Ten days into April and the Coronavirus pandemic has shown no signs of stopping: despite strong measures from organizations, tireless medical staff efforts, and researchers working on novel vaccines. Prakash Hosalli – Akila Labs’ CEO, a participating startup in HealthInc’s program, is stuck with a dilemma. He came to Amsterdam last February as one of the startups that got chosen in our Selection Days to commence the process of accelerating his startup. With the Coronavirus came storming in, he has no choice but to stay put, leaving his family back in New York City – now is the new epicenter after China’s Wuhan. We sat down, digitally we might add, to check up on Prakash, making sure he is holding up in these difficult times.
1. The dilemma
– If I understand correctly, you are a NY based company. What is more important is that you have all of your family members there. Among our HealthInc cohort, you are the only one who is sandwiched in this dilemma: can’t go to work, but also can’t go back to your family. How does this affect you?
Prakash: It affects all of us in different ways, from fear of the unknown to anxiety caused by separation. The situation in New York has deteriorated very quickly and the spread of the pandemic has been faster and far more devastating than ever. At the moment of this article, there are already more than 100,000 cases with more than 10,000 casualties in NYC alone.
– How are your family doing? I hope they are all well?
Prakash: Luckily for us, our family is doing well. My wife, Lakshmi and our two sons took the threat very seriously and started following instructions for social distancing almost immediately. They have exercised a lot of caution and have shown remarkable maturity.
– What a relief to hear! In terms of the regulations and measures taken against the virus, how well do you think the US government is handling the situation?
Prakash: There’s no doubt that the response of the US government at the Federal level has been appalling. That said, The response of a lot of local and state-level governments has been exemplary, especially that of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. Monday 13 April he said that the state is controlling the spread and the worst is over if they continue to be smart and not do something reckless.
2. The challenges
– How does being located/stuck in Amsterdam at the moment feel when your family and your business are in NYC?
Prakash: We made the decision to stay put wherever we were and take social distancing seriously. Air travel has been the primary source of the rapid spread of the disease. A few weeks back, Europe was the center of the pandemic and I could have aided the spread and endangered my family and other New Yorkers, had I traveled back. Here’s a report on how most COVID19 cases in New York came from Europe. I had also visited Milan in the 2nd week of Feb. In the absence of any testing, I was not sure if I was infected.
– In your case it is indeed a clever decision: to stay put and practice serious social distancing. We would like to address the challenges at the moment and how do you deal with it?
The biggest challenge is to keep everyone in good spirits. It’s not easy to be positive when the news, especially in New York is so grim. We deal with it by communicating constantly and being open. We have developed coping mechanisms to keep the balance between optimism and reality. Having a sense of humor that all of us have to a certain degree helps. Everyone in our family is a great cook and spending time in the Kitchen has been very helpful.
3. Prakash and his startup are moving forward
– How do you keep conducting business? Or is there no business at all?
There’s been no major impact on our ability to conduct business. We were a virtual company to begin with and we’ve operated without a formal office since the beginning. Our team is spread across 4 countries (USA, Netherlands, Australia and Portugal) and we have turned the art of collaboration into science! We have a very strong and mature team who feed off each other’s strength and we’re busier than ever.
– That is fortunate! What would you do (differently) if you were there? What are you doing now?
As I’d have been homebound in New York, I can be as effective as I can to contribute to the well being and health of New Yorkers and others from Amsterdam. Our focus now is to figure out the best and the fastest way to use our technology to address the current crisis and be prepared to aid people when the situation returns to the new “normal”.
– What do you recommend to other startups?
I think this is a test for all of us and the future will depend on how each one of us copes with this crisis. This is especially true for Startups that will have to dig deep to find the resiliency to sustain through this crisis, and eventually come out stronger.
We’re also best equipped to deal in an environment with fewer resources. This requires a lot of creativity and innovation to solve some really huge problems in the coming years. It’ll not be easy, but we didn’t become Entrepreneurs to do what’s easy. I wish everyone all the best – stay safe and healthy!
A message of hope
Yes. it is indeed a message of hope from our team at HealthInc, from Akila and Prakash himself, as well as our startup community: stay resilient to sustain through the crisis, and eventually come out as a unity, stronger and more prepared than ever before! Let this video put a smile on your face, and brighten your day as we fight the virus away 🙂