Mapping the opportunities brought about by remote work
One year on and the following statement couldn’t be more obvious: covid-19 has changed the way we work and accelerated the adoption of digital tools by individuals and companies.
As builders in the future of workspace, we wanted to dig deeper on the impact of this new shift on the nature of work itself. We’re zooming in on an area of our Call for Founders.
We believe that the shift to remote work has fundamentally impacted three areas:
- The way we work internally: team collaboration and management.
- The way we work externally: stakeholder collaboration and management
- The way we work globally: the nature of the company and the job market as a whole
And with changes come opportunities. We’ve mapped the companies that are building the future of remote work in these three distinct categories.
You’ll see that our goal is not to exhaustively map every company out there that creates the tools to better adapt to remote work. We’re not mapping automation, low code/no code, and search tools for example. These areas have obviously benefited from the shift to remote work but remote work hasn’t fundamentally changed them. We’re also not mapping every company that exists in each of the categories but rather the ones that are in our ecosystem and find interesting.
But if you think we’ve missed a company that should be included, message us! We want to keep on updating this list as we go, we are a startup studio, not a VC so let us know if we should add anyone else firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Internal: Team collaboration and management
Going remote impacts the way teammates communicate, create, brainstorm, and manage their peers. This creates lots of opportunities for tools that foster better collaboration and enable better communication. It also opens up opportunities for tools that help managers maintain contacts and engage with their distributed teams.
- One of the biggest winners of the remote shift are videoconference tools, with Zoom being an obvious one. We think there is space for videoconference tools with features that are more ‘remote-first’ such as agenda-setting, transcripts… This opens up opportunities to challenge the incumbents (Zoom and Meet we’re looking at you), and there are already a few exciting ones on the rise with Around, Whereby, Remotion. And for the ones suffering from zoom fatigue (we know we are!) there’s also Spot to meet while you walk.
- When it comes to team messaging apps, there’s the obvious Slack and Teams. Both are owned by the big tech giants with Slack having been recently acquired by Salesforce. So we think that there are opportunities for independent messaging app startups to come on the scene, particularly for ones with a more global perspective, that would combine both work and personal messages into one tool.
- With remote work, companies now need to rely on writing so that every team member, regardless of where they may be located, can equally access and consume the same level of information. This opens up obvious opportunities for knowledge management tools such as Slite, Notion, Coda, Craft and Slab.
- Whether it’s to explain a concept to someone without setting up a meeting, to do async standups, or give feedback… Asynchronous video tools are proving popular and are especially useful for teams who are distributed across time zones, or for the ones who (again) have zoom fatigue. Loom, Weet, Supernormal or Claap.io.
- One of the things that we miss out on when we go remote is the serendipity of the office. So how do you recreate that? There are opportunities for tools that replicate the spontaneity of hallway conversations interactions and also combine more formal meetings by integrating both videoconferencing and messaging into one. It’s happening with virtual office tools like Teamflow, Gather Town, Workadventure, Tandem.
Brainstorming & presentation
- With individuals scattered around the world, teams are ditching their whiteboards and pens and going all in on software. This opens up opportunities for tools that help teams visually collaborate in real-time including Miro, Milanote, MURAL. And while the shift to remote hasn’t fundamentally impacted the presentation support, we’ve used the digital option for years now (hello Powerpoint), it has highlighted our need for software that makes working on a presentation much more collaborative, like with Pitch.
Task and project management
- As expected, not being in an office makes it all the more difficult to follow along a project’s progress. Things like checking-in with a teammate, asking for project updates, and assigning tasks, can create more friction than not, while remote. And so there’s an increasing need for tools to help project managers and their teams solve challenges together and collaborate more efficiently, at a distance. There are obviously huge actors in the space already with Monday and Asana but we believe that there is space to reinvent project management by focusing on the task first. That’s why we’ve launched Kairn. We’re building a task manager with a strong collaborative dimension to help people get the most out of their day and work on projects together with their teams. Other players like Superlist and Flow are also joining in the space.
- As teams get more distributed, there are opportunities for tools to boost the productivity and collaboration for each company function. We call it vertical productivity. We won’t list all the vertical productivity tools that exist today (but we could zoom in on that in another mapping?), rather here we’ll focus on vertical productivity for engineer, product management, and design. Since these functions require deep collaboration and are at the core of tech startups’ internal operations. And with remote, there are obviously opportunities for more collaboration within these teams. Today, for product managers there’s Linear (for issue tracking) Cycle (for a holistic PM tool — an eFounders company) and Whimsical (for brainstorming and ideation). Product designers have Sketch, Figma and Invision to better collaborate remotely. While engineer teams have CodeKeep (to share and organize code snippets), Coscreen (for screen sharing), and Codeshare (to share code in real-time).
