Startup Summit helps local businesses and entrepreneurs through COVID-19 pandemic

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Thursday, September 3, 2020
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The economic downturn has forced many businesses to lay off employees, pivot, or alter their future plans.

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- More than 100 businesses listened in on a virtual Startup Summit on Thursday afternoon to help them manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The past six months have been miserable. I hope we quickly recover out of this," said Srini Ravuri, the chief operating officer of ST Tech in Morrisville.

The company, which employs 17 people, is down about 20-25% in business since the pandemic began.

The economic downturn has forced many businesses to lay off employees, pivot, or alter their future plans.

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"We had some hiring plans but once the pandemic hit we put a hold on that to go into cash conservation mode," said Andrew Baker, the founder of Cary-based EZbrew.

His business, which helps restaurants and bars brew their own beer on site, was particularly vulnerable early in the pandemic when many brick-and-mortar locations were forced to close.

"When your core customer--the restaurants, bars, and other hospitality venues--are essentially, and rightfully so, forced to shut down, that's kind of a drag," said Baker.

As more restaurants reopen and the company brings in more revenue from selling kits to enable businesses to make their beer, Baker's business has gotten through the worst of the pandemic.

Ravuri said he hopes to learn a few tips to increase business as the pandemic continues.

"This is definitely a very important to attend these kinds of events," Ravui said. "Just to hear from the speakers who are experienced and how they're navigating through this pandemic, and how their experience can help empower businesses to get through this. I think anything helps."

And Baker said he hoped to learn how his company can better adapt to the changing restaurant industry.

"The entrepreneurs and businesses that are really going to thrive even through the pandemic or post-pandemic are those that are going to be able to adapt, see the changes out in the marketplace. So just being able to hear different stories and real life examples of what others are doing--and in different stages of companies too," said Baker.

The summit featured interviews with former Cisco Systems chairman and chief executive officer John Chambers and Red Hat founder Bob Young.

Morrisville Council Member Steve Rao helped organize the event.

"What I'm hoping is that some light bulb goes off with any other entrepreneurs out here in how can they tweak their strategy to find that silver lining in the cloud, to find that opportunity. Because oftentimes, in downtimes we've had great innovations take place," said Rao.

Rao is hopeful there will be more funding from the federal and state government to assist businesses through the pandemic. But in the absence of those funds, he said he hopes to be able to help businesses build their roadmaps for the future.

"The greatest outcome is to give a solid plan and some sense of certainty during very uncertain times," said Rao.

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Oracle and IBM were the two main sponsors of the event, which was free to attend. Watch the full session below: