Recovering from Hurricane Sandy is no small feat as most of Lower Manhattan is still in the dark without power. I talked with a couple of people working in startups who had to find a place to get back work. But the most difficult part was probably to set aside the devastation and get the businesses back on track. Those companies are fragile and can’t risk a companywide blackout for a week.
At WeWork‘s coworking space right next to the Empire State Building, I met Ryan Charles, CEO and co-founder of mobile product review startup Consmr. His company is located in West SoHo at WeWork Labs. Other coworking spaces offer a desk to work and #SandyCoworking can help you find a company to take you in.
On Monday, the office lost power. The company had to figure out a way to continue working.
“It was important for us to get back next to each other, being able to communicate more freely, even just for sharing stories,” Charles said. “Startup is a type of company in which relationships are important — you don’t have a lot of employees,” he continued.
The first challenge was actually communicating with the team, as half of them lost power. Fortunately, everyone was OK. “We even had a new hire this week who we couldn’t train,” he said. Then, they decided what to do on a day-by-day basis. First, everyone crashed at Charles’ apartment because he didn’t experience any power outages. Two other friends working in other startups even joined them and stayed there overnight. The week wasn’t as productive as a normal week.
“Business isn’t a priority. On the phone with one of our partners, Pepsi who was equally displaced, you don’t want to talk about business. The most important concern is that everyone is safe and doing well,” Charles said.
Opening his home was important for him. “Every day seems to be getting worse as you get a better picture of what happened. How do I get my business back on track when people are suffering, even only several blocks from me?” he said.
Then I met Ben Kempe, VP of engineering at Sonar, a Disrupt runner-up. On Friday, they visited their new office on Madison for the first time. But the building was affected by the power outage. After having only spent two hours in the office, they couldn’t start working there.
“Everyone is well on the team but some don’t have power,” Kempe said. Sonar had a similar story and encountered the same difficulties as Consmr. On Tuesday, they didn’t get significant work done. “Tuesday was basically impossible. We weren’t even able to contact each other,” he said.
On Thursday, they chose to relocate here at WeWork, with people living in Staten Island and Brooklyn on Google Hangouts.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to go back to our office on Madison on Monday,” Kempe said. Dislocated companies spent some time today talking about their respective experiences over the past few days.
Two blocks away from WeWork, power is still down. With no traffic light, cell coverage and stores open, New York has yet to recover from Sandy, and everyone is still thinking about people affected by the hurricane. But there is light not far away.