Performance management / OKRs
- Companies will now be much more focused on output than ever before. The best employees will be the ones who deliver the most, not the ones who stay at the office the longest. And so leaders will invest in performance management and OKRs tools at a much higher rate. It will replace time spent at work as a measure of employee performance. There’s of course Lattice but other players like Koan, Ally, 15five, and Elevo.
Employee engagement and experience
- In an office setting, it’s easy to see a job well done and give kudos on the spot. Going remote means that managers have to double down and go out of their way to give feedback and recognition, but a flurry of tools reduces these frictions such as Kona, Officevibe, Gather, Pyn, Culture Amp, and Jubiwee.
- Onboarding, one of the most crucial phases of the employee experience, is now done completely online for remote-first companies. From pre onboarding to constant support, there is a need for tools to boost new employees’ retention, engagement, and productivity. They need to be collaborative so that everyone can follow along the process from HR, to IT, to line managers etc. And there are already a few being positioned in the space with Humaans, as well as Greenhouse, which core product is an ATS but is now expanding into onboarding.
- Team building will be a core focus for many remote companies and so we see a number of new players entering the scene who focus on culture-building experiences, with Wavy, Thriver, or Jurnee.
Learning and development
- When it comes to learning, there’s no more need to be in an office room, at a specific time, with a specific expert. Learning and training can be now done anywhere and anytime and involve any external person, regardless of their location. This opens up lots of possibilities for learning platforms that are more personalized and collaborative. Where individuals can choose what they want to learn and how, and can do so as a team with increased interactions and knowledge sharing. A few players include 360 learning for collaborative learning, On Deck for community learning, Sidekick and Hone for manager coaching.
2. External: Stakeholder collaboration and management
Now turning to how remote work has impacted how we work externally. By that we mean, how we collaborate and manage our external stakeholders, whether they be customers, prospects, candidates, and wider communities. Before covid hit, the majority of companies used to heavily rely on in-person meetings to close deals and candidates, on in-person events to engage their communities, and on their office phones to provide customer support. Remote work has opened up huge opportunities for better collaboration and management of our stakeholders at a distance. And as we enter the post-covid world, we believe that these many opportunities still hold.
- 5 to 10 years ago it would have been inconceivable for a salesperson to not ever meet a prospect during the sales process. Today, that’s completely normal. Videoconferencing has been a game-changer for salespeople. It creates opportunities for selling across different countries and continents without needing to have a physical presence there. Companies will internationalize at a faster pace without needing to buy offices in the location they want to. This creates the opportunity to unbundle Zoom for the sales function with companies including Bonjour.
- Remote selling heavily relies on email reach outs. To boost response rates and build better rapport with prospects, sales reps are increasingly making use of asynchronous videos with Vidyard (who’s got a specific remote selling positioning) as well as the other tools we mentioned in the async communication section.
Analytics and coaching
- Scattered salespeople mean the end of the highly energetic sales floor. Companies need to find ways to compensate for the now lack of buzz and high energy that motivated so many salespeople. They need to find time to properly coach salespeople remotely. Sales analytics tools help fill that gap like Gong and Bonjour (which also includes coaching), Pathlight, Demodesk for playbooks as well as Chorus.
- Similar to selling, the recruiting function is too unbundling zoom with Luma Teams and Hirevue (that recently acquired Allyo).
Applicant Tracking Systems
- Team members in charge of recruiting need tools that enable them to collaborate regardless of their location. New tools have sprung like Crew (an eFounders company) for all-in-one recruiting, Gem which is not an ATS per se but focuses on sourcing & analytics, and Team Tailor. As well as bigger and more established ATSs like Lever and Greenhouse. Since interviewing will be mostly done via video, we believe that there are more opportunities for ATSs and recruiting tools to be reinvented and connected to videoconference tools for better management of the recruitment process and analytics.
- To get access to the best talent, companies now want and can hire workers anywhere in the world, with tools that help them navigate each country’s regulations, laws, and practicalities. The market for tools that address this is growing incredibly fast, with solutions like Deel, Remote, Jobbatical, WorkMotion, and Omnipresent.
- The companies that hadn’t made the switch to digital customer communication tools have had no choice but to do it as covid-19 hit. It accelerated the adoption of tools like Aircall, Front, Glia, or Zendesk, Intercom, and Drift to ensure the continuity of customer support.
