How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pandemic

Greg Galvin, Rheonix | Upstate Venture Connect

One year ago, UVC published the first volume of the Upstate Founders Playbook, a compilation of stories and lessons learned from thirteen amazing entrepreneurs. Just a year later, we are all living in a world none of us could have foreseen. So we went back to these founders and asked what they are doing to manage in this times and the advice they have for other entrepreneurs. In these short missives, you will see how these founders are managing to stay focused, yet flexible, while recognizing that extraordinary challenges often bring extraordinary opportunities with them.–Jennifer Sertl

By Greg Galvin, CEO of Rheonix (Ithaca, NY)

Testing for the virus behind COVID-19 is a significant problem. My company Rheonix, immediately shifted all its resources to develop a test.  In the six weeks since obtaining Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA at the end of April we have generated a backlog and sales that are double our pre-COVID-19 forecast for all of 2020.  A wild ride for sure.  Now our focus is on expanding manufacturing capacity as rapidly as possible and developing expanded test capabilities for the fall flu season.

Early-stage entrepreneurial ventures usually have the deck stacked against them.  They don’t have enough money.  They have too few people.  They have limited experience.  They have a tenuous supply chain.  One big advantage they do have is flexibility.  Small companies can, and many times must, pivot quickly to take advantage of an opportunity or to avoid a disaster.  Unencumbered by bureaucracy and having a shared understanding of the imperative of success enables small companies to make lightning fast decisions and take action.

There are, of course, potential pitfalls in rapid course changes.  Chasing opportunities that vanish can deplete limited resources with nothing to show in the end.  Too many changes can defocus the organization and impede its ability to bring product to market.  Continuous twists and turns can erode that shared understanding of why we are in this venture and how we reach our end goal.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity that required quick decisions and rapid execution.  The opportunity was, and still is, very real.  For us it has been hugely successful from a sales perspective.  Perhaps more importantly it served as a rallying point that truly brought the entire organization together.  The goal was easily seen and embraced by all.  Progress is readily measured and understood throughout the company.  The organization was revitalized.  As I write this, my building is a beehive of activity as staff are moving things from our other building to make room for expansion and in preparation to taking over space in yet a third building.

Be bold. Don’t fear. Make decisions. Act. And never pass up a good opportunity, even if it is a pandemic.

If you want to learn more about Greg Galvin’s leadership you can read more in the Upstate Founder Playbook.

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