Small enterprises in our direct environment were heavily affected by the corona situation. To help them keep their businesses running, we offered them hands-on pro bono help to set up digital operations and sales channels. The great added value that we could create with little work inspired us to create a marketplace where digital enthusiasts assist the entrepreneurs concerned with their expertise.

What it does

We are a civil society initiative founded in Zurich that offers pro bono advice and digital help to Swiss micro and small enterprises with 2 to 15 employees. These companies do not really know how to respond to the current situation with corona. With our help of consultations/counseling interviews, guidelines, and the mediation of voluntary support, small businesses are able to implement digital solutions in order to maintain and strengthen their business operations. Not only during the lockdown phase, but also beyond.

The counseling interview(s) serve as a starting point to define a possible course of action(s) and to work out a rough plan on how to implement these actions. Depending on the company, the offer must be digitalized, appropriate back office and logistics processes must be set up, a new target group must be defined and reached, an online shop and digital distribution channels must be created. Our concrete help consists of the development of websites, online shops, social media, and other digital distribution channels as well as support in the setup and use of remote work solutions conducted by the core team or by sourced experts of the expert pool. We aim to establish a hub for the exchange of successful practical methods and to establish a bigger network of experts to be able to help even more companies.

How we built it

  1. At versus virus we formed a core team of 6 people and set up our core processes with the help of a website, google forms, slack channels and zapier based automation.
  2. The following 3 weeks we started to reach out to partners, recruited volunteers and tested the concept with 6 small businesses.

Challenges we ran into

Biggest challenge: Running the project without funding alongside our jobs

Other challenges:

  1. We lack the networks for offline communication to address customers
  2. Companies that are not affected by corona and therefore do not belong to the target group also asked for bro Bono help
  3. Volunteer experts come with a "hidden" agenda

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  1. The city of Zurich and SECO expressed their support of the project
  2. We helped 5 small companies on their journey through corona
  3. We are proud of the core team of 6 people that has been developed at "versus virus" hackathon
  4. We have built a network of 45 digital experts that help pro bono
  5. We have won partners (national and international)
  6. We have found insights into how to help small enterprises

What we learned

  1. Customer approach must be also analogue, as a lot of the affected customers are not reachable on digital channels
  2. Case management is paramount - just matching experts with companies is not effective
  3. Running the time intensive project purely by volunteers is unsustainable over the long term
  4. As soon as we communicate less (e.g., social media), our acquisition of experts and companies collapses

What's next for

The MVP has been successfully completed and tested. We can hardly continue to operate the MVP pro bono and we can by no means scale it. We have until the end of April to consider options on how we can continue the initiative. But we are sure: Even if the governmental corona restrictions are quickly removed, the support we can offer the companies affected remains crucial in their recovery!

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