April 10, 2020

As the weeks unfold and Americans continue “sheltering in place”, many entrepreneurs, researchers, business leaders and others have increasingly recognized that governmental response can be inconsistent and unpredictable. There are so many urgent needs right now, from protecting healthcare workers to helping the most economically disadvantaged and more, including of course the paramount task of #stoppingthespread of COVID19. All require immediate action. And it’s happening…. at the grassroots level. Calls to action abound: to make, innovate, donate and volunteer… and those calls are gladly being answered.

On the Financial Front

What if you can’t pay your mortgage? How do you navigate the disaster loan application process? Many Americans are facing complex financial situations and don’t know where to turn. Ulu portfolio company EarnUp , a consumer financial technology platform, has gathered information to provide assistance during these time

Ulu portfolio company, Cerebro Capital, is providing great resources to help companies navigate loan options – including immediate help with SBA PPP loans and access to longer-term financing solutions. There is plenty of information about which loan programs make the most sense for any particular organization. There is a new Main Street Lending program that can help businesses with up to $2m in debt on their balance sheet. To help businesses estimate their borrowing capacity, Cerebro updated a tool called a debt capacity calculator

Tech, academic rivals join forces to “track” infections using phones

Tech giants Apple and Google are teaming up to enable smartphone users to “contract trace” infections while saying they will also preserve people’s privacy. Using bluetooth capabilities, if two phones spend more than a few minutes within range of one another, they would each record contact with the other phone, exchanging unique, rotating identifier “beacon” numbers that are based on keys stored on each device. If someone else’s phone finds that one of these beacon numbers matches one stored on their phone, they would be notified that they’ve been in contact with a potentially infected person and given information about how to help prevent further spread.

Researchers at Stanford and the University of Waterloo are developing a similar crowdsourced mobile app that could better inform people trying to assess their symptoms and their risk, as the virus spreads. COVID Watch aims to empower people to protect their communities from COVID-19 without sacrificing personal privacy.They are looking for a variety of volunteers, but in particular, mobile app developers. The app uses Bluetooth signals to detect when users are in proximity to each other and alerts them anonymously if they were in contact with someone later confirmed to have COVID-19, without anyone (including the government) being able to track who exposed who to who.

Calling all engineers and developers!

Help protect healthcare workers by joining up with a new non-profit called MasksOn. They are generating low cost high quality medical protective gear. The team is building durable, reusable, and sanitizable medical protective personal equipment (PPE) via a combination of snorkel masks, medical-grade filters, and 3D filter parts. Engineers and developers and other volunteers are needed to help the team making the equipment, and with clinicians with the testing or you can donate.

Ulupreneurs Founder Michael Choi and CEO Richard Wang of Coding Dojo launched Tech for America to help small businesses. 4,500 alumni are volunteering web development services to help organizations adapt and survive the pandemic. Projects include creating or maintaining organizations’ websites, adding functionality to existing sites (ie. restaurants adding take out/delivery services).

Ulu portfolio company Palantir Technologies Inc. is providing its data-mining software for free to more than a dozen countries, including the U.S. and the UK for coronavirus response efforts. The Silicon Valley company said its technology is helping officials predict the locations of outbreaks and determine where to deploy medical staff and supplies. Company officials say all 2,500 employees are working on coronavirus related projects.

A group of Xooglers and Googlers raised $1.5 to bring personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers via a container ship to the SF Bay Area. The equipment will go to healthcare organizations most in need in the worst hit areas. Now there’s a challenge to match that with another $1.5 million for the project. The most immediate goal for StepUpinCrisis is to raise an additional half a million so they can place an order for 3 million medical masks they’ve sourced. Here is the direct fundraising site.

Manufacturers Making New Products

Flex Ltd., a contract manufacturer known for making Apple Inc. computers, is assembling tens of thousands of ventilators to meet surging demand. They’ve been manufacturing medical supplies for 30 years, and can leverage their production capability to include ventilators, oxygen concentrators, respiratory support equipment, patient monitors, hospital beds, infusion pumps, etc. They hope to be manufacturing 25-30k ventilators a month by May or June.

The challenges to manufacturers are unprecedented and many are shifting operations and producing new products. Ulu portfolio company, Arch is offering free operation command centers for companies making ventilators, medical devices, or other critical equipment for 1 year or however long the pandemic lasts. Local status or global KPI dashboards driven automatically by company machines can help manufacturers make rapid decisions while building products to assist healthcare. Information on how companies should handle an event like this without shutting down operations entirely are explained in in-depth article here.

Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur

Stadiums, restaurants, caterers and other employers who hire hourly workers are closed….indefinitely. Ulupreneur Nick Lillios of Nowsta helps employers manage the staffing and scheduling of events as well as the payment of hourly workers in hospitality. Now these part-time workers have no income, and most of the time, no benefits. To help support them during this crisis, Nowsta started a worker relief fund; they will match dollars up to $25k and are aiming to raise $100k.

Entrepreneurs know a lot of about hard knocks, just ask anyone who has launched (or tried to launch) a startup. Jane Park CEO of Tokki and Lisa Sun Founder of Gravitas decided it was time to encourage women entrepreneurs to look to one another for support during the pandemic. They provide ways to alleviate anxiety and create community.

Do it Yourself

Don’t even think about breaking out an N95 mask for personal use, donate to healthcare workers. So what should you use if you don’t have anything handy? Dr. Sanjay Gupta demonstrates an incredibly easy way to make ones at home with a bandana and a couple of hair bands.

Experience the calm of nature…..without opening the door

Stuck inside and climbing the walls? All the parks and nature trails near you closed? With tougher restrictions in place and with so many people living in crowded cities, getting out in nature is not always possible. Here are some tips of how to get that same sense of calm without going outside.

If you’ve got good news about how entrepreneurs, research and/or businesses are stepping up, please share it with us! You can put a brief description and links in this Google doc.

All references and hyperlinks (to specific products, medical devices, processes, services, companies, stories, articles, or other materials) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute affiliation, endorsement, or recommendation by Ulu, or that such products have been approved by relevant governmental authorities. Nothing herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. All product and company names mentioned herein are the trademarks, service marks, or trade names of their respective owners and all rights are reserved to them. 

About the Author: Miriam Rivera

, Time to make, innovate, donate, volunteer!
Miriam Rivera is co-founder and managing director of Ulu Ventures