A ‘Car Wreck’ Puts the Business of Bringing People Together on Hold

I took that to my team, and there were a couple of questions. First, how do we protect our teammates and our members? Because the Riveter does have these physical spaces around the country. And then, second, how do we protect the business? How do we make sure that we create a viable plan to steer through what will be a year of massive uncertainty and a lot of grief?

So we set out to look at those various things pretty quickly. We worked to close our financing. And I said I don’t want to send our headquarters staff home until we take the spaces to an unstaffed position, because everyone at this company deserves to be treated the same way. So we made the decision on March 13 that we would take the spaces to unstaffed. We left them available to essential workers who have offices or dedicated desks in our spaces, and others who needed that space.

We also made the decision at that moment that we would take whatever action we were taking across the country all at once. We have spaces in Minnesota, in Texas, in Colorado, and we acted far before most of those states put shelter in place on the table. And the other thing we set out to do was to shore up the business. Venture-backed companies, which we are, a part of our mandate is to scale. And so oftentimes we’re growing aggressively, but here we decided, “OK, what do we need to do to cut our costs to get through?” We’re obviously going to lose revenue, and so we moved really quickly on that front as well.

GELLES Roland, can you give us just some granular understanding of what it took to cancel South by Southwest at the very last minute?

SWENSON It was more like a car wreck than just slowing down and stopping. The first thing we did was let all the acts know, the musical acts, let all the filmmakers know, let all the speakers know, and then we started into canceling all the contracts that we could and negotiating settlements with the ones that we couldn’t. And then we had to decide what to do with the staff. And we finally told everybody relatively early that “OK, if you’re worried about this, you can work from home.”

GELLES What kind of shape has this left South by Southwest in? Will you be able to survive?

SWENSON Well, once we looked at the forecast, it was pretty grim, and it showed us running out of cash within a couple of months. We had to make the tough choice of laying off a bunch of people, and that was very painful. That gave us enough breathing room to start looking for other investment.

The way things are right now, we basically have enough money to get to the next event if nothing else goes wrong. But we’re in active discussions with potential partners.

Source Article