It’s an incredibly difficult time for Canadian entrepreneurs. A recent survey, conducted by fintech company Lending Loop, found that small businesses have seen an average revenue decline of more than 63 percent during the COVID-19 outbreak. And with that has come massive layoffs: Employment and Social Development Canada revealed last week that 500,000 citizens applied for employment insurance (EI) in four days — a staggering spike compared to the 27,000 applications filed over the same time last year.
“Our community requires out-of-the-box thinking if we hope to come out of this crisis,” says James Knupfer, CEO of Oakville-based startup Candidly. “We all want to keep growing and avoid layoffs, but that will be untenable if our companies act solely in self-interest.”
Startups pride themselves on being able to navigate volatility. But even tech giants need some help from time to time. Here’s how Canadian startups are helping each other through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Candidly, which uses tech to remove bias from the hiring process, has revived its old bartering forum for fellow startups to offer and request services without money being exchanged. The goal is to help companies cut spending so that employers can focus on paying salaries while also marketing products lost in the black hole of COVID-19 bad news. Candidly has also invited its customers, investors and advisors to the forum, asking participating businesses to do the same.
As Premier Doug Ford made clear on March 23, supply chain companies (“businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with support, supplies, systems or services”) must keep running for the greater good. The problem: COVID-19 has crippled innumerable supply chains, leaving clients scrambling. Tealbook, a startup headquartered in Toronto, is now offering free vendor reports to any organization worldwide looking to find new suppliers. Participating startups can receive a report that includes relevant suppliers gathered from more than 400 million of the most trafficked global websites, as well as Tealbook’s 3.4 million visible supplier profiles.
Record numbers of Canadians will soon be dependent on EI, but it will take time for the insurance to kick in and most payments will only cover a portion of their previous paycheques. In response, Toronto’s tech industry has banded together, creating an online database that connects those who have lost work thanks to the pandemic to companies actively looking for new talent. Posted on StartupNorth, the peer-to-peer assembly was conceived by leaders from companies Luminari and HiredHippo, as well as non-profit Prospect.
But let’s just say that you’re less experienced in your career; that you need advice when writing your new resume; or that this whole coronavirus catastrophe has left you overwhelmed. Toronto-based HR startup Thrive is offering free software to those out of work due to the outbreak. Job seekers get to use a resume builder, networking tools and a learning centre. Most importantly, COVID-affected users get three months’ complimentary access to Thrive’s job platform upon review of an application.
Even though scaling startups (those growing by 20 percent in either revenue or headcount) only represent five percent of Canada’s enterprises, they nevertheless create more than half of the country’s new jobs. In other words, startups will be crucial in resurrecting the economy. In fact, hundreds of these businesses are still hiring. Startups have injected a boost of tech talent in all sectors (coders, AI scientists, cryptocurrency hackers), not to mention a fresh take on the supporting cast (social media experts, UX designers, happiness officers). Scour the MaRS tech job board, the most comprehensive and up-to-date careers tool in the Canadian ecosystem to find the latest postings. Remember: once this crisis has passed, we’ll be living in a new world — and startups will need a solid workforce to help build it.
Members of the Canadian tech community are working tirelessly to bring the COVID-19 crisis to a decisive end. Read their stories in the MaRS magazine.