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Put Your Oxygen Mask on First, Then Help Others, During the Pandemic

Students heading inside Betabox Learning

Not long ago, the Raleigh based EdTech company, Betabox Learning, had a full schedule of on-site, hands-on field trip visits at K-12 schools across the country in their mobile technology lab. COVID-19 has dramatically changed normal business operations for this startup, since much of their business was in the physical world in schools interacting with students.

Fortunately for Betabox, they have been able to adapt to a virtual world quickly. Betabox has been working on more in-home learning opportunities, easy-to-do lesson plans for teachers, and free self-directed online learning quests, as Betabox calls them, for the last year and a half. This pandemic has forced them to focus and accelerate this option for teachers, students and parents. Students can use this time at home to build self-driving cars or prototype virtual reality glasses through their Betaboxes for Home Kits.

Teachers are the real drivers of offering Betabox’s online learning. “I have so much respect for teachers and administrators that they are adapting to put together a distance learning program in two weeks. What they have pulled together thus far is amazing in of itself,” said Sean Newman Maroni, Founder and CEO of Betabox. There is definitely a need for these online learning resources right now.

Get Assistance Where You Can

Maroni had to ask himself, “Can we survive with zero events until the fall?” As an entrepreneur, you are always looking at your cash flow statement and your burn rate. Betabox has been able to pause some of their debt services and apply for some of the new government programs to assist small businesses during the pandemic. Maroni also leaned on other business owners to work through the complicated application process.

Fortunately, Maroni has been able to retain his employees during the pandemic. His operations manager has been able to take this time to learn new skills and put together a code-breaking quest. Maroni says allowing employees to use this extra time to allow their team focus on those “rainy day” projects they have always wanted to do but are hard to get to during typical fast-paced times can also keep morale up. For Maroni, instead of investing financially, now they are leveraging their time to invest in key areas of growth such as their content portfolio and rolling out more lesson plans and quests. 

Keep Momentum Going

Sean Newman Maroni, Founder and CEO of Betabox

Maroni’s advice for other startups and businesses is to put on their oxygen mask first. “The #1 way you can help during this pandemic is to keep your business going, and to keep the momentum going.”  

Not that we have been on many airplanes lately, but Maroni reminded us that small businesses should put their oxygen masks on first before helping others. “If you are in a survival situation, don’t put your business at risk if you do not have the time,” said Maroni. For their part, Betabox is working with the digital manufacturing community to lend their resources out to first responders by making personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Maroni reminded us of the quote “The best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago and the second-best time is today.” Perhaps this pause in our typical business environment will give us the opportunity to plant some trees.