[Varo Money in Reuters] Analysis: Digital banks gain U.S. customers during pandemic, thanks to early deposits

(Reuters) – Digital banks including Chime, Varo and Current have won over more U.S. customers during the coronavirus pandemic by processing stimulus payments quickly, setting them apart from traditional banks and generating valuable word-of-mouth referrals.

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OurCrowd Blog

7 Ways To Stay Motivated At Work During Challenging Times

With most of the world on strict lockdown and no prospect of returning to the office any time soon, 2021 is playing out like much of last year so far, and people all over the country are understandably frustrated and tired. With uncertainty around the future and remote working continuing for most, staying motivated at work is crucial for us to maintain positive momentum and mindset this year.

For 2021, a recent study by YouGov shows changing careers is still within the top 5 resolutions for Britons, particularly within the 18-24 age group, and more employees are looking to climb the career ladder this year. As we’ve settled into new work, flexible schedules, and working remotely, managing work-life balance may be slightly more straightforward, but staying motivated may be challenging.

Here are seven ways to help boost your motivation at work all year round, according to Workspace Specialists Instant Offices:

1. Prioritize Mental Health

Now more than ever, mental health needs to come first. Uncertainty from the pandemic and additional stresses make it even more difficult for us to focus. On the one hand, you might be throwing yourself into work to avoid having to address other issues, leading to burnout, or you’re completely detached from work because of stress from COVID, lockdown, and other elements. Now is the time to put yourself first to flourish this year.

2. Practice Gratitude

With all the uncertainty and stress from the pandemic, it’s very easy to become despondent, making it even more challenging to be motivated for work. Being thankful for what you have can lift your spirits. Dr. Robert Emmons, an expert on the science of gratitude, has found that those who practice gratitude at work have better relationships with themselves and others, allowing them to work better.

3. Find Career Support

More content is available online than ever before due to most people offering services, classes, and expertise online during the lockdown. Take charge of your career track this year by finding a mentor willing to share their insights and experience. In addition to guiding you on career growth and decision making, their constructive feedback can help you expand your skillset. Fortune 500 companies understand the value of mentorship – 71% offer formal mentoring programs to their employees.

4. Stay Busy

Around 40% of UK employees admit to being bored at work, and more than half think their existing skills are being wasted. Boredom at work is a significant source of stress and can lead to depression and disinterest. Ensure you take regular breaks during long tasks, even when working from home, but if you’re in a quiet period, keep yourself busy by learning a new skill that can bolster your career.

5. Upskill Yourself

Increase your value at work by learning a new skill. If you’re working from home and have more time on your hands, taking an online course or reading up on something you’re interested in can only benefit you and your career. During lockdown in the UK, 24% tried to learn a new language, while 19% brushed up on IT and digital skills.

6. Use Holiday Time

Having small breaks throughout the year instead of saving all of your holidays for the end of the year can really benefit your mental health in the long run. Even if you’re working from home, taking some time away from your devices, emails and workstations can be very refreshing. You don’t need to venture far from home for a holiday either. If restrictions allow it, go for a walk or simply get outside to restimulate your mental space.

7. Ask for an Increase

As of August 2020, 37% of Britons think they deserve to be paid more for their jobs, according to YouGov. A poll of 5,000 people showed 68% hadn’t received a pay rise or promotion in the last year, leading to unhappiness at work. If you’re committed to your job but need more to keep you motivated, it’s definitely time to stop stalling and ask for a raise.

Nobody knows what 2021 will bring but taking charge of our happiness one step at a time will help contribute to a better work-life ahead for the new year.



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StartUs Magazine

Here’s how Amsterdam-based Virtuagym helps gyms, fitness providers during lockdown

Virtuagym main

Due to the pandemic, activities such as eating out, watching a movie and other communal experiences won’t be the same. Fitness-centric people who either operate a gym or work out at one were, for the most part of 2020, out of action due to lockdowns. At such turbulent times, Amsterdam-based startup Virtuagym came to the fitness community’s rescue with its PRO+ app, which enables gym and studio operators to generate revenue while being closed and upon reopening,

In a conversation with Silicon Canals, the company’s CEO and co-founder Hugo Braam tells us more about the startup, the challenges it faced and more. 

