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The impact of COVID-19 both personally and from a tech start-up founders perspective
21/05/2020
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Dominic Speelman
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​Dear Friends, Family and Colleagues,

Just over a month ago I shared some of my own personal and business perspectives on the COVID-19 crisis, with the hope that if we all did this it might help us overcome some large obstacles and decisions together, whilst also offering some comfort, that we are not alone in having to make these often very emotional decisions.

I want to share some further thoughts and let you know about certain decisions I have made with help from my family, friends and colleagues, whilst giving you some insight into how I arrived at them during a time of little central leadership.

Most of us (except our amazing key workers) have all been in lockdown for the best part of 2 months. The messaging from Boris is vague at best. ‘Go to work but don’t go to work’ to me sums it all up. ‘Use your common sense’ he says, so I will.

In my last update, I described to you some the symptoms I experienced whilst enduring COVID-19. Since then my wife, Phoebe and eldest daughter Lula, both contracted the virus. Fortunately, both are fine but still many weeks later both have occasional stomach aches, reminding them that this virus does not appear to be an easy one to fight off.

Various antibody tests are now available to purchase so we decided to buy two different types of test for all four of us to confirm that we have had COVID-19. Sure enough, we all got the same results from both tests which confirmed that myself, Phoebe and Lula all tested positive and have got the antibodies to COVID-19. Unfortunately, my youngest daughter, Indi, 8, came back negative.

This hence presents a problem as, like most of you out there, we are desperate to see the kid’s long-isolated grandparents who do not want to spend their remaining healthy months or years of life only seeing their children and grandchildren on Zoom.

I asked Quinton Fivelman, Chief Scientific Officer of the London Medical Laboratory, to try and give me some idea of what our results meant. Phoebe, Lula and I all got an IgG response value (Immunoglobulin G – a type of antibody) of above 6, the threshold for an immune response is 1.4. This means that we have shown considerable immune response and are unlikely to be able to contract COVID-19 again for at least 3 months, probably this season, and possibly for months or even years more. However, nobody knows for sure.

These results have presented one of the hardest decisions my wife and I have ever had to make in our lives; do we go to see our parents, both sets, who would welcome us with open arms?

We have decided that we will. And here’s why: It is very unlikely that as Indi never caught the virus whilst spending six weeks often sharing her sister’s bed and even ours, that she is going to catch it at all. It is also very unlikely that Phoebe, Lula and I can get it again especially in such a short time. 

We are putting preventative measures in place; we will pack all our clothes a few days in advance and shower and change as soon as we arrive so we cannot bring the virus on our clothes or possessions. Our over-riding feeling is that there is no guarantee that there will ever be a vaccine so there is no less risky time for us to see our parents especially as the immunity may only last 3 months, just like other Coronavirus based illnesses like the common cold. This is our effort at common sense Boris!

As for buyfair, well, do I ‘go into work or don’t I go into work?’. After all, pretty much everything has been progressing successfully while working from home and we are still able to keep connected and work well collaboratively.  For me though, it is more about being able to offer my colleagues and I a place to focus on work. We all know how hard it can be as we are constantly distracted at home. However, I will not force anyone to come into the office, but the option will be there for everyone should they choose to take it.

In terms of strategy, we have had many discussions about ‘pivoting’. This seems to be the key word at the moment across all sectors. Essentially, it is all about adapting the business in order to survive and succeed in this new world. 

For buyfair, we feel that this can be done by opening up the site to consumers but only for the brands who want consumers to see their products. I.e. Sellers can choose whether they want to offer their products to businesses, consumers or both.  In essence, we will be directly competing on the business to consumer (B2C) side with eBay, Alibaba and Amazon, however, buyfair has some really strong competitive advantages over them all which they cannot easily rectify:

 

  1. Customers have a real trust issue with eBay, Amazon and Alibaba. Anyone can sell anything. Often a consumer can end up with counterfeit goods bought from a fraudulent seller. This cannot happen on buyfair, as all Sellers are vetted by us and they can only sell brands if they own them or if they are licenced to do so. Therefore customers can purchase goods direct from the seller. 
  2. buyfair is a premium marketplace and therefore brands know they will sit alongside other premium brands. Their products will not appear next to chicken feet as they could well do on Alibaba.
  3. All product on buyfair are ‘in stock now’ and you can buy knowing exactly where the stock is located. Hence you can choose to buy local and also know that the products are already in existence. No additional raw materials are required to create the product nor any further carbon emissions involved except in the final delivery or pick up. 
  4. buyfair has a unique, patent pending, multi-lot capability allowing multiple bidders the possibility of buying products at the fairest price. Multiple winners on the same auction means everybody wins.

The reason for pivoting in this way is because the retail landscape has been changing for some time now but post COVID-19 it will be a very different place. We fear we will permanently lose many of the trade buyers on buyfair as many jobs will be lost and many stores will never reopen. Hence it makes sense for us to expand the audience for both buyfair and for our Sellers benefit. 

For brands such as MAKE International, my ceramics business, it is going to be a fight to keep the business alive. Many of MAKE’s customers will simply and unfortunately disappear. Certainly, the ability to use buyfair as a sales channel for both B2C and B2B will be an essential part of its survival which is by no means certain.

What is certain is that we all have some tough months ahead and it is only with clear thinking, innovation and collaboration that we can hope to achieve what is necessary to get through these unprecedented times.

I hope this in some way helps and if it does, please share and feel free to offer a response whatever that may be.

If you are currently selling on buyfair or are interested in doing so in the future, please fill out this 30 second survey providing us with your thoughts on our B2C pivot. Your responses will be greatly valued and will be used to help us define our change.

All the best,

Dominic 

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