The COVID-19 pandemic defined 2020. And it changed every business. Last year at this time, Neurovine was on the brink of launching our first clinical trials with concussion patients. A huge milestone for our startup! Patients were scheduled to arrive in our brand-new office lab for testing sessions that would provide us with critical data to advance our technology and bring it to the masses.
Then the pandemic hit.
We had to innovate and innovate quickly. We’d never even considered doing the trials virtually. But that’s exactly what we did. We quickly fired up the jet burners and created unique interactive technology that our patients could use from home. It was a huge push for our entire team and a big challenge for our young company.
Pivots, portals, postponements
The pandemic caused us to flex our digital health muscles and, as a result, to connect with our patients on a more personal level. All of a sudden, we had a portal into their homes. We interacted with their families on Zoom calls and learned so much about their lives and their needs that would have never come up in a lab setting.
We also learned a lot about the challenges and benefits of remote health care. Throughout the year, we adapted our technology to take those learnings into consideration and embrace the virtual health care movement.
It’s not been without challenges. Several of our partner institutions had completely shut down, so obtaining ethics approval for our research was a huge challenge. Employee morale took a hit when our exciting beta program with professional sports teams had to be postponed.
Being our best selves - together and apart
I worried about our team. We were just getting to know each other and learning to work as a cohesive unit, and now we couldn’t be together in our new office.
But somehow, through remote working, our employees have connected on an even more personal level. We had fun, physically distanced outdoor get togethers during the warm weather, we added personal channels on Slack to share quirky stories and details about our lives that would have usually come up in conversation at work. And of course, Zoom keeps us connected. We’ve enjoyed getting to know each other’s kids and being part of exciting milestones like moving into new homes, getting engaged, and the arrival of new pets.
We keep each other accountable in staying physically and emotionally healthy, including group meditation sessions led by our head data scientist. I didn’t expect this type of connection through a computer screen, but our team has used this time to be vulnerable with each other. This vulnerability created unity and really bonded us through an uncertain time.
I’m hoping to integrate more wellness support for our staff in the future, such as access to remote counselling and exercise programs. If we are going to be stuck at home, we may as well be the best version of ourselves that we can be!
Greater opportunities and accountability - to the next generation
Our customers are located across Ontario and Quebec, so it’s actually been easier to meet with them more frequently on conference and video calls. New opportunities are coming our way as we pursue more collaboration virtually than pre-COVID. Partnerships that seemed impossible because of distance are more feasible now that we are all connecting online.
And meanwhile, the next generation is taking it all in.
Working at home with three young children has been both a challenge and a gift. I’ve noticed how my kids watch me. They see me in meetings, and they see the before and after. When difficult decisions need to be made or there’s an obstacle to be overcome, I know they’re waiting to see how I approach the problem. They keep me accountable.
SHARING A MESSAGE WITH ENTREPRENEURS
I want to share the importance of self-care. Your business takes on your characteristics. If you feel like you’re simply surviving, that will be reflected in your interactions with your team, with your investors and customers, and of course, your family. It’s a tired phrase, but it’s true: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Our communities need us, as entrepreneurs, to stay healthy, to keep moving forward, to continue contributing. And that means we need to pace ourselves and not get too consumed with the hustle.
Neurovine is ahead of where we would have been without the pressure of the pandemic – both from a research perspective, partnerships, funding, and our awesome team. We’ve headed into 2021 well prepared to launch our product with physiotherapy clinics across Canada, thanks to the ability to pivot and the strong connections that became the foundation for an incredibly productive and unified year.
I’d be kidding if I said it was easy. It was a tough year. Tough and yet rewarding in so many ways. And we’re proud to be part of this virtual care movement that is here to stay.
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