Pivoting in a pandemic

16/04/2020 - 15:44


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

As catastrophic as the coronavirus-caused economic shutdown is for some, other businesses are finding opportunity

Whipper Snapper Distillery has gone from producing whiskey to hand sanitiser. Photo: Attila Csaszar

As many Western Australians hunker down in home offices, there are some inspiring activities taking place around the state in the wake of COVID-19.

Among the stories of devastation are those of clever pivots, innovation and people embracing change.

From distilleries producing hand sanitiser, fitness providers leasing their equipment into people’s homes, to the 3D printing of critical medical devices, it’s comforting to know there are smart people out there doing some incredible things.

Mobile apps

There’s a lot of discussion around technology and how it can aid in the crisis, as it has in countries such as Singapore and South Korea.

In February, for example, South Korea launched Corona 100m (Co100), a tracking app that informs citizens of danger zones within 100 metres of them, based on known cases.

Locally, Perth startups Neorise and GeoMoby are working on similar solutions.

GeoMoby is investigating the integration of wearable bracelets with its app, while Neorise is currently producing UpHealth.

UpHealth features a contact tracing system, as well as at-home assessment functions where a user records their temperature and answers a few basic medical questions daily.

Neorise founder and CEO Patrick D’Cruze says the app is intended to empower individuals to make informed health decisions, keep them safe from the sources of the virus, and slow its spread.

Support tools

VROMO is restaurant-delivery software built by Perth’s Andrew Walker and his team.

They are helping to mobilise the food industry with an app for drivers, a dashboard for restaurant managers and live driver tracking for customers.

VROMO is getting businesses online immediately, helping to ease the burden of restrictions and closures. It allows restaurants to pool resources with others and facilitates a no-touch delivery to keep drivers and hungry customers safe.

KeepSpace is a logistics software company and fulfilment centre in Perth that’s helping retailers get online and keep the door open … virtually.

 It’s also offering logistics assistance for medical supplies.

There are other great initiatives intended to support the business community. Ammo Marketing developed Thrive Kit, a bundling of useful tips and resources for founders and small business owners to navigate through recent challenges.

A collaboration of Blow Your Own Mind and Hot Lizard Designs, bswapshop.com, is a free platform where people can trade services and products.

Skills of the Modern Age created Skill Kit, full of great tools to help businesses adapt.

The company has also released a range of free workshops hosted on Zoom where you can learn about facilitating online, prototyping and user empathy in a constantly changing world.

For those on Instagram, it’s likely you’ve heard of the popular page @PerthisOK featuring all the wonderful goings-on around town, tastiest eats and most Insta-worthy nature spots.

It has started a new page on Instagram, aptly named @PerthwillbeOK, featuring Perth businesses you can support.

This includes TJK Auto Repairs, LabSix (a DJ and music production school) and plenty of eateries.


With hand sanitiser nearly impossible to purchase through supermarkets and pharmacies, many distilleries around the world are helping to fill the shortage and subsequently keep their staff employed.

Whipper Snapper Distillery has received $5,000 in support from the City of Perth to purchase the required equipment needed to convert its operations.

“We now have multiple purchase orders from different buyers including the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions and Transperth while we are in discussions with others,” managing director Alasdair Malloch says.

Wise Wine in Margaret River is also joining the good fight and producing sanitiser with a 70 per cent alcohol base.

Free services

PickStar, co-founded by Matthew Pavlich, is a platform to book sports stars for presentations, appearances, social media bookings and other marketing activities.

The business is giving back to Australian businesses by bringing some inspiration to its online calls.

You can now Kick-Off with PickStar, having a star join your virtual meeting or webinar for free.

The company aims to have 1,000 meetings joined in 100 days. Recruitment company, SEVENTWENTY (now in Perth and Brisbane) has kindly offered to donate its team and resources to helping any NGOs or internal recruitment teams in the health sector specifically dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. CEO Allen Smith says the company will also donate its ad spend.

Medical devices

Local engineering companies and others with 3D printing capabilities have been tirelessly designing and prototyping solutions to assist with shortages of medical supplies.

UWA Makers has been working closely with The University of Western Australia and Department of Health on the COVID-19 response. They’re in the early stages of prototyping designs.

Alex Ocean, CEO and founder of Purple Engineering, has successfully retrofitted snorkelling masks for CPAP/BiPAP use.

The substitute for ventilators was produced in just 24 hours and is now ready for testing.

COVID-19 Tech Action Team

For the past few weeks, more than 130 innovators, investors, business leaders, scientists and healthcare professionals have joined forces under a group called CTA, which is the brainchild of Perth-based Silicon Valley investor, Bonnie Lin.

The group is WA-led with nationwide collaboration, whose mission is to use high-level contacts and global technology to source, re-tool and fund alternate and innovative solutions for PPE and medical equipment demand in Australian and New Zealand.

Even amidst the tumult that COVID-19 is bringing to our home, work and school lives, it is exciting to see WA’s ability to adapt quickly and band together to develop positive responses to the crisis.


Subscription Options