Only months ago, few people on the planet could have foreseen the global impact of the newly discovered COVID-19.
Sure, there were a few scientists and researchers such as Michael Osterholm, a director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy whose January report proved starkly accurate. In today’s world, we are quite used to ignoring scientists when they start to ring alarm bells.
A friend told me recently, “I wish Climate Change would have hired COVID’s PR firm”. Ironically, if current market data is accurate – the Coronavirus has done more to change our climate impact than the combined efforts of the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol, Earth Summit, Copenhagen and Cancun Agreements.
In the past two months, we have seen a massive shift in what society deems as acceptable. Austria has banned groups of five or more, Australia has announced fines and possible jail time for those who do not self-quarantine. Italy is on lockdown, the UK offered $40B USD to help startups – reactions are happening everywhere. Perhaps most concerning, the Fed finally cut rates to virtual zero and the US government created a $700B stimulus – both of which the markets ate up with their first three minutes of trading.
This is only the beginning…
Only weeks ago, many financial service providers saw the business process of opening a bank account, handling a legal matter, getting a mortgage, etc as something they could digitize later. Now, many clients can’t meet them and their business is in desperate need of the tools required to ensure integrity in conducting business online. As CEO of iComply, a two-year-old regtech company focused on enabling digital identity and access management in financial services, I feel incredibly fortunate.
Personally, I have had dozens of friends and family reach out asking for help. How much food should they have in the house? What’s my exit plan if beautiful Vancouver turns to riot? Where should they invest: cash, bonds, stocks,…bitcoin?
I am not a crisis expert but I do have some personal experience in survival. For one, I’m an entrepreneur. Second, I’m an avid outdoorsman – having spent 30 days of my 20s alone in the remote Canadian wilderness and over 30 consecutive days bluewater sailing on the Pacific. As the oldest child in a German-Russian family of eleven, I can cook, clean, hunt, fish, bake, and sew as required.
Nobody has a crystal ball but I fear that many are still underestimating the current situation – isolating the signals we see in the markets, US treasury position, a VIX passing 75, oil prices, blue chip prices, etc. There is a strong possibility that shutting down business and government could destroy more lives than the virus. Meanwhile videos appear across our social media showing near frantic reactions. I mean seriously, it’s a respiratory infection – not a bad lunch at Chipotle…you don’t need that much toilet paper.
In light of this, here is a short checklist for anyone wondering what you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your business. Please consider this my own opinion, not advice.
First, this is not going away any time soon. The virus has maintained a growth rate of 10X in less than two weeks for the past 2.5 months. While social distancing and quarantine efforts may slow this slightly – at the current pace of growth, the virus would infect the global population in under 8 weeks.
Considering that we already know that you can get Coronavirus more than once, it is likely that we will see the virus migrate geographically for quite some time – with some estimates suggesting over one year. Potential vaccines have been identified but are not expected to reach the market for another year.
The average person requires around 2,000 calories per day. As someone who lives in an earthquake prone region, I try to maintain at least 30 days of food reserves for one person – or at least 60,000 calories in dry goods and non-perishables.
What does 60k cal look like? Yes, that is a lot of food. I highly recommend mixing and matching. Anyone who has backpacked in Nicaragua should know that just beans and rice for 30 days begins to taste quite bland.
Consider that your home has just become your workspace. Think ergonomics, and move from one area to another to break it up. I spent last weekend getting my home office a lot more dialed in – something I have put off for over a year. Silver linings.
On several mornings, stocks plummeted nearly 10% before the stock market ceased trading. In Canada, few insurance carriers, banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, or law firms are able to accept new clients via their websites. These types of businesses are expected to be impacted significantly as they grapple with doing business in this new environment.
Nearly overnight, we have witnessed trillions of dollars of wealth, millions of jobs, and billions of consumer activity completely vanish from the market. Conserve your cash, until you know how to make money in this new world – do not burn your reserves. Sequoia recently published an article providing sage advice to founders and entrepreneurs globally.
If you are a founder or co-founder, reassess every assumption. Think of the current state like a virtual peer-to-peer world with a brand new map – and the entire global population just joined at once. Anything you knew 3 months ago, could be inaccurate.
Finally, pay close attention to your personal health and self care. For those of you who know my workaholic tendencies this may come as a surprise. However, this switch to remote work has had a major positive impact on my personal routine and wellness. Considering that obesity, poor respiratory health, smoking, and similar conditions are major complicating factors for those infected by Coronavirus – now may be a better time than ever to reinstate those New Year’s resolutions. My own routine cycles through a few Youtube yoga classes, running, cycling, and shutting off all the noise for some focused meditation and deep thinking.
Somehow, the past 13 days of isolation has resulted in me eating healthier, exercising more, and becoming more effective in my work. In the past few days, I have received thanks from investors and our clients for iComply’s response to this situation. The last thing we need right now is for entrepreneurs who drive our economy to simply “go home”. Use this time to listen, think, and prepare to make your first moves in a brave new world.
For further insights on productive self isolation, check out this video from astronaut, and every Canadian’s favourite uncle, Chris Hadfield.