As with millions of other people around the globe, I am sheltering in place. Until last Thursday, my plan for the weekend was to immerse myself in a novel from the never-ending list of “books I intend to read.” But, on Thursday, I and several of my Protiviti colleagues received an invitation from the Alliance for Innovative Regulation (AIR) to participate in a hackathon to save small business.
In a matter of days, AIR organized this hackathon to explore ways of operationalizing the distribution of the $350 billion earmarked for small business in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law last Friday. My Protiviti colleagues and I joined bankers and fintechs from the US and Europe – eight teams with more than 60 individuals in total – in virtual collaboration meetings and scrums over the course of forty-eight hours to develop ideas for getting the available funds into the hands of small business quickly and securely. The teams took different, yet interconnected, approaches that targeted the various participants: small businesses themselves, banks and credit unions, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the fintechs.
Unlike other TechSprints in which I have participated, this was not a contest to decide which team had the best solution. The partnering within and among the teams was incredible. Knowledge and potential technology solutions were freely shared toward the collective goal of helping in a race against time to save the 30 million small businesses that employ half of the U.S. work force.
On Sunday evening, the teams came together to present their protypes. The collaboration continued as the participants weighed in with ways to enhance or complement the protypes presented and arranged follow-up cross-team discussions to advance the ideas presented.
This week, AIR will collate and publish the key takeaways from the hackathon – the challenges, public policy implications, potential solutions and open questions. So, stay tuned for that. We also expect that the Treasury Department and SBA will provide additional guidance soon on how the small business programs will work that will clarify terms and expectations for the programs. More work will definitely need to be done and more people will need (and, no doubt, want) to engage, but the foundation exists now for moving quickly in this defining moment for small business. There is no time to lose.