How a tech startup can thrive during a crisis [Opinion]

Arlene Mulder is the co-founder of BiB, the first audio library app exclusively for African content available on both the App store and Google Play store.

Arlene Mulder, co-founder of the first audio library app for African content shares tips on how to survive and thrive in a crisis

In the BiB app, you can directly purchase and listen to a curated selection of African books, series, and theatre pieces narrated by acclaimed local voice artists.

Africa’s rich tradition of storytelling is acknowledged and preserved for future generations on this contemporary platform which effortlessly shares this continent’s original narratives with a worldwide audience.

Earlier this year BiB was still an idea. Arlene was working on various projects as a strategic business consultant, however, lockdown amplified her desire to find new ways to make BiB a reality. Arlene founded her first business WeThinkCode in 2015, and has served as a board member of EO (Entrepreneur’s Organisation) for the last two years.

Through her experience as an entrepreneur, she has learnt that in crises there is always opportunity to learn and grow.

During lockdown, Arlene and her co-founder Juanita Kotzé set out to bring BiB to life. In just a few short months they launched their app, recorded 45 titles with acclaimed artists, and partnered with leading publishers, including NB Publishers, Protea, LAPA, and the Black Book Club. 

Arlene shares her experience on how to thrive in a crisis.  

Create more space

Freeing up space in my life is the best thing I’ve learnt in lockdown. I used to fill up every minute of every day. Both my work and social calendars were filled to the brim. Lockdown presented an opportunity to completely reset these habits. Not only do you free up one of our most valuable resources; time.

You also free up your headspace and create more space to focus on what is truly important. I have learnt that productivity and a full calendar are often inversely correlated. Before accepting anything in my calendar, I now first assess whether it is something I really need or want to do.

See challenge as opportunity

We saw the opportunity to set up our business during the lockdown as a luxury. The world has adapted during the pandemic; remote- and gig-working have become the norm.

We set up BiB to operate completely remotely and work with all our suppliers and contractors in a flexible manner. Before lockdown, we planned to do all our artist recordings in state of the art studios. Instead of panicking and putting everything on hold, we started experimenting with creating mobile studios and recording at our artists’ homes, which then changed our model completely and for the better.

Not having any high fixed overheads takes a lot of pressure off the business and offers us the flexibility to adapt quickly, which is extremely valuable in these uncertain times. Being in the midst of a global crisis increased our focus to streamline our business and cut out any unnecessary noise.

The importance of community

This year has truly highlighted the importance of community and the support of people around you. As lockdown was announced, my EO Forum set up weekly calls where we checked in with each other and shared our experiences of how we are navigating our businesses during this difficult time.

Often, just knowing that you are not the only one dealing with these challenges, make everything feel easier. It has been incredible to see how local businesses are all supporting each other. I am truly inspired by how some entrepreneurs have completely pivoted their businesses or opened new and different companies and how people are coming together and supporting each other. 

It has been a tough year indeed, but as Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. This is also a time to learn, grow, and come through this stronger than ever. 

This article was written by Arlene Mudler, co-founder of BiB. 

Featured image: Arlene Mudler, co-founder of BiB (Supplied) 



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