Leadership amid uncertainty — guide for migrapreneurs facing Covid-19

Here's a piece written by Usman Iftikhar, CEO of Catalysr, a preaccelerator helping migrant entrepreneurs.

Covid-19 has engulfed the whole world in a very short-period of time. It has come with health and financial challenges for everyone, and has particularly hit hard at elderly people, other disadvantaged groups and those who are immunocompromised.

I have personally lost friends and family members across the globe to this deadly virus and came very close to catching it myself a few weeks ago.

Almost every news source is talking about it and everyone has become an overnight expert in epidemiology. In Australia in particular, there’s also been a lot of confusion because of the quickly changing nature of advice by various states & territories, often conflicting with the advice of the federal Government — alongside a maze of new support packages for individuals/families/business etc.

If you’re a migrapreneur in Australia, like myself, you are probably fighting through grief, anxiety, other health & financial challenges.

Our whole team at Catalysr started self-isolating and went fully remote from early March. We have also moved all our existing and new programs at Catalysr online — with the aim to keep as much of the same user-experience and support as possible in these uncertain times.

So I wanted to write a guide to share how I have been answering the following questions that are coming up for me as we have been navigating this journey thus far.

  • How to understand more about Covid-19 and how quickly it is spreading?

  • What can I do to keep myself and my family safe & healthy (physically and emotionally) and financially secure?

  • How can I (and should I even try to) keep my business afloat? What support is available for me?

  • How can I support my teams in this difficult time both personally and professionally?

If I said I had answers to all these questions myself, I would be wrong.

However, what I can say is that I am reading, watching and listening to the advice from amazing mentors and experts from across the globe.

I am writing this article to amplify that signal amongst all the noise, and share with you some of the fantastic content from trusted sources for you to consume when you want to answer these questions.

Let’s dig in!

How to understand more about Covid-19, and how it is spreading?

What can I do to keep myself and my family safe & healthy (physically and emotionally) and financially secure?

How can I (and should I even try to) keep my business afloat? What support is available for me?

Running a business, whether that’s an early stage startup or social enterprise is really hard in the current environment.

If you’re launching a new startup, or pivoting your business

  • Consider solving myriad problems directly reducing the health impact of Covid-19 from figuring out quick-testing, vaccine R&D and roll-out, manufacturing ventilators and PPEs such as gowns, masks, face-shileds, as well hand-sanitizers etc. One example of such work is done by the Fab9 team to produce face-shields, you can also join their effort.

  • Short-term — Consider the various opportunities provided by delivery services in telehealth, medicine and food delivery for various different market segments, online learning and other ecommerce plays.

  • Medium-long term — Observe, research and brush up your skills and see how the world is changing due to Covid-19 and what you can do to set up a startup for a world after the pandemic.

  • Also if you are looking to fund your Covid-19 project, you can add it to this list set up by Sam Altman and also apply for MIT Solve competition

If you decide to hibernate for a few months or close down your business completely, here’s a few resources to help you.

  • Check the eligibility criteria and apply for Australian Government’s JobSeeker support including the Covid-19 supplement payments

  • Fishburners are doing “At Home with Fishburners” Webinars. Register here.

  • Learn new skills/up-skill in a lot of free online courses available at the current time.

  • Apply for jobs at startups in Australia that are hiring during Covid-19 — here’s a great opensource list by AirTree VC to check out.

  • Apply for remote jobs being hired for by startups across the globe on Angel list here.

How can I support my employees in this difficult time?

If this is hard for you as a founder/CEO, it is even tougher for some of your team members, who might not have the same threshold of dealing with uncertainty as you do. You have to think holistically from physical and mental health to transitioning your operations and employees to remote-work (if it applies in your industry). Also apply for JobKeeper payments to retain employees where possible. Above all be kind and empathetic, and go out of our way to support your team members.

Here’s a few more resources for your toolkit:

Some final thoughts

If you have read this far, you know that the story is far from over. We have had terrible global pandemics and wars, but collectively we figure out how to fight them and come out on the other side.

Here’s a study on what makes our communities resilient how we recover from a crisis.

If you’re a migrapreneur, I want you to learn from Strava’s founder on The Power of Patience, and do your situational best because even the worst crisis creates opportunities.

From Scott Kelly’s website —http://www.scottkelly.com/endurance

For those of you stuck at home for a long-duration, I want you to take inspiration from the Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a whole year on the International Space Station to help humanity understand the effects of space on the human body. Here’s his book called ‘Endurance’ if you’re interested in digging deeper into his story.

You are all astronauts, staying at home to protect others, especially those who are at risk. Keep it up and stay safe!

Till next time,



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©2019 by Mentor Community.

©2019 by Mentor Community.