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Business, Corona, & Courage

· 3 min read
Puneet Khanduri


Imagine watching a child fall through thin ice with no one else in sight. There are three basic reactions you can have:

  1. You realize the ice is thin and losing your life will not save the child. You do nothing. This reaction does not require courage just pragmatism.

  2. You assume the ice is thick and run towards the child thinking nothing will happen to you. This reaction also does not require courage just stupidity.

  3. You realize there is a very good chance you will die yet you run towards the child. This is true courage.

The Corona virus is a real threat that has forced many large companies to lose velocity as employees are being asked to work remotely and travel is getting restricted. This is a great opportunity for small startups looking to disrupt large incumbents. Here are two big reasons:

  1. The risk for small teams working in small isolated spaces is much smaller than a large number of people used to working together in large buildings. You can use this to take some calculated risk and maintain your velocity while larger companies slow down.
  2. Take some more calculated risk and travel to get in front of customers. The ones willing to see you are being equally courageous and are, therefore, highly qualified leads that will shorten your sales cycle.

Taking calculated risk means understanding the odds and accepting the worst case scenario as a real outcome. It also means having a solid grasp of risk profile.

i.e. There is a real chance that you may get infected with the virus but what are the odds? There is a real chance that you could die because of the virus but what are the odds? How does that risk compare to getting hit by a truck while crossing the road? How many busy roads would you be willing to cross on a regular day to work or to a client meeting?

This thought exercise should help you assess if the virus threat fits within your risk profile. As always, you won’t find perfect information so you will end up informing your intuition and, ultimately, making a decision with your gut. Try not to think about what everybody else is doing as you make your own decision on how to react to the virus threat.

In my personal view, as a founder you don’t really have a choice because the child struggling to come out of the icy water is your own.

Credit: The example used to demonstrate courage is borrowed from Ivan Sutherland’s famous 1982 essay titled “Technology & Courage”.