OneEleven is home to smart people doing hard things. So it’s no surprise that our community leapt into action to help address the myriad impacts COVID-19 is having on everything from our neighbourhoods and workforce to our economy and competitive prospects. In some cases tech companies and startups were shifting their operations to respond to COVID in the first days of government mandated social distancing, advocating for their sector, or initiating novel responses. Here are some of the ways our companies and corporate partners have stepped up and are helping to address the impact of these strange times.
What started as a public Google Sheet, an open and collaborative database of tech workers who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19, turned into something well beyond what co-creators Adam Bercovici (Luminari), Marianne Bulger (Prospect) and Adam Gellert (HiredHippo) ever anticipated. The Help List, which initially broke Google’s viewing capacity, has now been built into a robust, searchable database of over 2,500 talented Canadian tech professionals with the aim of matching people to jobs as much as strengthening the tech community during crisis. Luminari has also launched a COVID-19 support podcast to help companies navigate and take advantage of government subsidies. The first episode features Canadian tax expert, Jay Goodis, who breaks down some of these subsidies.
A OneEleven alumni company that has been on the front line of healthcare since the company’s founding, Maple offers a virtual health service focused on matching patients to doctors via text, audio or video. Since the pandemic, the company’s daily online doctor consultations increased by 400% as patients and doctors look for safer ways of accessing and delivering healthcare. In Ontario, Maple launched a program funded by OHIP where patients can talk to a local doctor over video, within the same day, about their COVID-19 concerns, symptoms and next steps. So far, doctors have performed more than 3,500 COVID-19 consultations on Maple, speaking to patients as old as 90 years of age.
“There has never been a greater need for this type of service than right now,” said Dr. Brett Belchetz, CEO of Maple and a practicing ER physician. “We’re committed to helping ensure Canadians are armed with the tools they need to remain safe and healthy during this time.”
Companies that have seen increased demand during the COVID crisis require tools to assist in streamlining a heightened administrative load. The FormHero platform allows organizations to publish the user interface for a business process, in the same way that a person would publish a blog post. Companies can build out a dynamic set of questions and data points that need to be collected for any business process and configure how that data is then used.
One customer FormHero works with, a leading travel insurer, was already receiving thousands of emergency assistance calls per day. At the onset of COVID, the company saw an increase to the volume of these calls by 166% (or nearly three times what it had been previously), with almost all being COVID-19 related calls.
“Working with their business users, we were able to implement a new Guided Care Smart Form that walks their call-takers through each COVID-19 call, automatically creates cases in their back-end legacy systems and automatically generates and sends documents and notifications to their clients.” Said FormHero Founder and CEO, Ryan Kimber, “Using the Guided Care Smart Form, they’ve been able to add additional call-takers without additional training and to significantly reduce the duration of each call — as they don’t have to work through multiple systems, the Smart Form does the work of communicating to the other systems in the background.”
Virtual meetings have become as ubiquitous as the term “social distancing” in our daily lives, whether for work or keeping in touch with family and friends. The Zoom.ai meeting assistant is one of the most intuitive and quick ways to schedule virtual meetings, so much so that the company has seen a massive uptick of thirteen times their typical usage rate in the past month. To respond to this increased demand, Zoom.ai is offering free 30-day trials and 50% off any of its plans once that trial is finished, in the interest of keeping everyone connected.
Manzil, a OneEleven member company that offers Shariah-compliant alternative financial products and specializes in halal financing and investments, saw an opportunity as well as a responsibility to give back. Partnering with over 40 of Canada’s leading Muslim civil society organizations, Manzil helped to create the Canadian Muslim Response Network (CMRN). Established to help vulnerable populations stay at home as Canada confronts the pandemic, CMRN has put together 2,000 Emergency Relief Kits and counting. Each kit contains food, hygiene products and cleaning supplies, and are delivered to those who have requested them, nationwide. Manzil has assisted in fundraising for kits of all sizes and organized volunteers in Toronto to deliver them to those who have applied through the CMRN’s web portal
“At Manzil, we pride ourselves in our mission of people before profit,” said CEO and Co-Founder, Mohamad Sawwaf, “When we were made aware of this initiative, we reached out to see how we could help on all fronts, especially given the ties we have to our community and our innate nature to conduct acts of charity. We constantly receive requests from all walks of life who are looking for financial assistance, and we thought that this would be one of the ways that we could give back directly and indirectly to those that have encountered unforeseen financial and nonfinancial burdens.”
Many businesses are feeling the financial squeeze of the pandemic on the Canadian economy. By shifting to remote work and pivoting to other ways to utilize their platforms, the tech sector has managed to mitigate some loss. But with the timeline of COVID stretching out in front of the country, companies have funding concerns looking ahead into the next quarters.
So, who helps those trying to help the country? The OneEleven company and startup network, Hockeystick, of course. Already adept at matching startups with potential funders, Hockeystick saw the concern amongst their colleagues in the community both inside and out of OneEleven and moved, quickly, to assist in a solution. Creating a database of active Canadian funders, startups feeling the strain are able to access assistance now when they need it most. Hockeystick has also launched a free matchmaking service through the same Active Funders in Canada list. The aim is to connect funders and startups based on funder criteria and information about companies within the database, and it has already generated 50 funder meetings and over 250 intros within the first week of launch.
