6 Key Startup Lessons Learned In 2020

The coronavirus is still raging in many countries as many nations battle with multiple waves of infection, causing them to reinstitute lockdown measures. However, the certification of a handful of vaccines, and the adaption of people and businesses to the situation, have caused these waves to have a less severe impact than before. As it’s well known, the early days of the pandemic were colossal for many businesses. It brought about untold and unprecedented hardship. Firms that scaled through, especially startups, would have learnt a lot from it and become stronger and smarter. Here are some of the startup lessons learned from the pandemic year.

Importance of flexibility

One of the biggest startup lessons learned in 2020 was the importance of business flexibility. Many businesses that were able to survive the difficult landscape that came with the pandemic had one thing going for them – the ability to make changes. As the lockdown and social distancing measures kicked in, the traditional idea of what or where the workplace was needed some reevaluation. That reevaluation resulted in a surge in the number of remote workers. Now, there are more employees working remotely than has ever been since the time when the idea of telecommuting became mainstream. Even organizations that doled out remote working privileges to their employees as prizes knew that their survival depended on telecommuting.

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As evidenced by trends and data, the tech industry was the biggest winner in this regard. Since employees can do what they do in the office from the comfort of their living rooms, it was easy to transition into remote working. For other businesses such as restaurants, bars, and gyms, the pandemic gave them an opportunity to innovate. Some began to offer delivery services that operated without delivery agents touching the contents, and gym instructors began to give online sessions.

One of the biggest startup lessons in 2020 would be the importance of embracing change and being strategic about it irrespective of the industry. The problem wouldn’t always be at pandemic-level. But, once a business loses its ability of flexibility and innovation, the events of 2020 have shown how catastrophic the result can be for such business.

Protection for everything

Another startup lesson learned in 2020 is the need to get adequate protection. This means getting insurance against possible injury or harm. Many new businesses fail in a very short span. Statistics has it that nine out of ten startups fail. There are many reasons why startups fail. But, if some form of injury or harm stops a startup entrepreneur from working, it will definitely lead to the collapse of the business. 

Business owners will need different forms of insurance coverage for financial protection in moments of vulnerability. Getting this right can determine the future of the business. For instance, an entrepreneur who’s unable to work due to an injury can replace a portion of their earnings with a disability insurance policy on a monthly basis. This will ensure that said entrepreneur is financially covered. Another form of insurance coverage known as the business overhead expense (BOE) coverage will ensure that the overhead expenses of a business is covered if the business owner is unable to meet up due to illness or injury.


Starting a business requires a lot of sacrifices. Usually, the odds are stacked against the business, with lack of funds being top of the list. Many times, the only thing that is present in abundance is passion. It’s this passion to desire to succeed that pushes the startup towards making sacrifices even if it requires sacrificing time with family.

The travails of startups, especially in the early days, often require that they work more hours than usual. In this situation, maintaining a work-life balance is a near impossibility even though keeping this balanced is essential for productivity. Now that the pandemic has stolen a huge chunk of time from many startups, the desire to make up for lost time is strong. However, this should not be a reason for overworking.

The human body is designed to work better after some hours of rest. Maintaining a high level of productivity will depend on taking time out to rest. One of the finest startup lessons would be to find ways of optimizing their daily processes so they can be easily repeated.  If anything, the pandemic has shown that it pays to work smarter, not harder. Having a process that is easily repeated will ensure startup entrepreneurs work efficiently and productively without sacrificing their rest periods.

Plan for everything

Obviously, no one could have dreamed up what transpired over the course of the year. What happened was completely unprecedented. Even companies with the most sophisticated crisis plans struggled. As a result, the pandemic has changed the fundamentals of how businesses plan for the future. One of the low-lying startup lessons in this regard is that it pays to have plans for downside scenarios. Even if such plans don’t completely shield the organization against the reality of the situation, it will help it absorb some of the impact. The year 2020 shows that anything can happen at any time, and startups must always be ready to handle difficult situations.


Before the pandemic, many interpreted diversification of investment as a sign that suggested a lack of focus. COVID-19 has proven this to be a wrong notion to uphold, and this is a lesson for startups. When the coronavirus hit, virtually all industries were affected. But, as time went on, industries such as tech began to see a resurgence and it outperformed all others. Retail, travel and tourism, restaurants etc. were the hardest hit. Entrepreneurs in these industries would have had a difficult time coping with the situation without diversified investments.

Strategic employment

Another lesson for startups would be picked from employment. Many firms that braved the storm of the pandemic owe much of their success to the quality of the employees they have at their disposal. The sudden occurrence of the pandemic left little room for preparation leaving companies scampering in different directions for solutions. Many wouldn’t have survived without having the best talents in their employ. Startups should look to recruit employees that fit into the culture of their organization. It’s not only crucial to the productivity of the firm, it also makes it easier to navigate through challenging periods.


  • Five lessons startups have leaned in HR in 2020 | Dr. Nikhil Sikri | December 7, 2020
  • Industries hit hardest by coronavirus in the US include retail, transportation and travel | Grant Suneson | March 21, 2020
  • 90% startups fail: here’s what you need to know about the 10% | Neil Patel | January 16, 2015
  • What entrepreneurs can learn from the Covid19 pandemic (so far) | Jack Wolfstenholm | November 6, 2020

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