I started my digital marketing company in 2009 against the backdrop of a global financial crisis. Most people thought a young university graduate — like I was at that time — should play it safe and wait for the business climate to get better before starting a company. I’ll never forget the middle-aged business owner who approached me at a trade show and suggested I was “very courageous” to start a company in “the crisis,” and wished me well as if I were taking a trip to some dangerous place from which I would never return.
My youthful ignorance turned out to be a blessing, although the first two years of bootstrapping were painfully humbling. My business card read “CEO,” but in reality, I was sleeping on an airbed under my desk. Two years later, armed with the proof of concept for our business model and bolstered by the tailwind of the improving economy, I raised my first round of financing. Eventually, I assembled a fantastic team of hundreds of people and later sold the majority of the company to a media conglomerate. It was a great ride, and I now believe that starting my company during a recession was the best move I could have made.
Why it’s better to start a company in 2020 than in 2019
According to a 2009 study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an extraordinary 57% of Fortune 500 companies have been founded in a recession or bear market, even though only 31% of all years since 1855 counted as “down years.”
Starting with a blank slate is your advantage in 2020. This year, the competition is weak.
If the majority of these companies got started during rough economic periods, it suggests that they may not be bad times to start a company. A “bad time to start a company” usually implies low consumer demand and limited access to funding. But that’s mainly a problem for startups that are already established. They have to manage the decline, after all.