Virtuagym: A digital online fitness experience 

Even with the pandemic and lockdowns in place, people needed a way to stay fit and exercise. Virtuagym announced its Pro+ solution a while back, which opens up an alternate path for gym and studio owners to generate revenue. PRO+ offers a wide range of content, which includes weekly community group updates on training, nutrition, and wellness. There are over 200 virtual trainer workouts, 1000+ licensed workout videos, a library of audio meditations, and monthly prize challenge to keep users motivated, claims the company. 

The inspiration to start up Virtuagym struck the co-founding brothers Paul and Hugo Braam over ten years ago. “Growing up together, my brother and I made games when we were younger and figured a business together would be great. We soon realised that technology was driving change in many markets, but not so much the fitness industry. There was an opportunity for developing technology that helps people live a more active, healthy lifestyle. With over 7,500 business customers and more than 15 million end-users, Virtuagym has become a leading player in the B2B fitness technology space,” says Hugo Braam. 

Crossing the Atlantic

Virtuagym also offers its services overseas in the US. Expanding a startup overseas comes with its own set of challenges. As per Braam, it was a challenging adventure, and that success comes to those who persist. 

“Sometimes, companies effortlessly scale a solution worldwide. However, cultural differences and slightly different product or service needs result in notable relearning since home market strategies may not apply overseas,” says Braam. “It is also challenging, especially when your company is simultaneously scaling-up in Europe. Several years later, we’re observing traction in the US, with 30-40 per cent of new business originating from the new market. So, it has been worth the effort!”

Every startup faces some initial hiccups, and this was also the case for Virtuagym. The company had to figure out how to offer a solution that people will willingly pay for. “Starting out, we didn’t know gym owners and fitness enthusiasts would be our customers. We simply proceeded with a grand vision of including exercise coaching with nutrition, challenges, a community, gamification, trainer interface, etc. However, it was very difficult to sell a subscription to end-users for a digital-only service at the start. After pivoting to the B2B fitness space, we observed better traction, even though it took us 3.5 years before generating any revenue,” notes Braam.  

The pandemic and the future

The pandemic deeply affected all outdoor group activities, going to the gym being one of them. For Virtuagym, it posed a mixed effect. “With the majority of our customer base being in the fitness industry, we were heavily impacted by the pandemic. However, at the same time, demand for our digital coaching tools surged as our technology suddenly paved the way for our customers to continue offering services while generating revenue.”

“Overall, it’s been a challenging year. Especially because a multi-million bank loan fell through for us due to the outbreak and we had to let go of a significant part of our team last March. However, despite everything, we’ve been able to grow as COVID sped up the digital transformation in the fitness industry. I believe our future looks really bright,” Braam remarks.

Braam also shares the revenue projections for Virtuagym. He notes that if the company gets a new funding round in place, and the COVID situation is under control by mid-2021, they can grow by 30 to 40 per cent in the next 12 months. Currently, the company has about 200 full-time employees, of which 70 per cent work from their Amsterdam headquarters. Braam says that the startup is not expanding its team aggressively right now, at least not until they secure new funds for accelerating their growth. 

Startups – Silicon Canals

Monzo founder Tom Blomfield is departing the challenger bank and says he’s ‘struggled’ during the pandemic

Monzo founder Tom Blomfield is departing the U.K. challenger bank entirely at the end of the month, staff were informed earlier today.

Blomfield held the role of CEO until May last year when he assumed the newly created title of president and resigned from the Monzo board. However, having been given the time and space to consider his long-term future at the bank he helped create 6 years ago, and with a refreshed executive team now in place, he says it is time to “hand over the baton”.

