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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Spaces CEO Brad Herman had an early warning about the coronavirus because his startup supplies VR attractions to a number of theme parks in China. Realizing that the business he spent the last few years building was going to evaporate, Herman quickly found a new way to apply his team's know-how: helping companies host Zoom teleconferences in VR.
Why it matters: Many startups are rethinking the viability of their core businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Spaces' move is one of many such pivots likely to crop up in the coming months.
There's a variety of reasons companies are now pivoting (credit to Bloomberg Beta's Roy Bahat for much of this list):
Pandemic-era pivots have so far taken a couple different approaches:
Here are a few companies that have already managed to shift gears:
Allset initially was focused on enabling a quick "dine-in" experience by letting customers make a reservation, order ahead and then pay directly through the app.
Hoovie is a Vancouver-based startup that lets people host movie screenings in all sorts of venues including homes and restaurants.
Augmented writing startup Textio got its start helping companies remove bias from job listings and other corporate communications, but it is adding services around writing even for companies not doing a lot of hiring at the moment.
Enrich is designed to give up-and-coming executives a peer group. It had been focused on in-person gatherings, starting in the San Francisco Bay Area, but realized a need to go all-digital once the coronavirus hit.
Spaces, as mentioned above, is now focused on its VR workspace, which has been downloaded more than 3,000 times, Herman said.
Our thought bubble: Pivots can pay off, and some great products and companies were born from them.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
As the coronavirus pandemic has quickly upended the U.S. economy and everyday life, it has also prompted entrepreneurs to devise clever solutions to new problems, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
What's happening: Founders have quickly spun up projects like Frontline Foods and StopCOVID-19 to tackle urgent needs like generating revenue for restaurants and keeping essential service workers informed of fast-changing health guidelines.
"We attracted probably the best team I’ve ever seen at a startup," San Francisco-based entrepreneur Frank Barbieri tells Axios of the volunteers helping Frontline Foods, an organization delivering meals to healthcare workers that he helped launch less than a month ago.
The big picture: Entrepreneurs, seasoned executives and professionals have been jumping at the challenges created by the coronavirus crisis to offer ideas, time and skills to projects like these examples and many others.
Between the lines: While these efforts are driven by the immediate problems and needs that the coronavirus pandemic has created, the solutions will likely outlast the current situation.
Be smart: Creativity often springs out of crisis, and it couldn't be more true for entrepreneurs amid the current pandemic.
Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
The Justice Department led a group of executive branch agencies in calling on federal regulators Thursday to revoke a Chinese state-owned telecom company's permission to provide service in the U.S., citing national security concerns, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
Why it matters: It's the latest crackdown from the federal government on China-based communications companies amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over a range of issues.
What's happening: Administration officials found "substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks" in reviewing China Telecom's operations in the U.S.
Yes, but: China Telecom denied the U.S. agencies' allegations, calling them "procedurally unprecedented" in a statement.
Flashback: The FCC last year voted to deny a request from China Mobile, another state-owned telecom company, to provide service in the U.S.
The first hospital network in the U.S. has joined an international clinical trial using artificial intelligence to help determine which treatments for patients with the novel coronavirus are most effective, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.
Why it matters: Scientists face dueling needs: to find treatments quickly and to ensure they are safe and effective. By using this new type of adaptive platform, doctors hope to collect clinical data that will help more quickly determine what actually works.
State of play: No treatments have been approved for COVID-19 yet. Researchers have made headway in mapping how the virus attaches and infects human cells — helping "guide drug developers, atom by atom, in devising safe and effective ways to treat COVID-19," National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins writes.
How it works: Starting Thursday, UPMC's system of 40 hospitals began offering the trial to patients who have moderate to severe complications from COVID-19, Angus said.
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