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‘Innovation is birthed in chaos’: Why startups should be considering a COVID-19 pivot

COVID-19 has rapidly changed the world for nearly everyone, especially for those working in and around the healthcare space. Digital health entrepreneurs are no exception.

As the markets they serve, the investors who fund them and the patients they’re trying to help all grapple with how the pandemic has changed their world, many startups are finding they have to pivot in order to survive.

“It’s been really dynamic, because what we maybe assumed about market conditions eight weeks ago is very different from what we’re experiencing today,” Roxie Mooney, CEO and healthcare commercialization strategist at Legacy DNA, told MobiHealthNews. “There’s so much uncertainty around it, so navigating that pivot I continue to hear is really difficult.”

Along with John Sharp, director of thought advisory at the Personal Connected Health Alliance, Mooney will be leading a HIMSS Digital webinar this Friday to offer advice and tools to startups in this position. Her company, LegacyDNA, has also put out a free “pivot kit” to help entrepreneurs address the COVID-19 crisis and its after-effects.

Different companies are finding themselves affected differently by COVID. Some are finding that market shifts have disrupted their previous product-market fit. Some are finding that the shift to a digital world or that hospital-spending changes have disrupted their sales strategy. Some are finding that their technology has applications that could help address the current crisis – which might be more important than the ones they were focusing on before.

“I would say taking the time to sit down and map this out is mission-critical,” Mooney said. “Entrepreneurs or health innovators are going to be putting their companies at risk if they don’t pause and sit down with their teams and evaluate if anything’s changed in their market, which God knows there has, and what they need to do differently.”

But pivoting is challenging. Not only can it be difficult to decide what to change and how, startups then have the additional challenge of selling their board and investors on the change.

“If you think about it, an innovator goes out into the market and they’re raising money for a specific idea,” Mooney said. “And then they’re building their advisory board for this specific idea, and they’re hiring talent for this specific idea. So to evaluate pivoting, they now have to go back to their investors and say, ‘That’s not going to work.’”

While the world can seem daunting for entrepreneurs right now, it’s also an opportunity for the right ideas and the right innovators to thrive, Mooney said.

“Innovation is birthed in chaos. And we see that through every crisis,” she said. “Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at the Great Recession and the Great Depression, kind of scanning what companies have done in these major disruptive crises, and you see so many incredible innovations that are born – either completely new companies that didn’t exist before the crisis or companies like Procter and Gamble, innovating in the Great Depression and actually coming up with the soap opera.”

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