From consciousness forums to coffee-ins: how TiE Melbourne helped entrepreneurs during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed fortunes for many businesses and societies around the world. But the spirit of creativity will triumph, and a range of entrepreneurship support organisations has risen to the challenge.
This includes TiE Melbourne, the local hub of the global network called The Indus Entrepreneurs, founded in Silicon Valley in 1992. See also our earlier profiles of resilience activities by TiE Global and the city chapters of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Silicon Valley, Pune, Chennai, Kerala, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, New York, and Kolkata.
Support for entrepreneurs
During the months of the pandemic, TiE Melbourne conducted five formal virtual events, four multi-chapter events, and six online ‘Coffee-In” sessions, explains Saurabh Mishra, President, TiE Melbourne, in a chat with YourStory. Event themes included Entrepreneurship and Capital Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as a startup showcase session.
The pandemic has spurred a wave of entrepreneurial and investment activity on the health front, for rapid diagnosis, monitoring, treatment and the search for a vaccine. Speakers at the TiE Melbourne online event included Leighton Read (Partner, Brandon Capital Partners), Amir Zalcenstein (Founder, CNJ Ventures), and Sanjay Vatsa (Partner, Princeton Growth Accelerator).
The online knowledge-sharing ‘Coffee-ins’ included members of TiE Melbourne as well as TiE Sydney members. A nine-week programme for the TiE Women initiative was also held, along with a six-week programme for TiE Young Entrepreneurs (for high school students).
Another collaborative event was titled ‘Journey the Silk Road: Its Past, Present and Future.’ It explored the geopolitics and business context of trade routes across Asia and Europe.
“Our July signature event on Consciousness in Entrepreneurship was superb. It was well attended and well commented upon by attendees later for its usefulness,” Saurabh proudly says. The theme of the August event was ‘A Call to Action for Climate Change’.
Conscious entrepreneurship includes themes like planning with purpose and alignment, staying grounded in the present, and discovering joy in simple and everyday tasks. Speakers at the TiE Melbourne event were Ian Gawler (Founder of Allivei8 and Agape, focused on mindfulness and meditation), Shahana Dattagupta (Founder, Prathama Nada), and Nithya Shanti (teacher of joyful and conscious living).
The virtual events drew 40-200 attendees, while the ‘Coffee-Ins’ attracted 15-20 participants. TWE and TYE drew 10 participants each, in addition to mentors and presenters. The audience composition is 70 percent entrepreneurs for the formal events, and 100 percent entrepreneurs for the ‘Coffee-Ins,’ according to Saurabh.
Challenges and opportunities
Cashflow, customer servicing, and scaling up have been some of the key challenges faced by TIE Melbourne entrepreneurs.
“We have some members for whom inability to operate is causing strained cashflow,” Saurabh observes. This has been reported in sectors like retail, hospitality, and early education.
“Other members are working hard to find new ways of servicing their existing customers,” he adds. Conversely, there were also some members for whom the biggest challenge has been scaling up rapidly enough to meet the surge in demand for their products and services.
“Our Coffee-Ins are forums where members share their challenges and get useful advice, encouragement, or connections from others,” Saurabh says.
There are some sectors that have actually gained during the pandemic. These include health tech, software development and contracting, and software/hardware solutions for stock management, he observes.
Role of the government
“The Australian national government has provided a large-scale income protection and underwriting scheme for employees of businesses that are adversely affected,” Saurabh explains. It has also secured a guaranteed supply of the Oxford vaccine from AstraZeneca to be administered free for all citizens, he adds.
Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria, is currently in a six-week lockdown due to the second wave of coronavirus infections in Australia.
“The government has invested massively in virus testing and ICU capacity. We have not heard any stories of specific startups benefiting from these investments as yet,” Saurabh explains.
Tips and advice
TiE Melbourne also offers tips for entrepreneurs in business operations and mental fitness. “Prioritise revenue over raising investment. Invest in marketing to generate in-bound qualified leads,” Saurabh advises.
“Maintain a positive and generous mindset. Validate your offering periodically, and trust your instincts before you make a decision to pivot,” he adds.
“Have a defined time daily to be spent with family and friends. Do something creative, such as music, art, or craft,” Saurabh recommends. He also suggests daily meditation (at least 20 minutes), a yoga routine (20 minutes), and a walk or run (one hour).
“Eat moderately. You are what you eat,” he jokes.
TiE Melbourne online event
The road ahead
TiE Melbourne continues to develop an ongoing programme of monthly multi-chapter events on various themes of interest for local entrepreneurs. These include innovation in education, and a Special Interest Group (SIG) event around a targeted industry segment, such as transport. The other events on Conscious Entrepreneurship and monthly ‘Coffee-Ins’ will continue, according to Saurabh.
The chapter has 10 active volunteers and a 30-hours-per-month paid staff member. “Wholesale acceptance of online meeting and collaboration forums has meant that events are easier to set up and cheaper to run, and a lot more people are willing to engage. Similarly, mentoring is more easily delivered online,” he observes.
“We’re actually doing better than we have done in a long time,” Saurabh signs off.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)