One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was a massive uptick in entrepreneurship. During a Wednesday afternoon panel in the Young Professionals Hub, a group of entrepreneurial experts discussed what it takes to succeed in the start-up world in 2022.
COVID-19 has been a long and difficult chapter in U.S. history. Even on its darkest days, however, the pandemic has also ushered in bursts of optimism and opportunity.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in the entrepreneurial community, which made the sweetest lemonade out of COVID’s sour lemons. Case in point: Over 4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020 alone—an increase of 24% over 2019, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says approximately 380 out of every 100,00 adults became new entrepreneurs each month during the first year of the pandemic.
This surge in start-up activity and entrepreneurship is particularly good news for the GEOINT community, which is as hungry as it’s ever been for new products, services, and solutions from commercial partners who are diverse in size, composition, and capability. It’s such good news, in fact, that entrepreneurship was the star of its own panel discussion Wednesday afternoon in the Young Professionals Hub at GEOINT 2022.
Titled “Entrepreneurship and the Unlikely COVID-Era Start-up Boom,” the 45-minute discussion featured moderator Chitra Sivanandam, chief technology officer at Reinventing Geospatial Inc., alongside three expert panelists: geospatial consultant Jessica King, founder and CEO of GeoSISU; angel investor Nicole Washington, chief transformation officer at the National Geospatial-Intelligency Agency (NGA); and entrepreneur Isaac Zaworski, president of Sectra Inc.
While businesses are used to the concept of “disruption,” what has made the pandemic so ripe for entrepreneurship, panelists suggested, is the concept of “destruction.”
“As an entrepreneur…you’re always trying to search for opportunities to disrupt—how to do things differently and attack a problem through a lens or an angle that hasn’t been done before,” Zaworski said. “Destruction is more of an opportunity that presents itself. You’re always searching for disruption, but a destructive moment is when something massive changes. Something that was status quo is no longer, and it creates opportunity.”
From remote working and at-home grocery delivery to telehealth and online learning, destructive moments were rampant during the pandemic, and entrepreneurs seized them with gusto both inside and outside the GEOINT Community.
But has the moment passed? Or can nascent entrepreneurs still make it big with a winning idea?
Opportunity continues to knock, agreed the panelists, who spent much of their discussion sharing sage wisdom to help GEOINT start-ups succeed. Washington, for example, cautioned entrepreneurs to be careful when they’re raising money; although venture capitalists are a popular source of seed money, she said, their dollars often come with strings attached that might compromise your vision. King, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of networking with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors who can expose you to new ideas and different ways of starting and running a business. Panelists also urged entrepreneurs to clearly define and articulate their value proposition and their competitive advantage—both of which will help them recruit investors, partners, and customers—and to be honest with themselves about their appetite for uncertainty and risk, which are fundamental to the entrepreneurial experience.
Also fundamental to the entrepreneurial experience should be excitement, according to Zaworski. “Entrepreneurship’s not for everyone. It is for many people. If you’re considering the path, just make sure you’re checking in with yourself every day. Make sure you are incredibly excited about what you’re doing on a daily basis. Because you’re going to put in a lot of time and a lot of effort, and you’re going to run into a lot of challenges and hurdles you’re going to have to overcome. You’re going to have to survive.”