Responding to COVID-19: How 5 Colorado Tech Companies Are Adapting Their Businesses

Janey Zitomer
April 24, 2020

It’s a good time to be in the online learning and telemedicine space. But that doesn’t mean that companies in these markets haven’t had to double down on their efforts as working from home has become the new normal. 

For example, edtech company Quizlet recently pivoted what used to be a collaboration game into “Quizlet Live Individuals Mode.” The update allows teachers to assign online learning activities to students who are spread across various neighborhoods rather than together in school.  

Jim Behrens, president of Mobile Angel, said the healthtech team has been working with increased urgency to monitor at-risk populations as they speak with clinics and, most recently, public health officials.

“The global response to the healthcare system and future outbreaks will certainly play a role in our future business,” Behrens said. 

In the meantime, all five of these tech companies are using any extra bandwidth to further align employees around development objectives and adjust timelines as necessary. 
 

Outrider
outrider

Because Outrider’s workforce relies on engineers who assemble and test hardware, the autonomous yard operation company is facing an obstacle that many tech companies aren’t: how to keep employees who have to go into work safe. To do so, CEO Andrew Smith says the team has spread individuals across shifts and is being extra cautious about cleaning equipment. 
 

How are you shifting your products, pricing, sales positioning or business planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

As we are temporarily suspending pilot activity with customers until revised procedures are in place for testing and travel post-COVID, we are using this time to focus on executing against our product roadmap. This means aligning everyone around development goals and milestones as well as doubling down on our recruitment efforts, particularly for technical talent.

 

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home?

Many of our employees can work productively from home. But, unlike pure software and SaaS companies, we have engineers who assemble and test hardware, such as robotics and sensors, to transform electric yard trucks into autonomous vehicles. For these employees at our warehouse and test sites, we’ve minimized on-site work to maintain minimum operations, spread employees across shifts to create additional separation, assigned ample workspaces with separation from one another and rolled out and enforced CDC-recommended cleaning and hygiene strategies.

To bring everyone together, we’ve relied heavily on frequent video conferences for department, team and one-on-one interactions. We’ve switched our weekly “Downshift” happy hour to a virtual format, and it worked out well.

We expect to come out of this pandemic in a strong position to continue serving our customers.’’ 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future? 

With this emphasis on product development and adjusting operations, we expect to come out of this pandemic in a strong position to continue serving our customers. We’re already fielding more inbound interest in autonomous yard operations from companies aiming to increase the resiliency of their supply chains and improve the safety of their labor force.

 

Quizlet
Quizlet

Quizlet’s director of engineering isn’t taking the company’s unique market position for granted. Arjita Ghosh said that, since exams, tests and certifications are being rescheduled or re-evaluated, the team anticipates a shift in student preparation timing as well as an overall larger interest in vocational learning.

 

How are you shifting your products, pricing, sales positioning or business planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Quizlet strives to be a resource for all learners. Our product has always been designed to be an on-the-go, study-anywhere tool for free. However, since we are so connected to everyday schooling and studying, we realized quickly that COVID-19 would affect how and when users were using our platform.

To support the shift to remote learning, Quizlet has offered free Quizlet Teacher subscriptions to any affected educator through June 30, 2020. Quizlet Teacher includes Class Progress, an assessment tool that can help track students’ progress and give insight into areas of strength and those that need more focus. Quizlet is also partnering with Verizon’s “More at Home...on Us” program to help students, along with teachers, gain even more access to upgraded subscriptions at no cost.   

Our team is committed to supporting users during this challenging time, which is reflected in our remote teaching resource center that we launched at the beginning of the school closures. Between webinars, teacher tips and student insights, Quizlet has been working hard to uplift user stories and make it as seamless as possible to learn from home. 

 

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home?

During our most recent hack week, the team was challenged to innovate our product to meet the needs of remote students and teachers even further. For the first time, our hack week was held remotely, as our entire staff has shifted to working from home. 

The Quizlet team met this challenge head-on and launched “Quizlet Live Individuals Mode.” What was designed to be a collaboration game has had to evolve to meet the needs of a new reality. The new product offering makes it easy for teachers to continue to play Quizlet Live with students when they can’t be physically together. 

In addition to the product shift, Quizlet has made a conscious effort to support employees while working from home in new ways, including regular virtual happy hours, weekly trivia contests, additional financial stipends and yoga and meditation sessions. The team is constantly working to make sure every employee has the tools they need to work productively and creatively during this time. 

The education landscape and school as we know it is constantly changing.’’ 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future? 

The education landscape and school as we know it is constantly changing as we learn more about COVID-19’s impact around the globe. While we have already seen an initial shift to online learning, we anticipate it will continue through the rest of the academic year. With this shift, we see an opportunity for Quizlet to continue being a resource for not only teachers and students, but parents as well. 

As a supplemental learning platform with various study tools, we anticipate seeing more and more creative usages with our platform as users get more comfortable with online learning. There has already been an upswing in new account sign-ups around the world, which we expect to continue as more countries are moving fully to online learning. 

 

Mobile Angel
Mobile Angel

Behrens said COVID-19 has opened his eyes to how many parts of our current healthcare system need additional resources like those Mobile Angel provides, including real-time monitoring and staff-patient communication. The team has recently adjusted its efforts to build features that will track COVID-19, hopefully minimizing the spread. 

 

How are you shifting your products, pricing, sales positioning or business planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

COVID-19 became an emergency pivot overnight. We originally intended to launch Mobile Angel app with a cancer-care focus. After 18 months, we were just finishing the product testing when COVID-19 shutdowns occurred. We were fortunate that our application was always intended to be used for the type of acute care that COVID-19 requires. That said, our whole team had to stop what they were doing and make the group decision to re-engineer the application to include features for tracking COVID-19. 

