Collaboration space in lower Manhattan open again

Manhattan Space Open for Collaboration

In their August newsletter, Lower Manhattan Headquarters (LMHQ) welcomes members back to their collaboration space. According to LMHQ’s website, they re-opened, by appointment only, in July. This is great news for the tech industry, as they appear to be leading the way. You can find a full description of the safety guidelines in a google drive document. Aside from the expected precautions, of note is:

  • Access is Tuesday through Thursdays only, 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Member must make reservations no later than 10 PM the night before
  • If no one signs up the night before, LMHQ will not open

Among the spaces that I usually scrape for event information, this is the first one that is physically open. Despite a limit of 11 people to the event space, LMHQ is still limiting itself to virtual events. This is inline with other event spaces such as Alley and Betaworks. However, even limited to 50% occupancy, LMHQ has a meeting room rated for eight people. And their open area, with a strict mask policy, is allowing groups of 3 people at a table. This reopening plan will be worth keeping tabs on.

If you are affiliated with a collaboration space, I am eager to hear from you and learn about their re-opening plans. Feel free to reply directly to me.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

Reopening Schools is EdTech Time to Shine

Reopening schools in the Fall of 2020 was a major topic this week. Kicking off a lot of the discussion was the White House’s National Dialogue Safely Reopening America’s Schools. At the forefront was the CDC and their guidelines. Among the many COVID-19 related publications, below are a few, related to K-12 schools, including date of latest revision:

I’m of the opinion that no one is arguing against reopening schools. However, a majority of concern surrounds uncertainty with respect to the details of reopening in a safe manner. Looking to local governments to interpret the CDC guidelines and customize them for their individual situations is consistent with the messaging throughout the COVID-19 response. For that reason, we are most likely looking at a hybrid reopening strategy.

Schools are Reassessing e-learning, EdTech Should be Too

A friend of mine, in the education space, welcomed in July with a reminder that most free trials of EdTech software expired June 30th. This impacts almost every school districts. As a result, many have dedicated the end of the school year and early part of the summer to identifying the short falls of e-learning. I hope that EdTech is doing the same. No doubt there were many lessons learned not only by the educators, parents, and students. The 100 days of summer should be more than enough time for EdTech companies, new and existing, to address the needs and improve in time for back to school fall 2020.

Here in NY, the Governor has targeted the first week of August to make a decision on reopening NY Schools. Whether the decision is to delay openings past September or a part time schedule with e-learning, this is an opportunity. Not only for corporations and philanthropic organizations to subsidize the identified necessities:

  • devices
  • internet access
  • education software, student facing and on teacher/administrative side

Whatever the decision is, even full time on day 1, certain things need to happen for success. It is important that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding funding, communication, and the proposed plan. EdTech’s role is essential in those discussions.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

JPMorgan Research: Follow the Money, Predict Hot spot

This week JPMorgan research published a recently completed report. Spending using their credit cards and determined in restaurant spending as a key indicator of spikes in COVID-19 cases. This confirmed an earlier study using of OpenTable data.  It should be no surprise, cooking #SafeAtHome keeps the case numbers down.

“high levels of supermarket spending are indicative of more careful social distancing in a state.” 

JPMorgan Analyst Jesse Edgerton

I’m still searching for the entire JPMorgan research report to learn more about it. For example, do they factor in take-out and delivery numbers?  In any case, public gathering must still be monitored. Care must increase as we move #NYForward to Phase 3, and 4 in suburban regions.  Especially as those phases relax capacity limits and more types of business start to open.

I continue to be pleased by intelligent use of data.  Evidence based decision making appears to be keeping the pandemic under control. That is, in places listening to the science experts.  Adding more signals to help flag potential hot spots can only improve our situation as we wait for a vaccine.

The video below, from back in May, interviews Edgerton, the report’s author. While he does not specifically discuss the report, he expressed caution about a COVID-19 resurgence.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

Passing 👉 the mic 🎤

Handing over this week's edition to my high school friend, now a Dr at University of Connecticut

I was once told by a very good friend of mine that I “wasn’t really black” because I was “smart”, “kind” in premed classes and I liked the Beatles and REM…

but I was “black enough” to be stopped by police officers because I fit the description, a laughable photocopy of a black face which looked just like me because I had eyes and a nose and ears and of course a black face. They were looking for a rapist and I, all 13 years of me, in my Catholic school shirt and tie “ fit the description”

I was “black enough” to be called a nigger randomly as I walked home one evening.

I was “black enough” to have white women step out of the elevator whenever I walked in

I am just “black enough” to be seen with suspicion and fear.

I was “scary Dr. Alerte” until I painted a smile on my face and donned the elbow padded tweed jacket uniform of the academic. The safe academic who probably won’t attack you or rob you or assault you. I wear a shirt and tie everywhere because a hoodie just might get me killed.

I named my son Atticus after Atticus Finch and I find myself secretly, quietly, happy that due to his genetics he is just “white enough” to “pass” so hopefully he won’t have to walk the road I’ve had to and hopefully I won’t be standing over his grave.

