2020 reminded us in a very painful way that we are, above everything else, human. It was and still is scary. As startup founders, we are powered by a sense of meaning, purpose and sometimes ego. And all of these things lost their significance in a matter of days, leaving us dazed and confused and wondering if what we’re doing makes sense in the new reality. 

Some businesses thrived, while others have seen years worth of work being wiped out in a matter of days. If you’re wondering how I spent the lockdown – I found solace developing a product which I love, buried between lines of code. The ability to pursue something I could control and seeing it take shape while being sheltered by the dangers outside was a blessing. Did I wonder if my work will ever see the light of day? Of course, and a couple of months seemed like years.

Getting back in the game

Tech startups usually have to deal with a high level of uncertainty. It’s just how it works – you’re making a bet that your vision and the product you’re creating will be valuable to other people – customers who will be willing to take out their credit cards and pay for it. In the past months, that level of uncertainty has risen significantly. Basically, the rules of the game have changed while we were playing.

But startups have an important quality – they are adaptable. The best ones are also resilient, creative and visionary. Although there are exceptions and contrary to popular belief, tech startups are not a short-term game. It can take years and many iterations to get to product/market fit. So why would we throw in the towel now? Of course, the current crisis has made things hugely difficult, but a crisis also leads to opportunity – to look at the world differently, to identify what the new normal will be, to reevaluate our WHY and understand what drives us.

Benefits of a support system

In times such as the ones we are living, having a support system is more important than ever. Relationships with potential advisers, customers, investors or partners can take months or years to cultivate. We tend to underestimate how important these relationships are, especially in a time of need. Just having that mentor, that trusted person who you can ask for advice about a situation he and she has already been through, can be immensely helpful. 

The first edition of StepFWD brought us a nice surprise. We were aiming to create an educational experience for first-time tech entrepreneurs and we were taken by surprise by the strong sense of community that resulted from the program. We shared our (personal) highs and lows – the StepFWD team included – and our alumni have rewarded us by keeping close after the program had ended. Although 2020 has brought us new challenges – including social distancing and moving a lot of activities online, we hope that the 2nd edition of StepFWD will be just as successful in cultivating that sense of community.

What’s new at StepFWD 2020?

We are fortunate to be able to continue supporting tech startups with diverse teams. This year we will be expanding our mission to include all types of diversity, either we are talking about ethnicity, gender, age and so on.

In addition, we are introducing the concept of lead mentors. Each startup will benefit from working closely with a dedicated mentor that will guide their progress from start to finish. To ensure the participants’ and mentors’ safety, activities will take place online.

We, the StepFWD team, will continue our mission to support first-time and early-stage entrepreneurs through the most vulnerable stages of their startups’ lives. If you are part of that special group who finds strength in adversity, we will be delighted to work with you, because we believe that hard work and resilience will be repaid for those who have the courage to step forward.