Lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing. COVID-19 is creeping up on everyone’s business – quite literally. Checking up on the Egyptian startup ecosystem in this time of global crisis, we found businesses divided into three strategies of crisis management: work-from-home, optional work-from-home, work until quarantine is officially enforced.
The team behind Orcas, the online tutoring service, have decided to democratize the work-from-home policy. Whoever wants to self-isolate can practice their right to work from home if they don’t feel well and it is not deducted from their vacation days and are not asked to bring a medical report like normal sick days.
So far, three team members are working from home, Orcas’ CEO Hossam Taher tells us. They use online tools like Slack, Facebook Workplace and Zoom for video conferencing. They even had a session over the weekend from team members with work-from-home experience to prepare them in case of negative developments.
“Our two most common problems so far are a stable internet connection and meetings without a clear goal and time limit. Set a clear goal and time limit on those online meetings before you start.”Hossam Taher, CEO, Orcas
On Saturday 14th of March, a presidential decree instructed all schools and universities nationwide to suspend classes for two weeks.
Eldib & Co
Eldibco, a law firm, are struggling to continue their normal methods of operation when all courts have shut down along with other governmental authorities… leaving their work stalling.
“We are considering an alternating 50% work from home, 50% work from office. We would only consider a total work from home strategy if enforced by the government.”Mo ElDib, Partner, Eldib & Co
On March 15th, Egypt suspended proceedings at all courts for two weeks over fears of the spread of COVID-19. The decision is intended to limit the large number of people who gather at courts nationwide, to limit the spread of the virus. However, administrative work at all courts will proceed normally to meet the deadlines of cases.
KarmSolar has also been working at home. Their work-from-home system was developed after preparing meeting and remote-working tools such as Google G Suite and Hangouts which make it easier to work and help overcome this crisis.
During that time, they’re also working to renovate our office by equipping the kitchen and bathrooms with more hygienic fittings.
“Developing a game plan for onsite technicians and team members who are operating our stations is another challenge we are tackling now. Their safety and wellbeing is the utmost priority.”Sami Awa, Communications Officer, KarmSolar
KarmSolar believes that companies need to develop their capabilities to work remotely, and are firm believers that employees are able to continue working without interruption despite these critical circumstances.
Even though they’ve been setting up remote work protocol and tools for two weeks now, KarmSolar is still finding it difficult to adjust. It is quite a challenge to transfer operations and activities that are usually done collectively in the office to be done independently or virtually from home.
To protect its employees and help limiting the spread of COVID-19, Wasla Browser decided to operate from home.
“We use online tools like Slack, Zoom, and Google for our daily communication. Until now, working remotely hasn’t affected our productivity and quality as a company.”Amr ElTahan, HR Manager, Wasla Browser
Two weeks aren’t enough to measure the impact of this move on their operations, ElTahan says. However, the team is optimistic.
As of Thursday, 19th of March, international flights to and from Egypt are suspended till 31st of March at all airports nationwide to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Travel startup Tripdizer has been working from home for two weeks no to also flatten the curve. However, this global crisis has hit right at the core of their revenue stream.
“We are a travel startup so it is not the best time for us to be in business anyways. We are only working currently on supporting our clients uniting with the loved ones”Ziad ElAdawy, Founder, Tripdizer
On another note, according to the International Air Transport Association, if the coronavirus spreads further, airlines around the world will lose up to $113 billion in passenger revenues.
To play it safe, the CEO of blue-collar job marketplace Shaghalny Omar Khalifa told his team on Thursday, 12th of March to work from home. The startup has a lot of messengers coming in and out, dealing with many job seekers so the risks of anyone contracting COVID-19 would have been much higher.
“Let’s be honest, sales go down when we’re working from home. It’s very hard to meet, it’s very hard to sell. People are not hiring these days, because no one knows when we’re going to overcome this period.”Omar Khalifa, CEO, Shaghalni
Due to the unforeseen circumstances, Shaghalny had to cancel a lot of plans. They had an employment fair scheduled for the first week of April in partnership with Don Bosco, one of the biggest technical training institutes in Egypt and the oldest. It had to be postponed until further notice, like everything else happening during that time.
As soon as Falak Startups knew that COVID-19 is moving close to home, they immediately put a work-from-home strategy into action.
The startups’ one-on-one venture growth meetings are still going on as planned but virtually. They upgraded to Zoom Pro, allowing them to hold longer calls and have more features during online meetings.
“We had to make the decision to postpone our Cycle 3 Demo Day until further notice. That said, we are still working closely with our portfolio companies to virtually match them with prospective investors and partners that they would’ve met during the demo day previously scheduled in the first week of April.”Karima El-Hakim, Head of Business Development, Falak Startups
The accelerator finds itself lucky enough to be almost at the end of the cycle; the startups didn’t miss on crucial sessions that needed to be held physically.
Moreover, this current situation will give this cohort of startups more time to polish the product and look into details that they could’ve missed amid their busy day-to-day lives.