I am so very, very tired of the understood and accepted world I find myself in.

Exposure Notification 🔔Moving 💃us 👫 #NYForward

Exposure notification; trace, contact, isolate; is a major component of re-opening America. On April 10th Apple and Google announced they would be working together on APIs in the fight against COVID-19 spread. The two leading smartphone OS manufacturers would combine to accelerate the use of smartphones in contact tracing. This week, Switzerland launched the first app based on this technology. The key feature uses Bluetooth to measure proximity and duration between smartphones. At a later date if either party test positive, the other(s) receive notification.

A common refrain during #NYSonPAUSE is the use of 100 year old techniques at fighting pandemics: social distancing. This exposure notification marks the first significant technological advance during this crisis. Of course, it is not without its detractors. The new refrain is that the government, or worse, advertisers, will now use this to secretly track us.

Many safeguards made their way into the APIs, in some cases reducing their effectiveness. For example, the non-negotiable feature was that the exposure metrics could not be stored in a centralized database. The BBC article, link above, clearly depicts how centralization impacts app usage.

Contact tracing is a cornerstone of #NYForward. Once communities are able to notify the exposure to the virus at a mass scale, smart medical practices can be put into place. Namely, isolate contagious individuals and prevent outbreaks. New Rochelle used this containment zone strategy, with the jury still being out on its success.

I’m looking forward to the public health solutions that will be launching soon.  Both types, ones using this set of APIs and those based on competing innovations.  Let’s bring the fight against the spread into this century.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

Virtual Experience 📹 There’s Still Time 🕙 to Build Better 💻

Earlier in the month several articles started popping up talking about people suffering from Quarantine fatigue, after a considerable amount of time asked to #StayAtHome.  With Memorial Day just around the corner, these theories will certainly be put to the test, as the Greater NYC metro area is still shy of hitting all the NY Forward re-opening metrics.  I had firsthand experience with this last weekend, with the weather obliging many more cars and walkers were visible.  A week later and the metrics continuing to improve should only add to that.  My hopes is that it is a moderated and safe break from quarantine.

I mainly bring this up because the fatigue appears to be setting into the schedule of virtual networking events.  Have we hit a Zoom Wall?  Part of it, I suspect, is resources being shifted to opening business back up.  At the same time, I have noticed a drop off in

  • attendance at events
  • participation within events
  • availability of events

Are we saving our energy to dust off professional attire and finding alternates to public transportation.  Or has the novelty of video conferencing genuinely worn off and it needs to go back on the shelf, behind a glass pane “Break in case of emergency”?  

Virtual Experience Improvements IRL

My perspective continues to be that the quality of these meetings needs to improve.  “Yes”, the tools are freely available.  “Yes”, everyone has a different schedule. And “Yes,” everyone has their own domestic situation.  However, whether you are a team manager running regular status meeting, a moderator of a panel with diverse experts scattered nationally, or president of a community board, you should:

  • take the time to get familiar with the software, get to know as many of the “ins and outs” as you can.  You never know when they’ll come in handy.
  • publish best practices for a conferencing setup to all your participants.  Microphones, cameras, camera height/placement, background acoustics/visuals, etc. (Check out Epiphan’s Tuesday session, below)
  • Moderate the participants.  Mute and un-mute only speakers when it is their turns, leave time for questions, and get as many involved as possible.  Just like IRL.

Again, I know everyone has a different level of expertise, comfort, etc.  If you can’t dedicate the time to be a master of all of these, ask for help.  From what I remember about the workplace, there was usually one or two folks that would thrive when given responsibility and ownership of a task.  I’d like to think that still exists.  Fatigue or no fatigue.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

🚪 If you open, will they come ? 🚶 🚪

NY State on PAUSE is scheduled to end next week, May 15th and businesses all across the Empire state are going through the guidelines to re-open when their region is ready and move NY Forward. The tweet below links to the much discussed, draft CDC Guidelines, which may or may not be the outline on which NY’s are based.

A neighbor shared a nice write up on how the virus spreads. Whether you agree with this course of action of re-opening or believe it is happening too quickly, make sure to take precautions. Staying safe is the best way to get us back to a pre-COVID state or as close to it as possible. For individuals, that means:

  • practice social distancing, six feet minimum, and consider wearing a mask or some type of facial covering when/where that is not practical
  • frequently disinfect your hands: sanitizer or soap and water
  • limit time spent at social gatherings, large or small

More importantly, business owners should take every measure to secure their workplace. One of the top priorities should be reducing worker density. Food packaging businesses are seeing the most new cases, due to the proximity of workers to one another, lack of protective measures, and noisy environments requiring projecting one’s voice and, by extension, droplet transmission. Precautions include

  • continuing work from home, staggering shifts where applicable
  • making sure all employees are clear on safety and hygiene protocols
  • limiting unnecessary travel and visitors

With NY State on PAUSE scheduled to end, business owners need to get creative and employ new technology where available. Below is another video on using streaming technology for schools, but this certainly can apply across industries. For those businesses that rely on face to face interactions or have been impacted by the scarcity in delivery mechanisms begin implementing Appointment Retail.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!

