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Running a Chem-Tech Start-Up in the Age of Zoom

All businesses have had to adapt their organizations to the world’s safety concerns caused by COVID-19. We now live in a new global norm of remote work and have entered the age of Zoom. Few sectors have faced as a tumultuous time in their networks/ecosystems, day-do-day activities, and available infrastructure as chem-tech start-ups. The landscape has changed for chem-tech start-ups with the pandemic shutting down their incubator and university labs, disrupting supply chains, and safe social distancing putting immediate roadblocks between the usually culture. The impact of this pandemic has been a death sentence to an unfortunately high number of start-ups and an immobilizing force to those who have been lucky enough to survive.

So how do you move forward? In this article, we will share some of the tools and strategies we've seen used by start-ups to keep their culture thriving and their technical development racing past the competition.

Creating a Digital Office Culture

According to Ben Horowitz, founder of LoudCloud and the high-tech VC firm called Andreeson-Horrowitz, some of the keys to the success of start-up cultures surround the interdisciplinary creativity created by having your accountant sit beside your developer, straightforward communication of all aspects of the business between each level of management, and the direct access or feedback to and from upper management. Achieving this digitally can seem quite challenging, but the right tools can be even more efficient than in person. Here are our three essentials to creating a digital office culture:

1. Continuously Open Zoom Meeting Rooms

Having an open zoom meeting room open for anyone to hop on and collaborate with others on a whim is equivalent to checking to see if your boss' office door is open when you want to share a quick idea or ask a brief clarifying question. Having this in place creates an interdisciplinary environment of collaboration that adjacent desks also used to create. The value-add to this for the founder and managing team is that employees spend less time sending/answering emails and more time creatively solving problems.

2. JAD or SCRUM Project Management on Trello

Trello boards were designed for digital workflow communication. By posting all deliverables on company boards, you can effectively communicate what each individual in the team needs to accomplish and the progress of everyone's work in a way that keeps every level of management in the loop. Effectively communicating the progress your team has made to everyone has been shown to both motivate all the team members towards a common goal and can reduce the number of emailed clarifying questions by about 46% because they become redundant. This keeps the work flowing and team members accountable to project deliverables, even remotely.

3. Open Channels of Communication on Slack or MS Teams.

Direct feedback to and from upper management on small questions or concerns can be challenging over email because of the time and formality that is involved. Similarly to the open zoom meeting room, it allows team members to quickly ask a question or leave a comment about work that has been completed on a project. Having company-wide channels on Slack or MS Teams brings that rapid feedback communication back to your start-up in a safe digital space.

What About My Tech?

Hopefully, your chem-tech company’s lab scape was lucky enough to be able to remain open as an essential R&D facility while observing safe social distancing practices. But, if that is not the case for your chem-tech company, what do you do? There are two options for you; wet-lab rental space or fee-for-service.

Wet-lab rental space may be the knee jerk reaction for most because of the generally lower perceived cost. But after adding the set-up time, infrastructural development for your specific equipment needs, research labor, consumables, and safety precautions – running your project from a rental space will require a much higher upfront capital expenditure, high-mid sized OPEX, and will create a considerable challenge for your company if you decided to scale down in the post-COVID world. That's why a reasonable fee-for-service model at a facility with expansive, quality, infrastructure, and experienced staff may be the best stop-and-go method to continue remotely driving your technical development projects through COVID. This method allows you to adopt a strategy where you can share the load on of the technical details with even more brilliant technical staff and put a great focus on your future strategy and business development.


These tools and strategies were shared to make sure that your chem-tech company will hit the ground running as the world slowly returns to normal. To learn more about how KPM-Accelerate can help you with that, check out our program HERE.

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