I’m pretty sure that back in December when everyone was touting predictions for the year ahead, a global pandemic disrupting the way we live and work, wasn’t in there. But here we are.
We’re fortunate at FieldHouse. We’ve always said that in the end we’re all just people and laptops, so making the move to remote working wasn’t too difficult for us. For many other businesses, it’s not as easy as that.
In the grand scheme of things, what we can offer may only help a handful of people – entrepreneurs and investors mainly, but nevertheless, we’ve been trying to do our bit. Whether that’s advising entrepreneurs around funding, helping to manage internal and external communications, or literally just being someone to listen and try and help solve any immediate problems.
One of the old sayings in our sector is that “it’s PR, not ER” – it’s something I’ve passed on to many people starting out in PR. This is perhaps the first time in my career, when that saying hasn’t 100% rung true. Over the last couple of weeks, I’m proud that we’ve been working incredibly hard to mobilise our network, to help fight against a common cause – COVID-19 – and do what we can to help those on the frontline.
This week, one of the things we’ve been doing is working closely with Caroline Plumb OBE and Mike Fischer CBE, to help them launch the COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network (@testingcovid19). Putting out a call to all the laboratories across the country, commercial or in universities, to volunteer their PCR machines (polymerase chain reaction), commonly used for genetic testing, and functionality to help regularly test frontline staff for COVID-19.
There are around 14,000 of these PCR machines across the UK and if they all joined the network, we could test EVERYONE in the country once a week and regular testing is essential. Right now, it’s harder to think of a worthier thing get people talking about or something that’s more at the heart of the news agenda.
The team’s worked incredibly hard to get the word out there and have pretty much every major broadcast news channel cover the story, along with key trades in the medical, lab and technology sector and cover off most of the nationals, in the hope to help scale the volunteer network. Aside from the media side of things, we’ve also been using our network to spread the word and direct anyone who may be connected with a lab towards the volunteer network.
Another initiative we have been proud to be a part of is Hack from Home, a virtual hackathon that will be taking place this weekend to find technology solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. We were approached about the project last week by Dataswift, the portfolio company of one of our VC clients, IQ Capital, which is looking to bring together the tech community in just two weeks and wanted our help to spread the word.
We wrote the press release as Dataswift built the website – and the momentum behind the project has been incredible. Every day, fantastic partners from across the globe have signed: NHSX, The Ethical Tech Alliance, xLAB, Cleveland Clinic, Case Western University, The Universities of Warwick, Surrey, Exeter, the list goes on. For our part, we have spent the past week hosting interviews with national and tech press and spreading the word through our network to help sign up participants and sponsors as quickly as possible.
As of last night, Hack from Home had 547 participants and 38 project proposals, ranging from tech to help source cleared volunteers to deliver groceries to the vulnerable, to apps helping doctors source testing capabilities at other hospitals. It’s an incredible achievement for a Cambridge startup working on a less than two-week time frame and we can’t wait to see the results as everyone comes together in the fight against COVID-19.
We don’t have delusions of grandeur, we know our part to play in all this is incredibly small. We are not those facing patients on wards. We are not risking our health to come to the aid of others. We are not making the big decisions here. We are just people and laptops and we’re just happy to play our part to try and make an impact where we can.