In the five weeks since coronavirus hit Ireland, businesses the length and breadth of the country have had to make the often heartbreaking decision to pull down their shutters and close. Despite this, many companies have refused to cave in to Covid-19. Many have diversified into new fields to help the public - and keep people in jobs.
Michaela Herron, a product regulatory partner with Mason Hayes and Curran, said her firm had experienced a sharp increase in the number of queries from businesses looking to develop new products during the pandemic.
She said businesses were looking to do what they could to help. She pointed to reports that alcohol companies such as Irish Distillers were assisting with the production of hand sanitisers and noted that companies with 3D printers such as Riot Games were exploring the possibilities of printing face shields.
Despite the rush to help, Herron said it was important that companies considered the regulatory environment. "While a lot of businesses have been quick to want to offer help, there are still regulatory issues that have to be considered," she said. "Most queries relate to what companies need to do to supply these products.
"Product liability issues are also something that companies do have to consider and think about before deciding if they want to go down the route of manufacture."
Stephen Dillon, founder of startups.ie, said many small and medium enterprises had also got involved. He believes such firms have benefited from being agile and able to pivot operations toward new spaces.
"It's been a tsunami for a lot of businesses," he said. "Depending on the business, it reflects how you can adapt.
"The massive winners in all this will be those looking to online, delivering their services remotely because logistics will still be working."
From stage manufacturers producing work desks to drones delivering medicines, Irish companies are playing their part on the front line in the battle against coronavirus. The Sunday Independent has identified five companies looking to keep the lights on through the pandemic.
When the coronavirus started its spread across Ireland, businesses opted to shut their offices. Subsequently, working from home has become the new normal. As it spread, orders dried up for Flying Elephant, which makes stages and bars for festivals and gigs. Company director Michael Keelan was forced to consider how he could keep the doors open. Inspiration wasn't long in coming.
"One of the lads in the office said: 'My friend is looking for a desk so he can work from home, can we make one?'. I just thought: 'You know what, yeah we will'. We put the desk up on Instagram to gauge interest and the rest is history."
The growth in popularity of the €150 desk has been phenomenal. On the first day of manufacture in early March, the firm made 10. On Thursday, the firm made 120, with the level of demand set to grow further as it gets set for launch in the UK. "The feedback has been unbelievable. We want to keep the ball rolling and the lights on. When all this madness is over, we'll get back to what we were doing before."
Visual AI detection company LogoGrab's co-founders Luca Boschin and Alessandro Prest were looking to their homeland of Italy and growing concerned. The spread of coronavirus appeared relentless. The Dublin-based firm, which typically helps multinationals such as eBay detect brands and counterfeits online, sought to use its technology in any way it could to help combat the spread.
Two weeks ago, alongside research firm GhostData, LogoGrab carried out a study in Italy to detect how many people were breaking quarantine regulations. The recognition software was used to detect social media posts where people were gathering in numbers and in places they shouldn't have been. Its publicly-available results allowed people to identify what regions individuals were breaking the rules in, and get the public to take more responsibility.
"This was about a couple of concerned citizens looking to deliver technology that would be of use where our friends and family live in Italy," said Boschin. "No one asked for this. It's our way of helping in the fight against coronavirus."
Boschin said he had no plans at the moment to research the lockdown in Ireland, as the country is following the rules. However, he did say LogoGrab would engage in further studies and could look at how it can combat the spread of misinformation here on social media.
With opticians limited to offering emergency services or deliveries, Dan Nugent, founder of anti-blue light glasses firm Ambr Eyewear, decided it was time to launch a business that had been on his mind for some time.
Launched last week, Lensbuild.com is a by-mail lens replacement service. It means customers can order new glasses or sunglasses lenses online to be put into their existing frames. The customers can then send for and receive the frames, complete with new lenses, through the mail without leaving their home. Nugent admits he had been thinking about launching Lensbuild for nearly a year. He felt that with people's movements limited, and revenue nearly doubling since mid-March at Ambr, the time was right for launch.
"The opticians are closed, and the necessity for reading and screen time has never been higher," he said. "If people don't have suitable eyewear, they'd be in big trouble."
Having received warnings from friends in Spain, Ryan O'Neill, founder of Legit Fit, knew the arrival of coronavirus in Ireland would soon result in the closure of gyms nationwide.
With Legit Fit focused on helping fitness providers manage their businesses by offering automated booking, payments and management services, O'Neill's company faced revenue streams being wiped out. To maintain the current business, O'Neill and his team took it upon themselves to diversify into helping providers deliver online virtual training sessions to their clients, who were forced to stay home.
O'Neill and his team helped providers to set up on Zoom and use it in tandem with their Legit Fit app. This allowed fitness providers to use virtual rooms as their own gyms/studios.
Clients of Legit Fit's providers can continue to pay and book as normal through the app and join the interactive virtual sessions.
Legit Fit is also building a fully integrated solution to make the move online completely seamless through its app. The app will automatically set up providers on Zoom and also develop notifications for their clients to alert them when their virtual sessions are starting.
"If people's gyms are closed and they're looking to work out, they can contact us and we'll connect them with one of our providers," said O'Neill. "It's our own way of helping people stay home, but also to stay active."
In March, Bobby Healy, founder of drone takeaway delivery firm Manna Aero, saw his company's planned trial with Camile Thai takeaway at UCD disrupted due to coronavirus.
The serial entrepreneur, who also helped build CarTrawler, has remained busy, even diversifying Manna into a new sector. On Twitter, Dynamo Ventures, one of the firm's backers, confirmed Manna would soon begin testing the delivery of medicines to the most vulnerable people in Moneygall, Co Offaly. According to the Wall Street Journal, Manna is to drop prescription orders to about a dozen residences in Moneygall.
The company hopes its demonstration could lead to the widespread use of its delivery drones across rural Ireland.
Sunday Indo Business