Two business colleagues greet each other with elbows because of COVID-19

Startups Battling COVID-19

5 min read • Apr 11, 2021 • Derek Miller

A good idea can shine through even the darkest of times, and 2020 has provided enough darkness to last a lifetime. While first responders spent hours working in ICU wards and parents took shifts at home tutoring their kids with virtual learning, entrepreneurs also got to work.

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) keeps an active dashboard for COVID-19 response resources and news, guiding small business owners through ways to apply for emergency funding and how to follow CDC guidelines. 

Their dashboard also includes a list of startups that jumped into action during the pandemic to solve many of the problems that created gridlock for families and businesses this year. 

Here are a few of our favorite companies from the list that are tackling the effects of COVID-19 in their own ways while making a significant difference.

Varsity Tutors 

Varsity Tutors offers tutoring and test prep in cities across the country. While this company is known for its in-person support, it’s also made a name for itself with virtual tutoring and guidance during the pandemic. Varsity Tutors launched a free remote learning program for K–12 students so they could receive needed academic help virtually. 

Once school was out for the summer, Varsity Tutors took their program a step further by offering a free virtual summer camp for students who needed to be entertained while parents worked. The camp was made for kids ages 5–18 with half-day, weeklong programs that focused on a variety of fun topics. 

Varsity Tutors was already in a position to provide value to families at the start of the pandemic, but their generosity throughout the lockdowns has set them above the rest. 

Modular Housing

Modular Housing believes in developing energy-efficient homes for the 21st century. They come in a variety of sizes, from the small Nook to the impressive Duo. At the start of the pandemic, the company formed the Modular Housing Task Force to address housing challenges caused by the pandemic. 

In addition to developing facilities and support for displaced families because of COVID-19, Modular Housing created ACTION-Housing, which works with some of the hardest-hit communities in 2020, like low-income individuals or people with disabilities. The goal of ACTION is to provide expanded services and resources such as food, self-care, or personal safety items.

Modular Housing is based in Pittsburgh and has a contact form on its site to request housing help.

Guild Education

Guild Education is an upskilling company that helps brands to train workers and prepare them better for higher-level roles. At the start of the pandemic, it quickly emerged as a leader in how to act during a crisis. 

First, Guild took care of its own. In early April, the company made a “No Layoff” pledge to its 500 employees, promising that for the following 3 months, their jobs were safe. This gave team members the peace of mind that they wouldn’t lose their jobs at a time when so many people were furloughed. 

Guild also provided paid leave for employees with family members serving as first responders, offered uncapped sick time due to the virus, and gave employees a $300 credit to help their transition to remote work. 

Then, Guild helped the community. It formed a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University and Penn Foster to help workers affected by COVID-19. Their upskilling tools make it easy for people to find affordable courses and get tuition help for additional training. This has helped people who were laid off during the pandemic to grow their resumes and advance their careers. 


Shine is the top BIPOC-owned self-care app on the market, helping people to cope with daily levels of stress and anxiety with resources, meditations, reflections, and connections to professionals. 

At the start of the pandemic, anxiety levels skyrocketed as people became concerned for their jobs and worried about COVID-19 health risks. The leaders at Shine report that they saw a dramatic increase in app downloads and people seeking help for anxiety during the lockdown. 

This spike drove them to create a free toolkit for coronavirus anxiety. There are sections for parents, for financial fears, for isolation problems, and even for xenophobia to help Asian Americans and immigrants who faced discrimination. This is a great resource that anyone canand shouldsave and share with others. It highlights how a brand can jump into action when demand for its services increases and put users first for the betterment of society. 

What You Can Learn From These Startups

The companies on this list—and hundreds of others throughout the country—prove that you don’t need to be on the front lines to make a difference in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. From offering support to your team members as they work from home to adjusting your products for first responders, you can help those who are most in need and shift our country closer to the end of this dark period. 

Moving forward as a business owner, consider techniques and strategies that you can implement to make your company and staff a beacon of hope in your community. While COVID-19 will eventually subside, how your company responds and adapts to the crisis will be a memory that lasts—so make it a positive one.


Derek Miller

Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at, the co-founder of Lofty Llama, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy,, and StartupCamp.