As COVID-19 swept across the globe, no sector lay untouched, but perhaps no industry was more disrupted than transportation.
Airlines slashed routes, public transit use plummeted, ridership on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing platforms dropped and shared scooter companies pulled products from city streets. Meanwhile, e-bike sales bloomed and on-demand delivery, including services using autonomous robots, exploded.
Transportation companies have been forced to adapt — quickly — to this new reality. Uber, for example, found itself in a position where it felt both right to lay off thousands of employees as it planned to inject $170 million into micromobility startup Lime.
The upshot: Along with the pain, crises can also be a catalyst for innovation. TechCrunch spoke to seven venture capitalists about how COVID-19 affected their portfolio and investment strategy, and asked their advice for startup founders as well as where they think the next and overlooked hot opportunity will be:
- Ernestine Fu, Alsop Louie Partners
- Stonly Baptiste & Shaun Abrahamson, Urban.us
- Rob Coneybeer, Shasta Ventures
- Shahin Farshchi, Lux Capital
- Kate Schox, Trucks VC
- Jeff Peters, Autotech Ventures
Ernestine Fu, Alsop Louie Partners
How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?
Early-stage venture capital is about investing in the steady growth and potential of a business over time. We’re in it for the long term, and the economy will eventually rebound. We’re preserving dry powder for existing investments, but at the same time, I’m reminded that some of the best venture-backed businesses were founded and funded during recessionary times (e.g. Google, Salesforce, Instagram). So we’re keeping our eyes open for promising young startups too.
What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 is an existential event in all of our lives and businesses. Stay positive and be empathetic — protect your employees and communicate often, maintain the financial health of your business and know you need to adapt to the change that will continue to happen.