The real risk to our startups' way of life

Beware, this is my uplifting post for the week !  It was triggered by this interesting interactive map of Avian influenza risk published by Maplecroft, a CSR research and advisory firm.

Recently we have all been too aware of the immediate impact that flying restrictions can have on our startup companies, particularly those not based in a nexus of activity like the Bay Area or 128.  When that deal with Time Warner is just waiting to be signed but you just can’t get to New York, you know the local competitors are going to find a way to get back in…

Whilst the focus is on terror right now, Avian Influenza is the more disruptive threat hanging over our heads.

We are still in a situation of human infection with no confirmed human-to-human (H-H) spread.  Current actions are essentially limited to Tamiflu stockpiling and accelerated vaccine research.  As soon as small clusters of sick people appear with some H-H transmission, you can be certain that airports will start to implement containtment at very high speed.  Phase II may be upon us right now, according to this but tempered by this (I don’t read the mainstream press anymore for a reason ;-)).  That’s when the disruption to our global businesses will really start.  You do not need to reach pandemic stage before public events get cancelled and governments offices shut down … you get the picture.  I am sure Oliver Stone has bought the rights already.

Given that this is a likely event, I think all businesses should start to think carefully about they can keep operating in the event of a crisis.  When do you stop asking your team to come to the office, assuming it is still accessible ?  Is everyone aware of continuity  mechanisms ?  Can all  employees work remotely ? Can you reasonably require of your team that they keep using Mass Transit ?  What if your critical vendors are impacted ?

The priorities should be safety of team and families first, continuity of the business second, and so on.   But all CFOs / CAOs should have a think of their contingency plans and create a set of recommendations for their team.   The FSA has a plan, so should you.

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