07 April 2009

Startups and the Crisis

Short reviews of a few websites.

For the past few months I've been told there's an economic crisis. I've also been told about a few startups. I would have thought that in hard times people are less inclined to risk. Can anyone explain me why the opposite seems to hold? While you think about that, I'll list the sites:

TaskWriter is a site for keeping track of what you need to do. Once you go to the website you see a "please wait while I'm loading" sign and while waiting you can read that you should use this site because it's the fastest. Now, that may sound ironic, and it is. Still, once the login box appears it gets much quicker. Registering is hassle-free. Once you get in you see that the main functionality of the website is to keep track of TODO lists where items are one line long. The obvious concern is: "Do I want my TODO list on some random website?" I guess the answer depends on whether you have something to hide.

EasyTrack is a site for Romanian companies that have many cars and want to track them. Why Romanian? Probably because maps are rented and it's expensive to rent good maps for everywhere. Why track the cars? To optimize costs. I hear that giving your employees cars as a perk may be costlier than it sounds. It's probably easier to abuse than a free lunch, anyway.

Balaurul (The dragon) is a search engine for jobs… in Romania. Now I finally see some correlation with the economic crisis: More people must be looking for jobs. I wonder if similar search engines are already successful in other countries. The business model is a little too Google for my taste: simple web design, attract ads. Usually cool stuff is different.

Disclaimer: TaskWriter and EasyTrack are the startups of two of my friends from college. I also met two of the three people that started Balaurul.

Others: My brother-in-law is starting a software development company, after being CTO for a long time in a company that provides software solutions for restaurants and hotels. Finally, three of my students will work for themselves for a while.

I hope many of these will be successful. I really do. All the people involved are high quality. Which makes me wonder what would happen if they would all work together. This must be a key ingredient in making a successful business: Getting many good people to work together. I wonder how you do that.


Vlad said...

I guess at the moment there are less "play it safe" options. For everyone. And this tends to make people go the extra mile.

rgrig said...

@Vlad: What you say, that fewer safe options make people take risks, sounds reasonable. Let's see where this leads. (1) A better programmer has more safe options and is therefore less inclined to take risks, such as starting a company. (2) In a crisis situation, more people will take risks and therefore more original ideas/products will appear.

Anonymous said...

A true measurement of how much people are taking risks during the crisis period can come if we would know how many of these startups were started after the crisis was publicly known (sometime Sep 2008). Some of the startups you mention could have been started or planned long ago.

Depending on how much one of the founders had already invested, by the time of crisis - either in planning or in running it, they might just be optimistic and want to try it out a little longer.

It is also possible, that with some people losing jobs, they might just be inclined to try out the idea they had from long - plus expecting to find more people readily working for them. Unless they used personal funds, this would bring us to the question of how much investor funding is going around after the crisis compared to before it.

Do we have statistics on investor funding trends over the last two years ?

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