“Canada’s tech startups are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that is going to power Canada’s growth for decades to come. During the COVID-19 pandemic, funding is at the top of every entrepreneur’s mind,” wrote Raymond Luk, Hockeystick Founder and CEO. Within the first 24 hours of launching, over 50 new funders were added and many more have been verified since, giving small tech businesses the tools to access the funding they need, now.
Laura McGee, Founder and CEO at Diversio, is a member of the Expert Panel on Women Entrepreneurs. The Panel put out a memo to Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, as well as several Premiers highlighting some of the specific ways women entrepreneurs will feel the economic repercussions of COVID-19.
“Women entrepreneurs will feel the oncoming shock more than most due to several factors: They tend to run smaller businesses, are less capitalized, and are heavily concentrated in the services sector. On top of that, many women are now managing child-care during school closures and elder care while older Canadians are encouraged to self-isolate.”
Some of the solutions McGee underscored in the memo were short-term liquidity through 0% interest loans, of which women-owned businesses, being small businesses in the retail and services sectors, are most likely to utilize, as well as compensation for primary caregivers and expanded SME procurement programs with increased quotas for women-owned businesses. The tangible, immediately implementable supports are only some of the ways McGee and fellow female entrepreneurs are advocating to ensure gains made by women-led businesses aren’t lost during this current, anxious national climate.
A company typically concerned with helping Canadian municipalities manage their $1.2-trillion in infrastructure assets, GoEvo has now utilized its software to help frontline workers. The company has built a self assessment tool for essential service workers that aims to help keep people and their workplaces safe during the pandemic. The new free to use app allows workers to self-assesses for Covid symptoms via a straightforward questionnaire, determining whether or not they should report to work.
Cinchy has found a few ways that their streamlining, data collaboration technology can be applied to help in these tumultuous times. Working with banking customers to help them develop robust and efficient systems for Covid-related loan approvals, as well as offering their enterprise clients a new and real-time Workforce Repatriation System to enable them to manage the re-introduction of employees. Cinchy is also engaging in talks with Federal and Provincial healthcare agencies to introduce “Data command centres” that would assist these agencies in connecting and protecting sensitive data and deploying it as secure, healthcare solutions.
OneEleven also benefits from strong corporate partners who have also stepped up to help combat the impact of COVID-19. In addition to their financial and philanthropic efforts, our partners have been providing direct advice, support and resources to our member companies and their founders through our remote programming channels and Expert-in-Residence remote meetings.
A OneEleven Partner, RBC has committed an initial $2 million in support of COVID-19 community response efforts. As a first step, RBC will be donating funds to respond to community needs in Canada, the U.S. and globally to charitable partners including Food Banks Canada, Feeding America and The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. RBC is also offering a number of financial relief options to their clients including support for businesses through the Government of Canada Business Relief program, which will provide mitigation such as loan payment deferrals and credit increases.
Through employee and corporate donations, Rogers is providing 1 million meals to Canadians via Food Banks Canada and is leveraging their media and communication outlets to drive awareness and community support to help address the issue of food scarcity. They are also ensuring that Rogers customers can stay connected during this time of isolation by waiving long distance charges, providing flexible options for customers who are facing financial difficulty, and waiving data overage fees.
Crestcom has pivoted to offer their leadership training curriculum through a virtual platform, ensuring that those enrolled can still access the skills development tools they need to address the current challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Crestcom team have also begun sharing resources, like insights on ‘Working from Home Effectively’, and are hosting a free webinar series of topics such as ‘How to Create a Change Management Strategy’.
Deloitte has created a COVID-19 online resource centre with valuable information on topics such as Maintaining Customer Loyalty and Trust and Managing Cash Flow During a Period of Crisis. This resource centre also houses Deloitte’s updates on all of the different government support programs and incentive programs, plus a full schedule of Deloitte webinars for CFOs and CIOs that includes all past recordings. Deloitte has also created a live Dashboard that monitors the health, social, financial, and economic activity that will signal first steps toward the economic rebound.
Microsoft is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on a number of fronts, including providing resources and technology to support remote work, providing strategies and innovations to help students learn online and providing technical support to startups and scaleups who are pivoting to tackle issues related to the pandemic. They have also joined forces with companies like Facebook, Slack and Salesforce to support participants in the #BuildForCOVID Global Online Hackathon and have made an initial $1 million donation to support community efforts in Puget Sound, where they are headquartered.
Silicon Valley Bank
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has committed $5.5 million to COVID-19 relief across the 8 countries and 15 states where the company has offices and launched the SVB COVID-19 Response Fund, in partnership with Founders Pledge with an initial $1 million investment. The fund will not only contribute to activities that aim to help slow COVID-19’s spread, it will provide relief to those affected, and better equip communities for future pandemics. The team at SVB is also providing debt relief options for their clients and providing resources through a partnership with Hello Alice and webinars for startups.