Archives For coronavirus

Is the coronavirus economic crisis similar to those triggered by the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the financial collapse 2008?
If true, it should inspire us a pinch of optimism: from those crises new ideas emerged, startups that became a great success, because they responded to real needs and had to focus their resources well in a difficult climate, with little money available.

“9/11 inspired innovation” was the headline of a FastCompany article on 9/9/11

An example? Meetup, born from the rubble of the Twin Towers to help people organize themselves in communities based on shared interests: today it has 44 million members in 2,000 cities in 190 countries in the world, and is part of the AlleyCorp group led by one of the veterans of the New York startups , Kevin Ryan.

Another example is Kickstarter, the platform where creatives from all sectors seek lenders for their projects: it was born on April 28, 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. In recent years, 18 million people have used it to make their “dreams” come true, raising $5 billion for nearly 200,000 projects.

Here is the story of Meetup as Scott Heiferman told us in “Tech and the City”.

But a far more devastating tragedy still was to befall New York and Silicon Alley: the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. An absolute evil that, however unintentionally, generated a good seed.
Scott Heiferman: “I was on a bus, going from the East Village to my house in NoHo that morning. I heard the news on the radio of the first aircraft hitting the Twin Towers and I decided to go on the roof of my apartment building. I arrived a few seconds after the second plane had hit. And then I lived through this experience I often talk about, of having more conversations and talking to more people in the hours and days after 9/11 than I had in all my previous years in New York. And that was intriguing because until then I had no particular interest in my local community. After 9/11, I became interested in the simple pleasure of talking to neighbors, to get to know them. And I understood how powerful people can be when they get organized. In those days we saw lots of vigils and support groups and I became interested in how people can get to know more neighbors, how in the future they could organize local communities about anything, and that led to Meetup: use the Internet to organize individuals in a community. A concept that then, well ahead of Facebook and the emergence of the term ‘social media’, seemed ridiculous.”

La crisi economica da coronavirus e’ simile a quelle scatenate dall’attacco terroristico dell’11 settembre 2001 e dal crollo finanziario 2008?
Fosse vero, dovrebbe ispirarci un pizzico di ottimismo: da quelle crisi sono emerse idee nuove, startup diventate poi un grande successo, perché hanno risposto a bisogni veri e hanno dovuto focalizzando bene le loro risorse in un clima difficile, con pochi soldi a disposizione.

“9/11 inspired innovation” was the headline of a FastCompany article on 9/9/11

Un esempio? Meetup, nata dalle macerie delle Torri Gemelle per aiutare la gente a organizzarsi in comunità basate su interessi condivisi: oggi ha 44 milioni di membri in 2.000 città di 190 Paesi nel mondo, e fa parte del gruppo AlleyCorp guidato da uno dei veterani delle startup newyorkesi, Kevin Ryan.

Un altro esempio e’ Kickstarter, la piattaforma dove creativi di tutti i settori cercano finanziatori ai loro progetti: e’ nata il 28 aprile 2009, nel mezzo della Grande Recessione. In questi anni l’hanno usata 18 milioni di persone per realizzare i loro “sogni” raccogliendo 5 miliardi di dollari per quasi 200 mila progetti.

Ecco la storia di Meetup come ce l’ha raccontata Scott Heiferman in “Tech and the City”.

Su Silicon Alley, e su tutta New York, doveva ancora abbattersi una tragedia ben più devastante, l’attacco terroristico dell’11 settembre 2001 (9/11). Un male assoluto che, però, gettò anche un seme buono.
La testimonianza è di Scott Heiferman: “Ero sull’autobus, andando dall’East Village a casa mia a NoHo, quella mattina – racconta -. Ho sentito la notizia del primo aereo nelle Torri Gemelle e ho deciso di salire sul tetto del palazzo del mio appartamento. Ci sono arrivato pochi secondi dopo l’impatto del secondo aereo. E poi, ho vissuto quest’esperienza di cui parlo sempre: nelle ore e nei giorni dopo 9/11 ho avuto più conversazioni con un numero maggiore di vicini di casa che in tutti gli anni precedenti a New York. Prima, non avevo un interesse particolare nella comunità locale. Dopo 9/11, mi ha colpito il semplice piacere di parlare con gli altri, di conoscerli. E ho capito quanto la gente sa essere potente quando si organizza. In quei giorni si vedevano innumerevoli veglie e gruppi di aiuto reciproco. Da lì mi è venuta l’idea di Meetup: usare Internet per organizzare i singoli in comunità. Un concetto che allora – ben prima di Facebook e dell’emergere del termine social media – sembrava ridicolo”.

