Houston voices

Here's what challenges — and opportunities — Houston startups are facing amid COVID-19

The pandemic has destroyed a good part of the startup ecosystem. Here's how it happened and how startups can pick up the pieces. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

There are startups struggling to keep their heads above the deluge of a pandemic-induced depression.

Between 2016 and 2018, the global startup economy generated over $3 trillion — a far cry from today's economic value. Today, startups struggle to keep operations running during the pandemic. Web companies throughout Europe have lost close to 400 billion euros during the coronavirus pandemic. Chinese venture capital investing has dipped 50 percent compared to everyone else.

"Startups that are supported by venture capital funds are merely a small part of the startup ecosystem. Startups that don't have venture capital funding, which is the majority of them, stand to lose substantial money during this pandemic-caused shutdown," says Dane Stangler, a business writer for Forbes.

"All across the country, there are startups that, while they may not have hefty venture capital funding, are still significant to the ecosystem because of their job creation," he continues.

These startups face serious setbacks and are expected to see a giant decline of growth during this pandemic. Small businesses are already in a bind because of forced closures and rapidly waning sales.

Far-reaching effects

Startups supported by venture capital have far-reaching effects on the rest of the economy. These high-tech companies generate up to five jobs for every one job they directly create.

"That means that the inevitable economic bodyslam they're about to receive or have already received will be felt by almost every other facet of the job market," explains Stangler.

According to the Startup Genome report, the pandemic will damage startups that were in the process of raising capital and will likely kill the majority of them.

What can be done?

"Federal emergency support for small businesses is certainly the right play here. The deli down the street, the local mechanic, the mom and pop burger joint; they all need help right now," Stangler says.

Tech and science startups need help too — and many of which were in the middle of getting off the ground when the corona crisis crashed the economy.

"Pumping money into them right now is the best thing that can be done to help them in the now."

The low-interest rate climate that has helped boost venture funds has also pushed many startups to survive on debt. We'll have to come to terms with this for now.

"Market momentum isn't necessarily ideal for the time being. Moreover, the "reallocation" forces that you hear entrepreneurs mention a lot has been kiboshed for now," explains Stangler.

Startups struggling to put the pieces of their company back together might see a glimmer of hope on the horizon, though.

Hope is on the horizon

Recessions breed good businesses. Don't believe me? According to the Startup Genome report, over 50 billion dollar tech startups were created during the recession of 2007 to 2009. Fun fact: more than 50 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list to date were founded during a recession.

Sure, startups struggling during a national pandemic can paint a demoralizing picture. But there might be some good news peaking through the dark clouds. It's clear that venture capital funding is at a standstill right now. But it could mean that more startups will get funded when things return to somewhat-normal.

The Startup Genome report shows us that during the 2001 and 2009 recessions, the number of companies that were funded by venture capitalists exploded and fast. For example, in the four years after the 2009 recession, the number of venture capital deals spiked by 25 percent every year.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea.

Rene Cantu, the author of this piece, is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

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Building Houston

 
 

Welcome to Houston, Lalamove. Photo by @HoustonTips

Holiday shopping is in full swing, and the bane of everyone's existence — especially during a pandemic — is shipping.

For smaller and mid-sized local businesses, that means paying big-business prices to a national shipping company. And for consumers, it's waiting a week or more to receive your item, even if you paid for shipping.

Lalamove has a solution for both parties. The 24/7 on-demand delivery app recently launched in Houston and offers affordable, same-day delivery services for the local merchants we're all trying to support right now.

"Amidst COVID-19, it is more important than ever to shop local and support our small businesses," says Lalamove's international managing director, Blake Larson. "We look forward to providing our services to Houston businesses in need of a fruitful start to the holiday season."

Unlike other delivery options, Lalamove delivers everything from food to small packages to bulky furniture within the same day, and it operates on a base-plus-miles pricing model with no commissions.

Deliveries in a sedan start at $8.90, with $1 per additional mile. SUV pricing has a base fare of $16.90 plus $1.25 per mile. Other same-day delivery options with national shipping companies can be well over $100 dollars, depending on the size and weight of the package.

Neighborhood-to-neighborhood sedan pricing is more affordable than traditional same-day shipping: Museum District to Midtown is $9.90, Midtown to The Heights is $14.90, and Northside to East Downtown is $17.90.

This also contrasts with food delivery platforms that charge restaurants 15-30 percent commission on the entire order; with Lalamove, the delivery charge for a $25 meal is the same as a $150 meal.

Users and businesses can place an order via the Lalamove app or on its website, which is available 24/7. When placing your order, you are instantly matched with a driver and their car, based on your delivery needs. You can deliver to (or order from) up to 20 locations in one order with the multi-stop delivery feature, and can schedule a delivery in advance or book for right then.

Lalamove app Using Lalamove is simple. Graphic courtesy of Lalamove

Shoppers can request Lalamove's services with local boutiques and stores that don't normally offer delivery, and get instant gratification (and a much smoother holiday season) with same-day delivery.

Both sides can rest easy knowing that things will arrive in time for the holidays in a trusted, secure, and quick fashion.

To help small businesses provide fast, reliable delivery throughout the holidays, Lalamove is offering $10 off with promo code LACMHOU10. Business owners can try out the service, or customers can take advantage of Lalamove if they need delivery.

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