In a brief but candid telephone interview, Blomfield also revealed that, as well as being unhappy during the last couple of years as CEO when the company scaled well beyond a “scrappy startup,” the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns exasperated pressures placed on his own mental well-being. “I’m very happy to talk about what’s gone on with me, because I don’t think people do it enough,” he says.

“I stopped enjoying my role probably about two years ago… as we grew from a scrappy startup that was iterating and building stuff people really love, into a really important U.K. bank. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that the things I enjoy in life is working with small groups of passionate people to start and grow stuff from scratch, and create something customers love. And I think that’s a really valuable skill but also taking on a bank that’s three, four, five million customers and turning it into a ten or twenty million customer bank and getting to profitability and IPOing it, I think those are huge exciting challenges, just honestly not ones that I found that I was interested in or particularly good at”.

In early 2019 after realising he was “doing too much and not enjoying it,” Blomfield began talking to Monzo investor Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital, and Monzo Chair Gary Hoffman, about changing roles and how he needed more help. Then, he says, “Covid just exasperated things,” a period when Monzo also had to cut staff, shutter its Las Vegas office and raise bridge funding in a highly publicised down round.

“I think [for] a lot of people in the world — and you and I have spoken about this — going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” says Blomfield. “I don’t think I was any different, so I was really struggling. I had a really, really supportive exec team around me and a really supportive set of investors on board and I was really grateful that when I put my hand up and said, ‘I need help,’ they were super receptive to that”.

Blomfield also comes clean about his role as president, a title that was intended as a way to provide the time and space for him to get well and figure out if he would return to longer-term to Monzo or depart entirely. Contrary to rumours, Blomfield says he wasn’t pushed out by investors. Instead, the Monzo board actually put pressure on him to remain as CEO longer than he wanted or perhaps should have (a version of events corroborated by my own sources). “When I took that president role, it was not certain one way or another what would happen,” Blomfield says, apologising in case I felt I was misled when I reported the news.

(The truth is, within weeks of running that news piece, I knew it was far from certain Blomfield would ever return, with multiple sources, including people close to and worried about Blomfield, confiding in me how burned out the Monzo founder was. As weeks turned into months and following additional sourcing, I had enough information to write a follow up story much earlier but chose to wait until a formal decision was taken).

TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear interviewing Monzo’s Tom Blomfield

Meanwhile, Blomfield describes his resignation as a Monzo employee as “bitter-sweet,” and is keen to praise what the Monzo team has already achieved, including since his much reduced involvement. “I think the team has done phenomenally well over the last year or so in really difficult circumstances,” he says. In particular, he cites Monzo’s new CEO TS Anil as doing a “phenomenal” job, while describing Sujata Bhatia, who joined as COO last year, as “an absolute machine, a real operator”.

To that end, Monzo now has almost 5 million customers, up from 1.3 million in 2019. Monzo’s total weekly revenue is now 30% higher than pre-pandemic, helped no doubt by over 100,000 paid subscribers across Monzo Plus and Premium in the last five months (sources tell me the company surpassed £2 million in weekly revenue in December for the first time in its history). Albeit at a lower valuation, the challenger bank also raised £125 million from new and existing investors during the pandemic.

Blomfield also says that Anil and Bhatia and other members of the Monzo executive team have specific skills related to scaling and managing a bank approaching 5 million customers that he simply doesn’t. And even if he did, he has learned the hard way that there are aspects of running a large company that not everyone enjoys.

“Going from a CEO where you’re front and centre dealing with all of the different pressures every day to a much lighter role is a huge huge weight off my shoulders and has given me the time and space to recover,” he adds. “I’m now feeling pretty great. I’m enjoying life again”.

