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TAO Executives-in-Residence: How has COVID-19 most affected the companies you advise?



TAO has recently launched an exciting member benefit: Office Hours with our cohort of Executives-in-Residence. Every Tuesday one of our industry experts will be hosting a group discussion on a topic specific to their individual skills and experiences.

Coming up next week, TAO Executive-In-Residence Steve Pao for an Office Hour on “Defining your next major product or service.” Steve Pao has been leading or advising product teams for 30 years.  As a product leader for two companies from early-stage through IPO, Steve can offer support for technology companies on their product and go-to-market strategies. 

In preparation for Steve’s event next week, we asked some of our EIRs to weigh in on this question: How has COVID-19 most affected the companies you advise?


I would say the companies I advise fall into three buckets 1) not affected, 2) affected but can survive, or 3) affected and will not be able to continue their businesses.  So clearly the latter two are dealing with a new reality on how to operate and be successful at a profitable business. For those that have no choice but to close their businesses, the emotional toll is high because many HAD some success or were on a path to success, and this was not a scenario they had planned for. I am encouraging them to take their skill and focus it on where the money is flowing in the economy, and start again. For those that are affected and can survive, I am encouraging them to look for opportunities to execute on accelerated plans for higher growth. No time like the present. —Lynn Sheehan, Evolve Strategic Ventures


Across the companies I have advised and invested in I have noticed the following impacts:

  • Financial response:  Most companies have revised their forecasts downward to account for the macroeconomic condition.
  • Startup opportunities:  Some startups are seeing increased growth opportunities in the crisis, including Turn Technologies (background checks for a new flood of workers entering the gig economy) and Defunkify (high-performance laundry detergent at a time when everyone has increased their laundry usage).
  • Shifting focus:  The environment has also created opportunities to shift focus within existing businesses, including cybersecurity (increased usage of remote desktop), digital health (remote patient monitoring), and communications (increased usage of video for applications such as telehealth). — Steve Pao, Hillwork LLC


For the two early-stage startups I advise, both are going through different situations during COVID-19:

  • audio barcoding/mobile analytics company located in Las Vegas is working closely with major retailers and grocery chains to jumpstart their business in the ‘new normal’ through deeper customer engagements, in-store promotions and loyalty member traffic to impact rapid growth.
  • software platform company located outside London has developed the latest version of their meeting scheduler/hot desk application to allow for social distancing, intelligence scheduling and health/safety requirements on-demand across multiple facilities/countries/customers. — Greg Jorgensen, Startup/Board Advisor


For smaller companies that count on consumers, they have been hit hard and have had to drastically cut costs, apply for PPP and loans, and layoff and/or furlough employees. For larger companies, work practices have adjusted with work from home for functions that can, PPE, social distancing and cleaning protocols in manufacturing and product development. — Jackie Seto, Side People Consulting 


All have had to develop crisis management plans. All are trying their best to align expenses with revenue. The pace, pressure, confusion, loss, sadness, separation, discomfort, uncertainty, and fear  – all these feelings and more – are sending many into overload and threatening sound thinking.  — Steve Kelly

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