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Why you should think like a startup during the pandemic

The founder of sports betting app Fantasy Life calls on entrepreneurs to prepare their businesses for the long haul by moving fast and thinking outside of the box.

Why you should think like a startup during the pandemic
[Photo: Kelli McClintock/Unsplash]

We find ourselves in a global pandemic that has forced every business to shift in some way. Most are figuring out how to survive with less activity and business, and a small group is figuring out how to operate and produce in a market of higher demand, such as healthcare and the food and beverage industries. It is odd to say, but as an entrepreneur and CEO of a startup, I feel oddly prepared for the uncertainty.

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Every business should be thinking like a startup now, no matter how large the corporation. Being diligent and streamlined about every single process and line of business will lead to more financial security in the long run.

I know large corporations have an aspect that not many startups need to consider, which is personnel. I get it. Take care of your people first, no matter what looks like for your corporation and industry, and then focus on the bottom line.

A large part of this “thinking like a startup” equation is evaluating your business through the lens of convenience to your customer, especially as more and more people comply with shelter-in-place mandates. While it is a rough and stressful situation to rethink your business strategy, this time period offers a good opportunity to look at how your product or service is fitting into your customers’ lives.

At this moment, consumers don’t have a choice of convenience, but soon they will. Millennials and Gen Z already give no time to things in their lives that aren’t convenient.

Need to get to your friend’s house but don’t want to drive? Click a few buttons on Uber. Hungry for your usual sushi order on a Sunday night? Tap “reorder” on Seamless and your past order shows up at your door in under an hour.

Simply, businesses that don’t operate through the lens of convenience and the experience of an end user don’t stand a chance.

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A great example of this in my world is the discrepancy between certain states and their individual decisions around sports betting—namely, the betting outcomes in New York and New Jersey are case studies in their own rights to catering to the convenience of residents.

New Jersey leads the country as a mobile betting haven, where sports bettors can place wagers anytime, anywhere, right from their mobile devices. The state’s tax revenue from betting has skyrocketed in the past year or so; through September 2019, New Jersey generated $152.5 million in mobile sports betting revenue, according to the Fantasy Sports and Gambling Association (FSGA).

In contrast, New York state has repeatedly said it will not legalize mobile sports betting, but New Yorkers eager to bet on their favorite team can only do so by visiting one of the handful of brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. New York has mustered all its strength to build a Blockbuster store, when neighboring New Jersey has already launched Netflix.

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates that the state of New York lost approximately $6 million in tax revenue in 2019 as New Yorkers drove or took the train to New Jersey to bet from their phones. The cost comparison and profit loss tell you everything.

For businesses willing to adapt to convenience throughout their business, a great exercise is walking through the customer journey at each step and asking yourself, “Is this the most convenient option for our user?”

Again, consider how your product or service fits into your consumers’ lives at the moment. If it’s not an easy decision by the consumer to interact with your brand, it’s time to reevaluate. Always ask yourself, “Is this the most efficient way to operate my business?”

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If you’re not continually evolving your business or service to be as convenient as possible—particularly during this time of upheaval—you’ll get left in the dust. There’s no reason a business, no matter which industry, shouldn’t strive to make its customers’ lives easier.


Yasin Abbak is the cofounder of the fantasy sports and sports betting app Fantasy Life.

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