Manufacturing is alive in NYC, it’s smart and helping fight Covid-19.
A new type of low-cost ventilator – priced at $3,300 vs standard ventilators, which typically cost more than $30,000 – has been developed in only one month thanks to two New York based entrepreneurs: Scott Cohen, co-founder of the technology center New Lab, which is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Marcel Botha, founder and CEO of 10XBeta, a “product development firm creating future-shifting products where speed-to-market is paramount,” which is in the New Lab.

The Spiro Wave, a low-cost automatic resuscitator, Made in NYC

Early March, Cohen and Botha got a call from an Italian friend warning that a shortage of ventilators was a critical problem in Italy, and that it soon would be in the United States, too, write the New York Times. So Cohen and Botha accepted the challenge to urgently build a ventilator: first, they found a design that was developed in 2010 by the class of Alex Slocum, a renowned mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and got Mr. Slocum and a group of other M.I.T. faculty and students work to upgrade the design to help coronavirus patients. Second, they found the place where to buld the ventilator: a former perfume factory in Long Island City, Queens, that is now home to a high-tech manufacturer, Boyce Technologies: it’s a 100,000-square-foot facility that combines engineering and production with robots, a clean room, and circuitry and software design departments.

Boyce Technologies Pearson Place View

Cohen and Botha also convinced the New York City’s Economic Development Corporation – an agency of the city government – to back the project: NYCEDC gave the startup a $100,000 research grant and then a nearly $10 million agreement to buy 3,000 of the basic ventilators.
The Food and Drug Administration has already allowed the use of the Spiro wave under FDA Emergency Use Authorization during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In the meantime New York city’s situation is getting better, hospital admissions are trending down, and intensive-care units seem to have enough ventilators. So the Spiro Wave can be send to other parts of the US in need or even abroad.

You can say that the NYC startup community is able and willing to BUILD, as Marc Andreessen encourages America to do.

Boyce Technologies

Data are so important to understand and fight coronavirus. The NYC based startup Cuebiq is helping thanks to its “COVID-19 Mobility Insights“: “We understand this is a tough time for businesses as well as consumers. As part of our commitment to sharing data for the greater good, Cuebiq is providing free access to mobility and store visitation patterns during the COVID-19 crisis to help businesses as they look to adjust their strategies to meet this new and uncertain market.”

The NYTimes used Cuebiq data to analyze how the stay-at-home orders have or have not halted travel for Americans. “The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home. Disease experts who reviewed the results say those reductions in travel — to less than a mile a day, on average, from about five miles — may be enough to sharply curb the spread of the coronavirus in those regions, at least for now.”

Cuebiq’s data were used also in Italy by the University of Turin to study Italians’ movements during the coronavirus emergency.

Cuebiq is an offline intelligence and measurement company helping marketers understand the true impact of their cross-channel advertising in the offline world. Four young Italians – CEO Antonio Tomarchio and EVP of Product Ecosystem William Nespoli, both alumni of Politecnico di Milano, with Chief Information Security Officer Walter Ferrara and Chief Innovation Officer Filippo Privitera – founded the company in Milan in 2015. They decided to have their headquarters in New York to develop the business on a global scale, while maintaining R&D in Milan. Right now they are hiring both in the US and in Italy.

From left, courtesy of StartupItalia: Filippo Privitera, William Nespoli, Antonio Tomarchio, and Walter Ferrara