We go back to speak to Chris Evans from peer-to-peer surf, bike and snow gear rental marketplace Quipmo.
Lifting off from our interview in June 2019, we see how the company is travelling now.
The pandemic has certainly impacted your business, your company is geared towards peer-to-peer equipment rental, so therefore out-of-home focussed.
How are you working within these parameters that are quite restrictive to your business at the moment?
Chris Evans: “It’s an incredibly difficult time for a travel and leisure technology startup. There’s no other way to describe it. The economic headwinds that Quipmo are facing, like any kind of travel and leisure business are at the moment – gale force. However, at this time, we also see opportunity and a very bright horizon for when this period passes.
“From a Quipmo perspective, the majority of our supply comes from small hire businesses and so we’re in a lot of contact with businesses who are doing it really really tough. These are small businesses are who have lost all customers, virtually overnight, as a consequence of the lockdown and quarantine measures that have been imposed.”
Given all of that, how do you use this time to strategically look at the business and then use it as a springboard for when we finally are allowed outside safely?
CE: “I think it is a case of focussing on what’s within our control now.
“I believe there’s an inevitability that government fiscal policy coupled with targeted tourism and leisure stimulus measures are going to be necessary to reinvigorate travel, tourism, hospitality and leisure across the board. And that these measures are going to need to be truly gargantuan.
“From a Quipmo perspective, our immediate attention is how can we work with as many small businesses as we possibly can now to aggressively aggregate supply in our key markets and then support those vulnerable small businesses really well on the other side so that we can go on to all benefit together.”
The value of relationships has certainly be highlighted during the shutdown, tell me about your experience on that?
CE: “I think most people have a natural inclination of wanting to help good people during the tough times, and obviously there’s a lot of people hurting just at the moment.
“In this vein, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have many people reach out and generously help Quipmo during this period – offering their advice, counsel and expertise across many faculties. Speaking as a recipient of such generosity I can absolutely say that if you can support a small business, or lend an ear to someone, it helps.
“But I actually think it’s more than that. Values aren’t tested in the good times right? Values only mean something when there’s a challenge, we’re all magnanimous when things are going our way. When it’s tough is when the content of who people really are shines through and we’ve been supported by some truly wonderful people.”
Quipmo is engagement driven, so how do you maintain engagement strategies and keep it going up with potential users and current suppliers?
CE: “I naturally wear two hats when I answer this. There’s a commercial hat where you go, ‘yes, obviously we want to continue to have a voice in market even though that voice might be dampened because it’s crowded out by terrible news. We still want to continue to push the brand and give the brand space within a community of people who might not be seeking to work with Quipmo at this juncture but who might very well be looking for something fun at the end of it when we’re all able to spend time outside again.’
“On a personal level, and this is more why I do it, I just think these dark times it’s so easy for people to be inundated on all mediums with really hard, negative news and stories. I think what gives people hope for the future is taking time to reflect on their ambitions and dreams. It might be something as simple as going on a trip or going surfing again. For me, it’s just trying to push out in our Quipmo way some positive news stories that gives people an opportunity to consume content which maybe puts a smile on their face for a few minutes of the day.”
Economically we’re going to be feeling this for a long time.
CE: “Whilst it’s very serious, I’m not overly scared of the coronavirus, however, I’m genuinely terrified of the prolonged economic devastation that is going to follow this global lockdown. Then more specifically, how the vulnerable and poor will bear a disproportionate allocation of cost and suffering for this next decade or more.”
We’ve got the positive aspects of engaging in travel and activity again but we might not actually have the capital and the finances to do so.
CE: “This is a desperately complex problem from a national economic perspective. I think there are two key issues that will determine the next period: first, the tenure of the lockdown will very much determine what level of macro cultural change to consumer behaviour there will be. What’s going to happen to household savings rates, and how will disposable income be allocated on the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors by households going forward. Secondly, what any kind of geopolitical tensions will do to international travel trends and then how will they affect who will be travelling and where?
“Over the medium term, however, I believe that the macroeconomics for the travel, tourism, hospitality and leisure verticals are very, very bright. People and communities will only bunker down for so long before they’re fatigued by negative news, and then optimism will return and travel and leisure will be at the coal face of that surging uptick. Deferred travel and leisure may occur in the short term but everything will return to normal levels in time.”
Putting all this together, what kind of mindset should we maintain to get through this difficult period?
CE: “Despite everything you have to be optimistic, remain positive and keep hope for the future. If you don’t believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of whether we’re able to quantify the length of this tunnel or not, but if you don’t believe there is a light, then it’s probably time to go and do something else.
“But pragmatically the reality is that a lot of it is day-by-day. We can really can only focus on what is within our control and adapt as new information comes to light or circumstances change.
“Quipmo is still in the process of raising capital, and we’ve had some parties walk away from our raise because of the coronavirus which is disappointing but which is also completely understandable. It’s a tough time for the startup sector as it is for any business in travel, tech, hospitality and leisure, but there are huge opportunities for those that can manage to traverse this difficult period and then capture the upside on the other side. We are optimisitic that we’ll become one of those success stories and we will do everything that we possibly can to make it so!”