How Rev1’s Innovation Center Is Responding to COVID-19

Recently someone asked me: What have you learned from managing the Rev1 Labs Innovation Center through ten months of this pandemic?

As the manager of an innovation center for startups, spinouts, and corporate innovators, here are my top lessons learned from managing through the challenges of this pandemic, a scenario which nothing in our experience would have caused us to anticipate.

Lesson 1: Keep the customer first.

At Rev1 Labs, our customers are entrepreneurs, startup companies, and corporate innovators. It is more important than ever to give them time and space to make decisions for their companies and keep them connected to the entrepreneurial ecosystem while supporting their health and safety concerns. The most important lesson for us has been to listen to what the entrepreneurs and startups need as this pandemic evolves—from initial relief on rent to contactless access to brainstorming over Zoom with Rev1 advisors.

Lesson 2: Figure out tactical and long-term ways to help.

I was a business owner myself. It’s the big and the little things that matter. Entrepreneurial businesses, by definition, are always strapped for resources. That’s why Rev1 Labs exists in the first place, to provide an affordable location and services for entrepreneurs and their young businesses.

Back in March, when the pandemic first hit, the founders of most of our resident companies were figuring out how to keep the boat afloat. The first thing we did was provide them their space for two months rent-free. Was there an impact on our budget? Sure there was, but our first step was to give our residents a little breathing room, while together we tried to figure this thing out.

Safety is our first concern. We set the tone and the expectation and worked to collect and share as much information about guidelines for safe operations, continually communicating to explain state rules and recommendations. Everyone cooperated. We have never had an issue with masking. We are keeping our kitchen and gym closed. People understand.

We helped resident companies figure out how to work from home. We managed a gradual opening, aligning residents’ expectations with building operations during quarantine, closure, and reopening. We created floor signage and contactless security and deliveries so residents wouldn’t cross-contaminate. We conducted virtual events with quality content, success stories, and struggle stories, too.

Lesson 3: Put the entrepreneurial mindset to work in these challenging times.

Pivoting, flexibility, and change are at the core of entrepreneurship in both ordinary and extraordinary times. However, the normal we keep talking about going back to post-pandemic will be completely different from the normal we had. Now is the time to be innovative and develop new ideas—new ideas that hedge against old things that might have worked before but don’t work now. Entrepreneurs and startup teams are precisely the types of people who have the tenacity, ideas, and technology to solve big markets’ enormous problems. If ever there was a time to be innovative and develop a new idea, it is now.

Looking Ahead

What has surprised me most about managing through this pandemic is the opportunity. Our entrepreneurs and innovators respond with creativity—adapting their ideas to help people and the community get through these unprecedented times. It is exciting and rewarding to be part of their journey.

Like everyone else, I hope that the pandemic of 2020 is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I want this to be over and done. But it isn’t. Right now, things look to be getting more complicated, not less. We have entered another health advisory.

Frequent communications with residents and adherence to health and safety procedures over the last eight months has positioned us to respond quickly and effectively. The positive news is that we have learned so much about what it takes to manage through a pandemic. Our residents and we have shared goals. We are working together to conduct business and do our part to help keep those most at-risk safe.

Learn more about how our Rev1 Labs Innovation Center can support your startup.