Remote Work: Hype or Huge Venture Opportunity

Remote Work

Remote work, distributed teams, the remote-first company are kind of the buzzwords right now. A lot of people are wondering if this is just another bubble, a passing trend or is remote here to stay and change the world the way personal computers did. And when there are startups there are investors. We lined up a couple of amazing panels of investors to discuss the topic. Here is a quick highlight video for the event.

The major points discussed during the panel discussions are listed below:

What specifically about remote work and distributed work is so exciting?  Why now? What’s changed in recent years that’s made this a hot topic?

Over the last few years global demographics, global talent markets are transitioning the workforce in general. A lot of Millennials are entering the workforce.  And remote working is an indispensable part of the value proposition for the Millenials. They are looking for work-life balance, reduced costs, elimination of commuting, productivity, etc. This makes remote work a hot topic right now. Also, it is difficult to attract and retain the right talent with the traditional model.

Virtual Networking- Investor Panel

In terms of the Gartner hype cycle, what’s the assessment of where we are right now?

We are still really early in the adoption cycle. Managing the work and measuring the metric for the work from remote workers is still not figured out by a lot of companies. As better platforms evolve to manage the workers the adoption will improve. We are not at the trough of dissolution yet so can’t say we are at the slope of enlightenment either, we are either at innovation trigger or peak of inflated expectations. There are a lot of questions as to how far you can scale with distributed teams. Zoom and Slack are definitely great examples of what is to be done. We will certainly hit the peak of inflated expectations and trough of dissolution in this category. It’s certainly interesting to see what pain points will be during that time and what companies are doing to solve those pain points.

Would you consider investing in a remote-first team? If their core value is that we are a remote-first team, what would your concerns be around that?

That’s a visionary statement but there would be concern about productivity, quality, NPS and collaboration. People on remote teams often come from different cultures as well. How do these companies make sure, that everyone is marching to the same drum is something that needs to be seen. It’s a visionary idea but it will take a really set of special people to make it happen. Ideally, the people would know each other for 10+ years and who have experience managing distributed teams.

Specifically in remote and distributed theme what subfields are you interested in? Where are you hunting?

Startups that focus on universal needs, startups that are focussed on productivity, employee engagement, digital workplaces, tech designed to improve employee collaborations, talent matching platform, finance vertical leveraging remote workers, gig economy marketplaces make a lot of sense. Distributed teams face different cultural and communication issues than teams that tend to be colocated. Startups and tools that focus on these specific problems are interesting at the moment.

Virtual Networking Remote work panel

What are some of the macro trends in the industry?  What’s happening now that’s different from the last few years?

The investor’s point of view has changed from it works for some but not for all to okay it can work. Investors now are asking your engineering team is in SF please explain to us how can you attract top talent and keep them for longer than a year? It is predicted that there will be more global opportunities in top tech companies. Remote work is perceived to be new or a trend but it’s not, telecommuting has been around for over 30 years. The rise of remote work is happening and becoming more mainstream because the internet is faster, tech is available, tech is cheaper. 

What are the big barriers for remote work to go more mainstream?

Remote work is present at a lot of fortune 500 companies as well but It’s just not transparent. Decision making is happening on a case by case basis on the mid managerial level. Its like individual worker talking to their manager and going remote. That way proper infrastructure, communications tools|, and systems are lacking to make this sustainable. We need the proper business SOP to be able to scale this. In a distributed team there’s a bridge between the group that works in the office and the group that works remotely. The hybrid team setups have to overcome this bridge. As a remote worker its difficult to talk to others. To make this work management experience is required and better tooling for a decentralized setup should be there.

What are your thoughts about the statement ‘Companies should not pay the same across Geographies’?

It’s not realistic. Markets are really good at price finding. What typically happens is when companies pay the same across geographies they tend to avoid hiring in cheap areas. It’s easier to have the same baseline salary when you hire in the same Geo but it quickly becomes unfair to one of the ends if everyone is paid the same across geographies. Remote work should typically pay more than the market rate. When you are a junior at work you are closer to the local market rate but as you become a specialist your rate gets closer and closer to the international market rate or even more than that. The global market is just not yet ready for everyone to be paid the same.  

Do you think the potential economic downturn will encourage companies to go remote?

Remote work will become a buzzy topic if and when there is a recession. Think about what remote work does to a company’s bottom line it increases productivity, increases output and reduces overheads. That is the golden ticket for investors. In a recession, it increases the net profit margins of the workers as well as for the companies. It makes a company much more prepared for an economic downturn. Remote gives a company cushion against the recession. So yes it may encourage companies to go remote to cut costs in case a recession hits.

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