6 lessons from building a business in a downturn

  
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Leah Solivan is a GP at Fuel Capital and the founder of TaskRabbit, a marketplace that connects freelancers with local demand. Leah scaled the company to 44 cities and raised more than $50 million before selling TaskRabbit to Ikea in 2017. She launched the company in 2008, had left her well-paid job as an engineer for IBM and despite months of conversations with investors—occurring against headwinds of the financial crisis—her credit cards were maxed out and her bank account was dry. There is no playbook for what’s going on in today’s markets. But for this virtual AMA, we invited Leah to share some of her lessons from the past.

Here are Leah’s top 6 lessons for building a business during this crisis:

Connect with customers

There is no better time to deepen your understanding of their needs. If you need to, pivot to meet the new needs of customers that come out of this phase.

Fundraising without access

Find a group of founders in your area and join incubators to further open your network of advisors, mentors, and supporters in support of fundraising.

"We’re looking for founders that are going to be resilient through this, that are going to operate smart through this crisis.”

Communicate with transparency

Be transparent as possible with your employees. Share financials, strategy and product progress with your team and stakeholders, and do it frequently.


Prioritize loyalty in hiring

Crises are a great time to find truly passionate, loyal talent that will stay with you for the long run. You may have to lower salaries but maybe you can offer more equity as a way to reward your employees for being in the trenches with you.


Cut as deep as possible

Have 24 months of cash in the can, if you don’t, figure out what to cut back to get there. Cut as a deep as possible, and then even more than you think is necessary. Stay lean.


Focus

Don’t try and do it all — be vigilant about prioritizing levers that really matter.

See the full recording of our webinar above (the audio is raw, so forgive a lack of editing).