Blog Post

June 17, 2019

How To Make Remote Work, Work

By ANTONIO ALTAMIRANO

  

The employees of Wordpress, one of the largest internet companies in the world, don’t have to show up to the office, ever. Their software powers roughly 27% of all websites worldwide. Google joined the bandwagon and just released a study on remote workers and the central conclusion was that they found “no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires collaboration with colleagues around the world versus Googlers who spend most of their day to day working with colleagues in the same office.”

Remote work is evolving from the low-value outsourcing to value-add development and the companies that embrace this trend will reap the benefits.

Remote work is (finally) going mainstream.

Remote, a book authored by Jason Fried, the founder of software startup Basecamp, was a hit within the nascent practice of remote and distributed teams. The book analyzes the trends and cultural changes necessary to make the shift from a physical office to a distributed team. It also gives you great insight into the culture of the company that created the first scalable project management tool as well and their preference for remote teams. Furthermore, Basecamp, Inc. created Ruby On Rails and solidified their status as pioneers of open source code and project management tools.

But the topic of remote work is not without controversy in Silicon Valley. Influential founders and VCs continue to speak up in favor and against remote work. In 2014, an epic discussion on Twitter between Matt Mullenweg, founder of Wordpress, and Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator brought to light the contrasting attitudes to the forefront. Fast-forward to 2019 and YC is now funding startups focused on building remote teams and the infrastructure to support them, such as Gigster and Pilot. Despite this trend, a pattern-matching exercise on a consolidated list of YC companies yielded only one result for the word “remote,” 22 for “automate” and 13 for the word “teams.” This analysis seems to show that while many YC startups focus on automating and measuring software development, very few focus on building the infrastructure that would empower the socialization of remote teams to make them more efficient.

Lately, Paul Graham has been dabbling on the topic again. During a tweetstorm, Paul mentioned that he’s been looking for a startup that unlocks the power of stay-at-home moms. PowerToFly and Andela came to mind right away because these companies have been helping workers the option to plug into the global economy while working remotely.

Paul Graham Twitter

PowerToFly provides a pipeline of vetted women in tech and across digital. According to their website, PowerToFly was launched by Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski in 2014 to connect Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing startups with women who are looking to work for companies that value gender diversity and inclusion. PowerToFly is building the platform to propel diversity recruiting and hiring.

Technology Is Empowering Remote Teams

As video technology got better and messenger apps flooded the market, collaboration across geographical barriers became much easier to implement –– which might be one of the reasons why Paul Graham and others oppose remote teams vehemently. Luckily technology is getting much better with the advent or AR and VR. The most important event that catapulted remote work to the forefront was the Slack phenomenon. Slack, founded by Steward Butterfield, is a tool that brings company communication together under one single interface. Slack’s growth is the fastest ever seen for a business tool.

Zoom, the hottest video startup to IPO in the first half of 2019, was able to acquire users at a staggering pace. Yes, the technology is certainly better than antiquated systems such as Webex and GoToMeeting, but their user acquisition growth mainly due to the evolution of cultural norms and faster adoption rates by younger users. This is a huge leap from the time when Skype was the dominant voice tool in the market. Zoom has made collaboration much better and enjoyable simply by putting the customer first.

Remote work twitter

Millennials

Millennials grew up digital and are embracing remote work in droves. Software engineers have been working remotely for decades and the model has finally evolved from remote hands deploying software tasks to remote and distributed millenial brains collaborating to solve problems –– a true global hivemind collaborating through digital signals.

Alexis Ohanian, Millennial extraordinaire and Reddit founder tweeted that remote work is the future of work and his portfolio at Initialized Capital features at least three startups focused on that market.

Millennials

Millennials have adopted remote work as part of their DNA and while many companies continue to require employees to be physically present at a location, the businesses experiencing digital growth have integrated this as an option for workers.

Global Talent Network

When I was looking for a team to manage one of the internet services my company manages, I had the pleasure to speak with Andela prior to their growth spurt. Their approach feels authentic and the team appears to be well trained. They see their remote workforce as an asset to be developed. Andela is a company that outsources software work to Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda. Their series D round reached $100M at a $700M valuation with The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as an investor, and Al Gore as the lead.

After decades of feasting on top-of-the-line, revenue generating markets choke-full of software engineers, Google, Facebook, Apple, WeChat, Alipay and others are now starting to look outside their geographies. Silicon Valley is at the epicenter of startup innovation with an unmatchable track record, but the next generation of technological innovation will happen outside Silicon Valley and these companies are getting ready for it.

Share with your friends

Startups

You may also find interest in these posts:

Technology

Is Voice Technology The Future Of Human-Computer Interaction?

Startups

How To Make Remote Work, Work

Subscribe to Insights at Tangelo

Accelerate your growth with key industry insights.