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Covid-19

Sydney startup leaders respond to the city’s extended lockdown

- July 7, 2021 4 MIN READ
Sydney, Botanic Gardens, skyline
Photo: AdobeStock
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian extended Sydney’s two-week lockdown for another week to midnight, Friday, July 16, today as the focus for COVID-19 infections shifted from Sydney’s eastern suburbs to the city’s southwest

There were 27 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours as the numbers continue to bounce around, with the Premier warning they may rise again in the coming days.

The same restrictions currently in place across both Greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour and regional NSW will remain in place until next Friday.

The state government said it will release plan for lifting restrictions in the next few days to give the community and businesses more certainty to plan.

So how are Sydney startup leaders reacting to the next of ongoing lockdowns and work-from-home orders and what impact will it have on their business plans?

Here’s what they said:

Ian Yip

CEO of Avertro

Ian Yip, co-founder and CEO of Avertro

Continued lockdowns and the failure of our vaccine rollout relative to the rest of the developed world presents a real challenge to technology businesses such as ours.

The lack of mobility as a result of these constraints significantly hampers our growth plans, particularly internationally where being able to travel unlocks real potential for us on the global stage.

The government has provided little to no support to the startup ecosystem.

While there is an ongoing narrative in the latest lockdown extensions about how much collaboration there has been between the government and industry, that has largely been with corporations. Startups are essentially having to fend for ourselves through the current situation.

Francesca Pinzone

COO and co-founder of Umbo

Francesca Pinzone, COO and co-founder, Umbo

The extended Sydney lockdown will create further challenges for businesses and families as many are struggling to reach customers that can’t come to their physical locations, and parents will need to again juggle the demands of working from home while also home schooling and addressing challenges such as increased stress and anxiety.

We’ve seen throughout lockdown periods, and throughout the last 18 months overall, there is a growing need for family-centred technology solutions to every aspect of our lives – whether it’s games and tablets that have security features for children, online health solutions that take the changing home environment into consideration, or exercise apps for those who’ve turned their living room into a makeshift gym.

Most importantly, businesses and families should be using this time to reflect on what solutions are suitable purely for lockdowns, and which solutions have proven themselves during lockdowns and could also work long-term.

We’ve seen telehealth, for example, prove its worth during times of restricted travel, yet many still consider this a lockdown-only option, despite it being a viable and valuable option for families that struggle with travelling to healthcare professionals regardless of whether we’re in a lockdown.

This is particularly prevalent for those in rural and remote communities, where we regularly hear of families waiting 18 months for services like speech and occupational therapy.

 

Lee Hardham

CEO and founder of Brauz

Lee Hardham, CEO of Brauz

A lot of digital trends, particularly in the retail space, that were slowly gaining speed were accelerated almost overnight when stores closed in early 2020.

Whilst lockdowns have had catastrophic economic impacts, particularly for retailers, it was a warning sign for many that hadn’t prioritised digital experiences.

We were lucky at Brauz in that we’d spent the last couple of years focusing on creating virtual experiences with brick and mortar retailers that ended up finding a whole new meaning during lockdowns.

I think for this reason many digital-first companies, including Brauz, have seen a lot of growth and will continue to do so even as we come out of this period.

We’re now starting to look at how we expand internationally as demand from retailers for ways to connect with physical stores in digital ways continues to increase as we adapt to new shopping habits created by the pandemic.

 

Mathieu Bertrand

CEO & co-founder, Like Family 

Matt Bertrand

Like Family co-founder Matt Bertrand

The extension of this lockdown is a blow for many people that were already suffering from social isolation and loneliness.

This has been highlighted by an uptick in the increased access to mental health supports and crisis services that we partner with.

Like Family’s core purpose is to help reduce the risks of social isolation and to promote engagement with activities within the limits of NSW Health Public health orders. People with disabilities, now more than ever, need to feel safe and supported in accessing the community.

We are proud of the fact that our Social Carers are deemed to be essential service workers. They are doing their part to help people through this lockdown while operating under a COVID safe framework.

However, we hope to see an end to these restrictions soon, to reduce the pressure placed on already vulnerable Australians.

 

Uzair Moosa

CEO of Hey You

The extension of the lockdown will have a significantly higher impact on cafes and restaurants in the city – prior to this lockdown, there was good momentum in the city and we were starting to see some cafes and restaurants returning to as much as 60% of pre COVID volumes.

It’s a tough time for the smaller cafes and restaurants in the city with volumes down to less than 10% of pre lockdown volumes. These players would need external help like rent waivers from landlords and government sponsored programs like job keeper to navigate through these tough times.

On a more positive note, this is probably the last lockdown and within the next 3 months, as the vaccination roll out accelerates, we are likely to see a permanent return to normalcy as the hospitality stakeholders (big corporations, building managers, restaurant & cafe owners, government and customers)  work together to plan for the future.

 

Paul Tory & Josh Goulburn,
Co-founders & CEO & COO of Foodbomb

Paul Tory, Josh Goulburn

Foodbomb co-founders Paul Tory & Josh Goulburn

While lockdowns impact everyone, it’s fair to say those in the food and restaurant industry are some of the hardest hit. Businesses in this sector across the country are having to pivot at a moment’s notice, often at great cost.

Naturally, there is frustration. Not necessarily at anyone in particular, but at COVID in general.

Given this isn’t our first lockdown, there is also a perception that most venues can simply switch over to online ordering without much warmup.

While this is true for some, for others it’s not a financially viable option, especially without the support of JobKeeper or other financial grants. Location plays a huge part in this — the inner city venues are often the hardest hit.

While this is all just part of COVID, it’s important that communication stays open and transparent so that the industry can rebuild to the best of its ability as quickly as possible — staffing, food orders and supplies require planning.

The best way to support your local is to continue respecting the lockdown rules so that we can all get back to business as quickly as possible.