Signing and contracts
- eSignature solutions allowed companies to keep signing deals and contracts as covid hit. And so the software companies who provided these solutions (Yousign in Europe — an eFounders company — and Docusign globally) boomed. We believe that the eSignature enables companies to go much further in terms of digitalization. Pre covid, many companies were reluctant to adopt it and so had to do signing in person, this meant that they didn’t bother to digitize the rest of their contracts & signing workflows since one step had to be done physically. Now that this step is online, it opens up opportunities to digitize the rest of the workflows (think a sales process, a hiring process etc).
- And as companies digitize their processes, there’s a flurry of tools to manage contracts online and collaborate with teammates such as with Canyon (an eFounders company), as well as Ironclad and Juro.
Networking and events
- Maintaining, developing, and leveraging one’s network has been put to the test during the pandemic. Obviously, we’ve all switched to Zoom to meet people, but it’s far from being enough, the crisis has opened up the opportunities for tools to make it easy to build, nurture and leverage our connections, in a collaborative way. Folk (an eFounders company) is one example of a tool that enables cross-team collaboration on their network.
- Online events have been brought to the fore. The shift to online has made events more accessible to individuals and also event managers. This opens up opportunities for companies to have more frequent events to nurture their communities. We expect online events to happen much more frequently than physical events used to and so we need tools that can replicate the networking and engagement aspects of physical events, online. Hopin is optimized for interactions and connections, Livestorm for engaging B2B audience, but also Remo, Hey Summit, Run the world, Melting Spot, and lastly vFairs which positions itself as a hybrid alternative.
3. Global: the role of the company & the job market
The role of the company and the job market as a whole are changing. With the lines between work and personal blurring, companies have new responsibilities to keep their employees safe, secure (online and offline), and healthy. With workers having had a taste of more flexibility, they are now seeking more independence. And with offices becoming (much) less attractive, the infrastructure is changing.
Perks and benefits
- As the office becomes less attractive, companies have to reinvent the way they attract and retain top talent. Foosball tables and office snacks stop making sense if you’re fully remote or have a flexible workforce. Fleex (an eFounders company), Firstbase or Hofy help companies offer great perks and transfer their culture wherever their employees are.
- Remote work has blurred the lines between the professional and the personal, leaving a lot of remote workers prone to burnout as they struggle to differentiate between the two. Companies have an increasing responsibility to address these new problems and care for their employee’s well-being and mental health and can thanks to Moka.care in Europe, Talkspace, Modern Health or Lyra Health in the US, and Teale.io in France
Local coworking areas
- We expect to see a move away from cities to smaller towns, thus developing local coworking areas. It’s happening with Codi which connects remote workers to local spaces where they can work and WorkChew that’s turning restaurants and hotels into coworking areas.
Retreats and offsites
- We predict an increase in companies wanting to host offsites to spend quality face-to-face time with their teams. The Surf Office helps companies plan and book retreats, and so does Offsiter, Nextretreat, and Chateauform.
- We predict that companies will reduce their real estate in cities and so we’ll see the rise in shared meeting spaces. Meeting spaces that are designed for new ways of workings will emerge such as with Comet Meetings, or Spacebase.
Digital nomad sites
- They’re plentiful! With best-known coliving spaces Outsite and global coworking spaces Upflex, WeWork’s WeLive for furnished apartments, Paatch in France, Selina, and a slew of other coliving spaces making it easier than ever to hop from country to country Colonies (Europe), The Collective (UK) and Cohabs.
- One less examined impact of remote work is cybersecurity. Distributed employees mean different wifi connections, less control over devices, and employee behavior. How do you make sure companies address these new risks? There’s a heap of tools that help companies address these new risks such as 1 Password & Dashlane for team password management, Riot for preventing phishing, Perimeter 81 for cloud VPNs, Hack the Box & Living Security for cybersecurity employee training behavior, Lumu for network & device security.
The rise of independent work
- Freelancing was gaining quick grounds even before covid-19. And it’s growing even faster now. With the perks of being in an office gone, the switch to going freelance seems much less daunting for employees, and its benefits much more attractive. And so freelancer marketplaces are continuing to make progress with the usual Fiverr & Upwork, the more exclusive Toptal, the more specialized Gigster, Comet, and Turing. In France, with Creme de la Creme and Malt.
Communities and support for independents
- There are a number of new communities emerging that support the needs of independents and go beyond just presenting new gig opportunities. Collective supports a new and upcoming form of independents: those who team up to mutualize their skills and networks to compete against agencies. We believe that the collective is to the agency what the startup is to the traditional company: an agile and fast alternative, that’s set to become the norm. There are also a number of freelancer communities and networks like Contra & Hoxby and an emerging number of platforms for freelancer security and benefits: LifeWork, Finiata Trezeo, Catch and Join Jump.