000 litres of hand sanitiser, said: “for more than 150 years we’ve helped Australians come together over a beer. Now it’s time to lend a helping hand as they stay apart to fight the virus.” Other household names chipping in include Archie Rose, Four Pillars Gin, Canberra Distiller and Manly Spirits.
Calumino Thermal Imaging
Calumino has been preparing to launch its new product Eve Care, a thermal imaging device to monitor falls in aged care facilities without compromising privacy. With the onset of the virus, the company put its plans on hold to pivot its technology to building compact, AI equipped devices that can rapidly measure temperature for screening purposes. In just a few weeks the company has secured contracts with airports and governments to help in an area characterised by high cost and cumbersome technology solutions.
Renewable energy entrepreneur Milton Zhou recently set up not-for-profit company RapidWard out of his own pocket. The company’s purpose is to import and export testing kits of surgical masks for Covid-19 from China to the rest of the world without marking up the price. He’s doing his best to help secure and bolster shaky supply lines for the benefit of the wider community. Zhou has been working 19-hour days, and has brought on six volunteers to provide assistance. His goal is to help Australia become one of the first countries to flatten the curve of the virus.
Cork and Canvas Online
Australia’s first paint and sip studio, having spawned a wave of similar offerings, has now taken its service online! With the virus preventing in-studio sessions, the team at Cork and Canvas is providing virtual sessions from the comfort of your own home, perfect for a stay-at-home date night or family fun! It’s also offering creativity kits for home delivery for those without a large stockpile of art supplies that come with canvases, paints and brushes.
Isol-Aid Music Festival
Isol-Aid is a clever take on the music festival industry, using Instagram live streaming to bring together artists and fans. Having now held three separate online festivals, Isol-Aid has featured dozens of artists and reached hundreds of thousands of fans in their own homes. It might not be the same as an in-person festival, but these performances have allowed artists to interact with their audience and create a somewhat surprisingly more intimate experience. The live streams are free, providing fans around the world with some much needed entertainment, while festival organisers are encouraging donations to struggling musicians.
Art Galleries Online
Another in-person experience disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis is art. While it’s always been possible to have a squiz at your favourite artist online, there’s something special about seeing their work in person at a gallery. Art Basel Hong Kong is Asia’s largest contemporary art exhibition, and was recently and understandably cancelled. Fortunately, the organisation is providing a panoramic virtual gallery experience with over 90% of its line-up (231 galleries) opted in. That means over 2,000 works of art worth over $270 million are on display for a quarter of the original fee.
The Sydney Dance Company Online
Finally, we come to the Sydney Dance Company, who have quickly converted their traditional dance classes to online form. Through their virtual studio, participants can access an unlimited range of dance classes for all levels for just $28 a week. The dance classes offer a great way to stay fit, improve your skills, or just have some fun, with classes including tap dancing, conditioning, hip hop and ballet! An excellent initiative keeping people entertained at home while allowing instructors and the company to stay in business.
Unfortunately, being able to pivot and adapt your business like the ones above is not a reality for everyone. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of companies will be hit hard by this crisis. The Australian government is doing its role in helping to stimulate the economy and help as many as possible to stay afloat. Read more about our summary of government initiatives here to find out if you might be eligible for assistance. In times of crisis we’ve also historically seen new companies founded that go on to achieve big things. You’d be surprised at some of the names that came out of the 2008 GFC - check out our blog post here.
Equity crowdfunding remains a great way to support startups that are innovating and creating growth from the ground up. With longer term investment horizons and a lower correlation to public stock markets, these also present a great opportunity to diversify your portfolio holdings. Read more about why investors are turning to equity crowdfunding here.
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