We also released a mapping feature and redesigned our website. Our sales and outreach focus shifted as well. We are now serving state health departments and clinics that need to monitor at-risk populations. 

We originally intended to launch Mobile Angel app with a cancer-care focus.’’ 

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home? 

Our team has always been virtual. We have team members in Colorado, California and international locations. As everyone shared what they were seeing in their home states and cities, we began to realize how serious this pandemic was. That alone aligned the team to put personal obligations aside. 

We already collaborate through daily video conferencing, chats, cloud document sharing and email. Recently, we went into overdrive with a few additional video conferences a day. Weekend obligations were put on hold as we quickly put a development cycle into overdrive. We plan to continue to work virtually and make the public’s health and safety our focus. 

 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future? 

It is too early to tell, but the visibility across many markets has caused us to pivot our priorities, especially for outreach and product development. Although unexpected, the pandemic has opened our eyes to how many areas of the health system need additional resources like Mobile Angel. 

It’s increased the urgency in our internal discussions and with clinics and, now, public health officials. The global response to the healthcare system and future outbreaks will certainly play a role in our future business. For now, we hope to assist as many people as possible by setting up a virtual care environment. 

 

AdCellerant
Adcellerant

In the last few weeks, AdCellerant has shifted priorities to help small businesses make it through the economic downturn. CEO Brock Berry said those priorities involve content creation to help clients identify opportunities within their existing customer base. To date, the team has already developed new sample creative messaging, advertising roadmaps and product sales strategies. 


How are you shifting your products, pricing, sales positioning or business planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Our company provides digital advertising solutions to small and medium-sized businesses through white-label channel sales partners. Our partners and their advertisers have been affected by COVID-19 in unprecedented ways. We shifted our entire focus to help create sustainable business models that have social distancing as the centerpiece. Some of these tactics are as simple as helping clients create virtual methods for executing a normal business transaction or as complicated as helping them set up a “digital storefront” to sell their products via e-commerce. 

For our partners, we have implemented new and less expensive pricing to help them reduce their costs while increasing revenue. We understand that cash flow is important during the pandemic and potential recession. Our team immediately began producing content to assist our partners and their advertisers during this time. The content includes sample creative messaging, advertising strategies, product sales strategies and more to help them identify opportunities within their customer base.  

By focusing on our customers and their customers, we were able to create a forecast for AdCellerant that flattens the negative “business curve” created by COVID-19. The company is now showing signs of growth after precipitous losses caused by stay-at-home orders.

Our partners and their advertisers have been affected by COVID-19 in unprecedented ways.’’  

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home?

As an advertising technology company, the shift to working from home was pretty easy to make. On March 11, we announced that everyone would begin working from home. Within the next 48 hours, everyone was fully remote, with home workstations, implemented video conferencing technology and the same level of connectivity and business insights as what was available in the office. 

We made a few strategic decisions over the last year that made this transition very easy. First, our engineering team developed a proprietary business intelligence and workflow automation system, which ensured access to deep analytics at every stage of the business. We had also implemented Salesforce, marketing automation through Pardot, a learning management system and Slack over the last 12 months. These tools have allowed us to host every meeting virtually with video, keep teams connected and scale communication to thousands of customers within days. Our intense preparation allowed us to focus on creating content.

 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future?

It’s difficult to be certain how deep and how long COVID-19 will impact the future of our business. Some things are easier to determine than others. For example, working from home is now culturally easy. Because of that, we may be able to stay in our current space longer than anticipated as some teams remain virtual until we have space for everyone. 

We’re certain the relationships we had going into COVID-19 will emerge stronger than ever. And while we will have to reassess our five-year plan, we’re excited to get back to the new normal. 

 

Playerlync
Playerlync 

As employees at companies like Starbucks, Chipotle and Abercrombie eventually go back to work, the PlayerLync team hopes to help them incorporate updated procedures, training and compliance workflows into their business models. CEO Bob Paulsen said that leadership is especially focused on improving the collaboration software platform’s communication capabilities for clients.
 

How are you shifting your products, pricing, sales positioning or business planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Fortunately, our customers leverage our communications and content control platform to communicate all changes to their front line. We have shifted our efforts toward helping customers plan for the rebound, as they will have to reopen many locations. 

We have also accelerated our industry expansion to include utilities and energy companies, like Southern Company Gas, as well as others with large mobile workforces. On the development side, we are doubling down on our communications capabilities to ensure that our customers have the quickest access possible to all information and resources that will help them at the point of need.

 

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home?

To align our team around our business shift, we have increased the frequency while shortening the duration of various meetings. For instance, each week, we pull the entire team together for a 30-minute sync to ensure alignment on key initiatives and adjustments to our collective direction. 

We are also leveraging more of the technology that we have been putting in place over the last few years to track our progress and plan, as well as for people to catch up on things they may have missed through video recordings. 

Finally, it’s been important to maintain our culture in a remote environment. We’ve had various theme days and virtual coffee time and happy hours. Most recently, we decided to take some company-wide time off so we could just spend time at home with family and rejuvenate.

 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future? 

This shift has reinforced the value that we provide to our customers, instilling a new level of pride and confidence in our team. Working at a distance has helped us appreciate the trust that we have in each other as we accelerate our business efforts to support our customers in new ways, to push into new markets and to launch new products. 

I believe this unique landscape has brought us closer with our team, with our customers, with our partners and with our investors.

 

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