We Are In It For The Long Run

We Are In It For The Long Run

By Tilman Ehrbeck

At Flourish, we hope that you and your families are staying healthy, safe, and optimistic. Over the last couple of weeks, we have scrambled like everyone else to get the few staff still traveling safely home; ensure that we can work remotely; connect with our portfolio companies and partners; try to collectively assess the situation; and coordinate our efforts to offer the best support possible now and throughout this pandemic.

While the broader outlook is uncertain and will evolve, we believe there are three distinct phases in front of us—each with different implications of what we at Flourish can and will do.

Initial crisis mitigation

As the countries and communities in which we live and work fight the public health crisis and navigate its economic fallout during the short term, we believe it’s important to cut each other some slack and help where we can. Much of what seemed important just a few weeks ago is simply not so anymore. Everyone is handling many demands at the same time—from their families, colleagues, business partners, and communities. At Flourish, we will be flexible and continue to offer support to our portfolio teams and the broader ecosystem around our work. We are grateful to our portfolio companies and our partners, who in turn are already helping their local and online communities. For example, FreshEBT in the US is organizing short-notice cash support for food-stamp recipients. This is one of many thoughtful efforts being introduced across our network. We will continue our portfolio company support and are exploring how we can make contributions to crisis mitigation.

Medium-term adjustments

The economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt around the world for some time to come. Everyone will have to reassess their outlook and reprioritize to make their best possible contributions. At Flourish, our new investment activities will inevitably slow down, if only because it’s harder to connect with people and to develop the mutual understanding and trust that is crucial for a long-term investment relationship. We will prioritize our existing portfolio and efforts around the world. We will work with companies with strong fundamentals and impact potential that had planned to go to market for another fundraising round over the months to come. Our portfolio services team—seasoned executives with expertise across functional areas such as HR, finance, and communications—stands ready to help our portfolio entrepreneurs navigate this phase in their startup journeys.

Looking ahead to a “new normal”

There will be a new normal once the immediate crisis is brought under control and society and economies gradually ramp up activity levels. We do not know exactly when that will be or the nature of that new normal. It’s reasonable to expect that certain market movements we saw before the crisis will accelerate (e.g., a more distributed work force, a greater reliance on digital-only channels, etc.) while other trends will slow down (e.g., mass travel). At Flourish, we will be ready for the new normal and make our contribution to a new social contract that’s focused on improving the long-term financial well-being for everyone. There will be new challenges and opportunities that arise out of this crisis, driving new entrepreneurial solutions that we will back. We will help shape and champion new policy initiatives to support financial health and inclusion worldwide, and we will continue to fund research to understand the financial impact of this crisis on those most vulnerable.

As a mission-oriented investment fund, we are committed for the long term. When we spun Flourish out of Omidyar Network last year, we formulated guiding principles for what we believe a better and fairer retail financial services system should look like. It started with the foundational notion that a fair financial system will help people improve their lives. Today, that imperative is clearer than ever.