As coronavirus tears across the country, predictions are bleak.
The US – and possibly the world – is bracing for a recession.
Some startups, among them Hipmunk and Service, have closed shop after the crippling impact to many businesses with a sudden halt in travel.
One-third of firms say they’ve frozen hiring.
As we individually take shelter, it may seem prudent to also put entrepreneurship on hold during this tumultuous season.
But for entrepreneurs ready – and willing – to take on an undoubtedly tough time, this may actually be the perfect moment to rise to the occasion with new software solutions, to harness new technology to address emerging problems, or to otherwise provide meaningful value to the world.
This isn’t a rose-colored perspective – in fact, it’s one rooted in history, and we have 10 different cases that remind us that sometimes, the worst of times can launch some of the very best solutions.
General Electric ($95.2 Billion Revenue in 2019)
Just as the Panic of 1893 kicked off, dropping business activity by 40% across the nation, Thomas Edison and company launched General Electric, a company that becomes one of just 12 original companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896, and remaining there for more than a century.
General Motors (GM) ($137.2 Billion Revenue in 2019)
Although he officially moved his horse-drawn carriage manufacturing business into the emerging automobile industry in 1904 when he purchased The Buick Motor Company, GM Founder William Durant launched GM as a holding company for more automobile manufactures in 1908 – amidst the 12-month Panic of 1907, which saw 30% business declines. And today, GM is at the forefront of mobilizing its supply chain to manufacture lifesaving masks to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
IBM $77.1 Billion (Revenue in 2019)
IBM (then Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company CTR) started selling a business and commercial machines amidst a two-year panic that sent most industries into double-digit decreases. Eventually, CTR would lead the digital revolution, and of course, change its name.
Disney ($69.6 Billion Revenue in 2019)
Mickey Mouse made his debut in Walt and Roy Disney’s Steamboat Willie just a year before the Great Depression began. Also in 1929, the Disney brothers incorporated Walt Disney Productions, determined to keep the country smiling. The award-winning, timeliness Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released just after The Great Depression ended.
HP ($58.8 Billion Revenue in 2019)
Recent Stanford graduates William Hewlett and David Packard set off planning for their new electronics company, Hewlett-Packard, during the recession of 1937-1938. They incorporated their business on the heels of the recession, on January 1, 1939.
Hyatt ($5 Billion Revenue in 2019)
When Jay Pritzker bought the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport, business activity and travel were already slowing in the Recession of 1958. But that didn’t stop Pritzker, who would add two more hotels before the decade ended, and eventually grow the collection to almost 900 properties around the world.
Trader Joe’s ($13.3 Billion Estimated Revenue in 2019)
Founder Joe Coulombe also launched his business during the Recession of 1958. Having just returned from a Caribbean vacation, Coulombe was inspired to bring international foods to consumers, and Trader Joe’s was born as Pronto Markets. Eventually, Coulombe sold his business in 1979 to Theo Albrecht.
FedEx ($65.5 Billion Revenue in 2019)
FedEx founder Fred Smith launched his business, a concept he refined as part of a Yale school project, on the heels of the Recession of 1969-1970. Although this recession was fairly mild and shorter than many, Smith still had to grapple with challenges selling a fresh concept to risk-averse businesses wary of investing in unknown vendors. Smith won out, not only building a business but an entire industry. Last year, FedEx delivered more than 6 million packages a day.
Microsoft ($125.8 Billion Revenue in 2019)
The story of Bill Gates and Paul Allen developing a computer software business is well known, but perhaps less so is that the computer software giant launched on April 4, 1975, mere days after the official end of the 1973-1974 recession, which was triggered by an oil crisis and stock market crash, ended.
Electronic Arts ($4.5 Billion Revenue in 2019)
Not only did founder Trip Hawkins launch his new software company at the end of the 1979 energy crisis and following the 1981-1982 Recession, but he also left a stable job at Apple to do so. Today, this gaming behemoth providing games to home computer sand entertaining systems, and employs more than 10,000 people.
And if that isn’t inspiration enough, don’t forget three other household names, all which launch just before major economic downturns and navigated them to come out very much on top:
Before the dot-com Bubble Burst, there was Google (1998) and Salesforce (1999); before the Great Recession, Facebook (2004).
Are you ready to bring your revolutionary idea to the world?
TechGenies is here for you, and your business, even in tumultuous times. Now, more than ever, choosing the right business partners is vital to running your operations as successful, and as lean, as possible. We’re well-versed in coming alongside entrepreneurs to develop creative technology solutions, build technology infrastructure from the ground up, or advise on technology strategy. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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