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Local businesses across Australia have been feeling the sting of lockdowns since our initial COVID-19 outbreak back in March 2020.
For established businesses, lockdowns have meant closing their doors indefinitely or moving to digital contactless processes to ensure business stays as usual as possible.
The story can be quite different for digital startups, however, as these fledgling enterprises are forced to extend their launch timeline and pivot their products.
Perth's own Snackr app as well as Victoria's latest fitness and lifestyle app, The Academy, have not been immune to the impacts that lockdowns have held on Aussie businesses.
Snackr's founder and CEO Matt Lim developed the app to be an in-seat food delivery service for stadium events. As sporting events have been strained under ongoing COVID restrictions, Snackr's full potential has yet to be realised.
Peter Costi, the founder and CEO of The Academy app, has experienced similar challenges, as his app has been founded upon connecting health-conscious consumers up with local businesses that share similar values.
Joseph Russell is the Bendigo-born founder of DreamWalk, the app development company responsible for designing and developing both Snackr and The Academy.
He says that "while lockdowns may have thrown up some pretty significant roadblocks for local startups, there has been no slowdown in the flow of innovative new app ideas."
Social impact startup, Impactr, demonstrates the truth behind Russell's statement. Impactr's founder and CEO Johannah Maher, is credited with creating the innovative video sharing app after recognising a need for more sustainability-focused content on social media.
Impactr is now poised to be the definitive media-sharing platform for sustainable citizens and eco-friendly brands worldwide.
The potential for success on a local and global scale for these apps is clear. But, before everyday Australians can reap the full benefits of them, all three startups must first contend with and survive the unique challenges posited by the ongoing pandemic.
The most pressing concerns being faced
As Snackr, The Academy, and Impactr all rely on cultivating an 'out-of-app experience' for its users, COVID-19 restrictions have naturally greatly impacted the startups' abilities to establish themselves in their respective industries.
For Matt Lim, Snackr's biggest challenges have been ongoing uncertainty with delayed, cancelled, or limited capacity live events.
Peter Costi noted similar concerns.
"As part of The Academy's value proposition comes from increasing foot traffic and cutting customer acquisition costs for businesses, the inevitable decrease in consumer sentiment and rapid closure of businesses during lockdown periods has been the hardest challenge to overcome."
For Johannah Maher, her Impactr team is 'based in 3 different countries', meaning the bulk of their foundational work has been remote.
Her team has experienced 'Zoom fatigue', with Maher herself acknowledging that it's 'hard to keep people interested on a long Zoom call, and it can also be awkward and difficult to encourage active participation'.
Adapting to evolving environments
Despite all the roadblocks, tech innovators have acknowledged that the unique economic landscape created by the global pandemic has also yielded growth opportunities for their respective startups.
For Snackr, the startup was able to generate momentum based on the app's ability to fill a growing demand for COVIDSafe measures in stadium events.
"[The pandemic] adjusted our value proposition for our clients as a COVID-safe measure that promotes social distancing, which turned out to be a major value add," states Matt Lim.
"Although the uncertain environment has definitely made some things more difficult, we have seen some great adjustments and interesting opportunities come out of it."
The Academy experienced similar needs for adaptation. Peter Costi comments that the restrictions prompted him and his team to "bring forward certain features and elements that were due for production much later".
"In order to adapt, we have had to pivot the value proposition for certain features, and in some areas, completely design new elements," says Costi.
"We have also moved towards a greater emphasis on gamification for consumers and implemented 6 month discounted incentives for businesses."
Johannah Maher's team have also made similar adaptations, though as the team had already been working remotely due to distance, Impactr has been comparatively on track in terms of its development.
The team are, however, eagerly anticipating the end of COVID lockdowns so that their platform can take a changed Australia by storm.
Theres nothing quite like the chemistry and authentic feedback you get from in-person events and meetings," remarks Maher, "so we'll definitely be getting on the road as soon as we can, visiting our app users and testing the app with them as much as possible."