🌼 May Day,💐 May Day… 🌻 May Day is here 🌼

A new month is right around the corner and by all accounts that means we are one month closer to re-opening.  As we prepare for what that means, many are recommending using this time to reflect on what can be improved and rebuilt better than it was.

I take that to mean helping each other to improve their situation, not only with respect to the current status, but going back to when this all started.  I have no doubt we all know someone who’s career or livelihood has been completely disrupted.  Just this week, I had a colleague reach out because he had lost his job due to COVID-19.  What struck me was his optimism given the situation.  His expectation and career goals were not disrupted and he will continue to work hard towards those outcomes.  That said, if anyone is in need of a smart, hard working BDR in the B2B SaaS space, hit me up.

🏦 Small Business 👔 💼 Got Every Reason to Live 📈

The White House Guidelines for Opening Up America have been released. Also out of Washington, D.C. this week were several statements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pertaining to small businesses.  Let’s dive into what was published.

Every business owner, and employees as well, should carefully read the gating and phased guidelines presented to state officials for Opening Again published on April 16th, 2020.   There are specific types of employers, such as bars, gyms, and restaurants, that have stricter criteria, but in general the phases unroll similar to how some states recommended increasing workplace density, albeit in reverse.  The reality for most reading this email, however, is that we are at least 14 days, if not more, away from entering Phase I here in the Northeast Corridor.  We need to prepare, but also manage until business reopens and begins to pick up.

This is where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce comes in.  Many of us applied for the Paycheck Protection Program only to see it run dry, leaving many on the sidelines with no chance to get into the game.  Immediately after that news broke, the CoC issued its third plea asking Congress to replenish CARES Act funds designated to small business, freelancers, and independent contractors.  Keep your application up to date or submit one if you have not already, anticipating new funds becoming available.  While we wait for Congress, CoC had already sought help from the private sector and secured contributions from a number of corporate entities.  From the “Save Small Business” Initiative press release:

Funded by contributions from corporate and philanthropic partners, the Foundation will provide $5,000 supplemental grants to small employers in economically vulnerable communities

U.S. Chamber website

Now, before you flood the Save Small Business website, applications can be submitted starting on April 20th,2020 at noon PT.  Requirements include:

  • employ more than 3 people
  • employ less than 20 people
  • operate in an economically vulnerable community

Best of luck with your application! In the meantime, here’s Mark Cuban’s take on opening up the economy and other topics. Stay healthy and keep streaming!

P.S. It may not be clear to all, but this post’s title is to be sung to Randy Newman’s “Short People”

With Time on Hand 🕙, Will SaaS Sink ⚓ or Swim 🏊

I recently attended an online bookkeeping seminar. The instructor pointed out how this is the time to dust off the books and take a closer look at how your business is structured from the financial perspective. “People put it off, but now they have the time.” I’m sure you have no shortage of suggestions on how to best use your “new found free time.” Don’t worry, this post isn’t whether there actually is additional time or how to spend it. What was more interesting to me was when he went on to say, “It’s great we have this technology. Not only to run this class, but great, online tools allowing small businesses to handle all their books electronically.” Here was a brick and mortar, paper and pencil business owner promoting tech tools that could be viewed as eliminating his job.

Working from home is forcing business transformation, not just in communications as I wrote about in the last post, but in the way a business operates and manages overhead. This takes the form in general tools such as:

  • productivity (i.e. word processing, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • file sharing
  • project management

This transformation applies to companies of any size and organizational structure. Online vendors have pricing, access tiers, and packages that will accommodate you. You may be familiar with the free-mium model, where an entire app is free and advanced, or premium, features require payment. General productivity tools, web publishing, and email are great examples of this model.

Once you start looking at industry or job specific tools, such as bookkeeping or photo editing, there are more tiers, usually in the good-better-best model. Perhaps you can start with a free 30 day trial with one login and a core set of features. For an additional fee, you unlock more storage, inter-connectivity with other apps, or a full set of built-in capabilities. At the higher end, there could be a team access version that allows for collaboration among peers, each with their own login. Of course there are always additional plugin-ins or add-ons. Online providers are always happy to take your money.

While many indicators point to reduced spending during (as well as some time after) this 30 days of #StayAtHome to Slow the Spread period, this has led to some declaring the end of a great run by SaaS companies. Yes, there will certainly be consolidation, acquisitions of talent shops on the cheap, and copycat services will fade away. I prefer the optimism Louis Colombus outlines in the conclusions of his Forbes article on COVID-19’s impact, where he predicts a “potential increases in spending on specialized software.”  My brick and mortar, pencil pushing instructor sees it.  He can’t be the only one.

Stay healthy and keep streaming!