As for what’s next for Blomfield, he says he wants to “chill out” for a bit and perhaps take a holiday. He’s also finishing his vaccination training so that he can volunteer to help deliver the U.K.’s national COVID-19 vaccination rollout. A recent tweet by Blomfield about a side project also led to speculation that he has begun a new venture. Not true, says Blomfield, telling me it was a 5 day project designed to get back into coding and play with a robotic 2D printer. And while he’s very much left Monzo, he says he’ll continue cheering the company on from the outside.

Startups – TechCrunch

Better to incorporate your startup during prototyping stage or after?

Hi all, is it a good idea to incorporate my ecommerce startup when I'm still at the prototype stage with my product? I'm asking this because I plan to launch Kickstarter campaigns, find long term suppliers, do some marketing, partner up with other companies… Would this give me some credibility? Or should I incorporate after I have the final product, ready to be mass manufactured and shipped out. Thanks!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Customer Discovery During Pandemic

May seem like an obvious question but how are you approaching individuals outside of your network to get feedback while developing your product and building out your company?

I'm an early-stage startup and want to solidify my product-market fit before I waste resources developing an MVP. (Just a little background I'm a B2C hardware company.) Many online forums are anti-solicitation and quick to shut down that sort of dialogue. Are there any particular methods you all have adopted in the past few months that's allowed you to get some insight into your market if you didn't already have an existing database of customers to solicit? Discord? Has Reddit worked for you? Facebook?

Also aside from customer discovery and market research are there any methods anyone would recommend to get product-market fit?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Tools To Help With Family Finances And Business Startups During The COVID-19 Pandemic – Yahoo News

Tools To Help With Family Finances And Business Startups During The COVID-19 Pandemic  Yahoo News
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

US seed-stage investing flourished during pandemic

As the United States entered its first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns, there were wide expectations in startup land that a reckoning had arrived. But the expected comeuppance of high-burn, high-growth startups fueled by cheap capital provided by venture capitalists raising ever-larger funds, failed to arrive.

Instead, the very opposite came to pass.

Layoffs happened swiftly and aggressively during the early months of the pandemic era. But by the middle of Q2, venture activity had warmed and third quarter dealmaking felt swift and competitive, with some investors describing it as the hottest summer in recent years.

Venture capital as an asset class has survived the pandemic’s stress test.

But somewhat lost amongst the splashy megarounds and high-interest IPOs that can dominate the news cycle were seed-stage startups. The raw little companies that represent the grist that will shape itself into the next set of giants.

TechCrunch explored what happened in seed investing to uncover what was missed amidst the storm and fury of late-stage startup activity. According to a TechCrunch analysis of PitchBook data and a survey of venture capitalists, a few trends became clear.

First, the pattern of rising seed-check sizes seen in prior years continued despite the tumultuous business climate. Second, more expensive and larger seed deals were not only caused by excessive capital present in the private markets. Instead, COVID-19 shook up which startups were considered attractive by private investors. And the changeup did not necessarily raise their number.

Let’s dig into the data and see what it can teach us about this wild year. Then we’ll hear from Eniac VenturesNihal Mehta, Freestyle’s Jenny Lefcourt, Pear VC’s Mar Hershenson and Contrary Capital’s Eric Tarczynski about what they saw in 2020 while writing a chunk of the checks that our data encompasses.

The American seed market in 2020

If you didn’t think much about seed in 2020, you’re not alone. Late, huge rounds consumed most of the media’s oxygen, leaving smaller startups to compete for scraps of attention. There was so much late-stage activity — around 90 $ 100 million or larger rounds in Q3, for example — it was difficult for smaller investments to command attention.

But despite living in the background, the dollars invested into seed-stage startups in the United States had an up-and-down year that was fascinating:

Image Credits: PitchBook

Seed dollar volume fell as Q1 progressed, reaching a 2020 nadir in April, the start of Q2. But as May arrived, the pace at which investors put money into seed-stage startups accelerated, recovering to January levels — which is to say, pre-pandemic — by June. The COVID dip, for seed, then, was a short-term affair.

Startups – TechCrunch