One of the advantages to startups is their ability to change gears on the fly. With “fast-paced” and its various synonyms a constant in any job description or elevator pitch, the effects of COVID 19 have made every startup in America put their money where their mouth is.
Chicago is known as the “City with Broad Shoulders”, thanks to Carl Sandburg’s poem as Chicagoans are hard-working, taking on challenges with ease. The city’s economy depends heavily on industries that attract a workforce with a similar mindset—industries such as hospitality that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Helping those most affected
InfiNet’s Founder and CEO Lucas Liu is a former restaurateur who has a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from IIT. He combined his passion for entrepreneurship with his technology expertise to launch InfiNet in 2019. Liu started his company after identifying areas where restaurants could improve via technology upgrades. InfiNet’s flagship product is its InfiKIOSK, a self-ordering kiosk POS that creates greater efficiency for the hospitality industry. Cleanliness has always been central to any foodservice operation, even more so with coronavirus heightening everyone’s germophobia. This has perfectly positioned the InfiKIOSK as it protects staff by reducing their interaction with customers and their need to handle cash.
“Hospitality businesses are definitely embracing technologies more,” says Liu. “They hope technologies can help them reduce potential risks, such as COVID-19, and also reach customers away from their place of business, using online channels, for example.”
Despite the initial uncertainty, the hospitality community has looked to InfiNet as social distancing is now a fact of life for restaurants. Their InfiKIOSKS are perfectly positioned to help entrepreneurs that need to stay efficient, reduce costs, and find ways to keep their staff and customers safe.
Shifting focus, branching out to other communities
InfiNet knows the power of partnering with their community, as they have been able to capitalize on a long partnership made at their early stages, when they were housed in the Polsky Center of Entrepreneurship. At a Polsky sponsored engagement, they met the team from AeroPay, an 1871 alum.
At its outset, AeroPay served community businesses all over Chicago ranging from northside neighborhoods like Andersonville and Ravenswood to the southside with several partners in Pilsen and Hyde Park. Originally they built a mobile app—which happens to also be a contactless payment method—aimed at reducing transaction costs for businesses predominantly in foodservice, retail, and other main street merchant businesses.
AeroPay CEO & Founder Dan Muller spoke of having to reassess what businesses needed moving forward, “When COVID-19 began, it forced us to take a step back. At first, we focused on how we could support our current businesses, but we quickly realized the world was changing, and there would be new ways our technology could be used.” Muller went on to add, “As a result, we’re currently working with many businesses looking for innovative and touch-less payment solutions.”
As COVID-19 shut down main streets everywhere, AeroPay shifted its focus towards developing their newly launched online, B2B, and subscription payment systems. This opened them up to other markets around the country, bringing them into contact with various business owners whose unique problems have created opportunities for AeroPay to address.
Even as they have concentrated on disrupting remote payments further, AeroPay has continued to serve community-oriented organizations, helping non-profit organizations in Seattle and New York collect online donations with less fees.
Pandemics aren’t slowing startup growth
Good news for AeroPay, the fintech space is still attractive to investors, even in a pandemic. On the other side of the pond, fintech startup Fly Now Pay Later just closed a Series A funding round of more than $43 million. Based in the UK, CEO Jasper Dykes started the company in 2015. As their name suggests, they are a fintech that serves the travel industry, making it easier to buy expensive flights upfront. Users of Fly Now Pay Later are able to spread payments over 0-12 months, with as little as 0% APR. Travel companies can sign up to appear on the platform.
Although Fly Now Pay Later serves the industry arguably most affected by COVID-19, they still have plans for expansion this year. By the end of 2020, they plan on starting operations in France and Germany, according to eu-startups.com.
To be an entrepreneur, strength is needed. At the start of 2020, many had plans of growth and achievements, but the past two months plus have tested the strength of entrepreneurs and leaders all over the world. However, as startups have shown the world, the strength of the entrepreneurial mindset is one that finds ways to overcome.
In what ways are you adapting your business during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.