We are now beginning our fifth month of living most of our lives inside, online and away from others. The technology that enables us to continue working, learning and socializing has quickly become a critical part of everyday life, and we’ve been fortunate to see the advent of more sophisticated tools and progressive policies arrive on a near-daily basis. Yet we are also seeing that the current toolset is far from complete. There also exist many questions about how to effectively hire, manage and retain employees remotely. Compensation and benefits are also likely to change, yet many companies are still unsure about how to navigate this delicate situation.
But imperfect as this situation may be, a handful of companies have stood out as pioneers of the remote work movement. Many of them were instrumental early on in the pandemic in transitioning to an all-remote workforce, and have been the lead adopters of long-term policies that may set the tone for many industries outside of technology. We are devoting a new podcast series to conversations with these technology industry leaders, hosted by Greylock general partners Sarah Guo and David Thacker.
The series kicked off with a conversation between Sarah and Aaron Levie, the co-founder and CEO of Box. Aaron, who’s now experiencing his second recession as a company leader, takes us through their decision-making process as Box has adapted its business strategy and company policies over the years. The company, which offers a cloud storage and data management platform, sees increased relevance as an enabler of the digital workplace in the remote work era. In late May, Box announced employees could work remotely til at least 2021. (Editor’s update: You can listen to this podcast here.)
Next, Greylock general partner David Thacker hosted an episode with Quora CEO and founder Adam D’Angelo. Prior to Covid-19, Adam says Quora had a strong in-office culture, with employees expected to work out of the Silicon Valley headquarters and a few other satellite offices. All product development was in a single building. But the shift to remote has been surprisingly smooth and productive, says Adam, and the company recently announced it will be a a remote-first company moving forward. Adam and David will discuss the company’s adaptive measures as well as product development strategies. (Editor’s update: You can listen to this podcast here.)
In another episode, David shared his experience leading product development teams at Google, LinkedIn and Groupon. He also laid out his assessment of the current investment landscape as companies compete with both large established enterprises and startups operating in the same sectors. (Editor’s update: That episode is available here.)
Sarah spoke with Figma CEO and co-founder Dylan Field, whose company has seen a surge in demand for its collaborative design software. Dylan will discuss Figma’s expanded product offerings. The company is rapidly innovating in response to customer struggles to collaborate, beyond its initial visual design beachhead. Dylan shared his thought process about how to lead the so-far SF and London-based Figmates, and interact with Figma customers and community through this period. (Editor’s update: You can listen to that episode here.)
We also spoke with Okta CEO and co-founder Todd McKinnon. Todd, who left Salesforce in 2009 to start Okta and enable seamless access to SaaS applications, is also seeing increased demand for Okta through the past five months. He’s been an outspoken proponent of the more nuanced “dynamic work” rather than remote work, even prior to the pandemic. Todd will also discuss his decision to launch a startup in uncertain economic times, how that helped him adapt to the current economic downturn, and how he thinks about Okta’s approach to the global talent market in 2020. (Editor’s update: You can listen to this podcast here.)
Other guests on this series include more founders and CEOs of more remote-first companies, companies working through the workplace transition in real-time, and builders of tools for remote teams:
- Clubhouse CEO and co-founder Kurt Schrader discussed how both the product and company, has evolved during shelter in place from “remote-friendly” to “remote-first” as well as changes in usage pattens across thousands of Clubhouse teams. (Listen)
- Coda CEO and co-founder Shishir Mehrotra talked about Coda’s recent growth, his favorite remote use cases, how Coda gradually became distributed, and how he works with his co-founder/CTO Alex remotely. ( Listen)
- Utmost COO and co-founder Dan Beck, which you can listen to (Listen)
- Zapier CEO and co-founder Wade Foster will share his experience running a distributed company since its inception. (Listen)
- Alexander Embiricos, the CEO and co-founder of video workspace startup Remotion, also sat down with Greymatter shortly after the company’s launch to discuss how Remotion is helping remote teams build a culture of talking live. (Listen)
After more than a year of working remotely, businesses are now starting to evaluate when and how to return to the office – if at all. Recognizing the many benefits and drawbacks of both remote work and in-office requirements, most organizations are looking to adopt a hybrid model. Choice, above all, is what workers want, says Stanford University Professor of Economics Nicholas A. Bloom, who has spent decades researching remote work and management practices. Bloom joined Sarah to talk about the evolving workplace, what the data shows on both employee and management wellbeing, the allure of the hybrid-work model, and more. You can listen to that podcast here.