Home Community Coronavirus Startup Survival Stories: William Warren of The Sketch Effect

Coronavirus Startup Survival Stories: William Warren of The Sketch Effect

by Mike Jordan

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is impacting businesses across the globe, including Southern startups. We want to know how you’re being affected, as a startup founder, employee, investor or general member of the community. We’re publishing selected stories sent directly from you, only making edits where necessary for grammar and formatting, so if you have a story to share, please send it to us through this form. Good luck!


Today’s story: William Warren, Founder/CEO of The Sketch Effect in Atlanta

The Sketch Effect Staff


How, specifically, have coronavirus challenges impacted The Sketch Effect and your team?

The Coronovirus crisis has had a direct impact on our business.

At The Sketch Effect, one of our core services is a live event service called “Graphic Recording” a.k.a. Live Sketching. In 2019, we sketched at hundreds of corporate conferences, events, meetings, and more. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, we watched as our entire “gig” calendar was cancelled in a matter of days.

Any pending gigs in the pipeline also vanished. Our other core service, animated videos, has also been directly impacted. Some of our most reliable video clientele are in the hotel, airline, and food service industries, all segments that have been profoundly disrupted. We are seeing the impact of that as these clients are pulling back on the type of video work they would normally hire us to help them with.

Beyond the simple impact to our client work, our team has also been impacted. We have a very fun, team-centered office culture, and the transition to remote work has been a tricky thing to navigate. Maintaining culture, engagement and alignment while working remote is a pretty substantial challenge!

The Sketch Effect Alejo


Have you strategically pivoted operations in response to these challenges? If so, what has the company done, and how has it worked out so far? The more honest and specific you can be here, the better.

We have pivoted in a big (and exciting) way! The biggest thing is that we have rolled out, promoted, and begun selling a brand new service, which we call “RemoteNotes” or Virtual Live Sketching. It is essentially the same live event sketching service but applied to a virtual context.

Here’s how it works: one of our Sketch Effect Live Artists logs into a virtual meeting, webcast, or webinar (on Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.), they sketch on a digital tablet while the content is being discussed, and produce amazing illustrated summaries in the form of JPEGs and video time-lapse deliverables. They can even share their screen for meeting attendees to watch in real time.

It’s a really exciting service that boosts engagement, increases alignment, and gives clients a great form of follow-up. More than anything, it’s a simple way for our clients to differentiate their virtual events.


Is there something the company has discovered that will ultimately benefit business going forward?

We have always talked about the importance of innovation, and this situation has forced us to lean into innovation in a big way. Going forward, I think “innovation” won’t just be a buzzword to talk about, it’ll be the word that saved our business. 

I also believe this crisis has proved that our team culture is as solid as we’ve always thought it was. It affirms that we have a good thing going, and not even a pandemic can divorce us from our camaraderie, mission, or values.

The Sketch Effect Drawing


What has been the most difficult thing to deal with?

Cash flow is the obvious one. This is nothing new to a small business, but the COVID-19 crisis has simply magnified this challenge times 100. Another difficulty is figuring out healthy communication and collaboration rhythms when everyone is remote. If you aren’t careful, you’ll be sifting through hundreds of chats, emails, texts, phone calls, Zoom calls, slack messages, etc. We’ve had to set some intentional boundaries and parameters around communication.


What are you anticipating is the best, most optimistic scenario for The Sketch Effect when things begin to settle back into some type of normal?

I’d like to believe we are in the process of launching the next “big thing” for our business. At my most optimistic, this new service could be the game-changing innovation that catapults our business to levels we couldn’t even imagine. In fact, I’d like to be known as pioneers in what will hopefully become a standard service to make virtual events, webinars, and webcasts better.

Visit (and support!) the company at TheSketchEffect.com.


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