Christian Umbach, Co-Founder & CEO Xapix, Inc.


Tell us a bit about how you reacted to the corona situation with your business?

We are working on the automation of processes - primarily in mobility. As we don’t want to expose workers to certain processes during the pandemic, this need became more urgent and imminent. We adapted our focus - as large customers in the automotive and manufacturing had to define their new normal - we adapted to the new use cases. Automation, process optimization, and cost reduction vs new services development. Workflow automation around systems and transparency into Covid-19 impacts vs. rolling out new IoT sensors. 

What was driving the decision to act this way?

We have a toolset that is focused on rapid development: while we are certainly no experts in healthcare data, we put it to work, and along with a vision to make data more accessible for researchers and developers it attracted a global community of experts and passionate supporters around it.  

The “why” became apparent in early March. Good data for decision making was needed, but the complexity of truly being able to realize it was hard. The various hackathons including the German government hackathon #WirVsCorona was a great ground for user testing and rapid development.

We put our core strength to work - the ability to combine datasets quickly and effortlessly - to enable transparency for Covid-19. The result was initially a set of APIs to programmatically access Covid-19 data for researchers and developers that our team at Xapix put together. The launch of Covid19api and the resulting development of further puzzle pieces such as local risk scores attracted the interest of more than 400 developers.

How did the process of getting the decision differ from business as usual?

'Help with Covid' helped us with recruiting additional resources and companies across the US and EU. The biggest difference was probably that all main development is open source and visible to the community. Fortunately, our team members around Covid19api like Olivier, Sonya, and Diliana in San Francisco, Zahra in Boston, and Eyal in Tel Aviv are truly driving the initiative. 

What do you personally learn from this experience?

Being among the first voices for a cause gives you tremendous leverage - from talent to partnerships. Building a community requires good community management in the first place - we started with a strong product focus and leveraged that as a foundation for the community to guide developers in the right direction. This is getting into full swing now: after all, we want to facilitate grassroots initiatives across 190 countries to gather and contribute data towards detailing risk scores and other location intelligence. 

What is your message to business leaders that are struggling at the moment?

We are all under pressure to make our business work and grow in times of change. Maneuvering or assessing a change in the business model, adopting fully remote team structures, managing pay cuts and layoffs, adopting a new value proposition towards the market, fundraising, and maneuvering financial support programs is quite a lot for all of us to manage. Having a support group in place is critically important: among founders or other business leaders in similar roles. There are a lot of moving pieces and being able to openly discuss them with our life partners and business partners alike, is a necessity to stay in a positive decision-making mode. 

Whom should we interview next?

Felix Staeritz who is drumming together the European Fightback Movement to tackle Covid-19 challenges, Rositsa Zaimova who is helping governments make sense of their data with her team at Dahlberg, and Matthew Burrows who started the #artistsupportpledge on Instagram to give artists a new platform.

Do you want to share a story about an inspiring business leader who takes action and pursues new ventures despite the corona-times?

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