6 startups for the new world

Work · 

I’ve been interested in the future of work for a very long time now. I work fully remotely since the middle of 2016, way before it was cool. What was my present a few years ago was the future for most people. Now that this pandemic happened, it has become the new reality for much more folks. It has just accelerated the unavoidable: the 9-to-5-all-gathered-in-the-same-place way of working is dead.

In my opinion, the new way of working is a mix of two concepts: hybrid and async.

Hybrid work means that you don’t only work from the office anymore but that you alternate between the office, your own home, or other places like co-working spaces or cafes. As most modern jobs only require a laptop and a good (enough) Internet connection, this has obviously become an achievable feat, and it will be more and more common with the rise of 5G and satellite Internet access (like Starlink).

For a very long time, people had intense debates to decide whether working from home is better than working from the office (and vice versa). The reality is that it’s not a binary thing, it’s not one or the other. The future is a mix of both, on your own terms. For example, my personal preference is working 3 or 4 days at home, so I can focus on getting things done, and spend 1 or 2 days with other people, at the office or at another place, so I don’t become completely asocial and I can discuss and brainstorm with colleagues, things that are more difficult to do via Zoom calls.

Async means that you don’t only work during a defined period of time (9 to 5), you work whenever you want to work. If you have kids and the best time to focus for you is before they wake up or after they go to sleep, you should be free to do so. (You should also be free to continue working from 9 to 5 if it’s what’s works best for you of course.) This “hybridization” of work also makes sense as more and more companies are becoming global—even small startups—and juggling with timezone differences is becoming the norm. All this means that we’re not all working at the same time, and we need to find new ways of communicating that are less synchronous (meetings) and that respect the time of everyone.

The number of hours you work will also be less and less relevant. You can forget about the 40-hour workweek. The new normal is weekly (or monthly) goals, and if it takes 20 or 40 hours of your week to achieve them, it doesn’t matter. It’s crazy that I have to make this point but we should judge people on their achievements and not the number of hours they work in a week. With jobs disappearing due to automation, I’m also deeply convinced that in the future we won’t work more than 20 hours per week, and for the same salary, but this is probably a topic for another article.

In the end, companies that offer the perks of hybrid and async will attract the best talents, and other more old-school companies will have to follow, even if it’s a bit against their will, to remain competitive in the job market. Those who refuse to adapt will die, it’s as simple as that. Hybrid and async are the new ping pong table and free lunch (shamelessly stolen from Randall Kanna).

And of course, when the world change as much as it did in recent years, new startups emerge to embrace that new reality. I selected 6 of them, all trying to solve new problems that appeared due to our new ways of working. What are these problems? I mainly identified two. The first one would be the overload of Zoom meetings (the so-called “Zoom fatigue”) which replaced the IRL meetings but that are way more boring and tiring than the real deal. The other problem is the isolation that comes with being alone at home and not having human contact with anyone.

The first startup I want to talk about is Claap. What they offer is a way to do asynchronous meetings, by recording a video on top of anything and allow other people to interact with it. It’s a very cool tool and they just raised $3M, so they are here to stay.

Founded by an ex-Uber exec, Teamflow helps your team to feel like a team again, by providing a virtual environment where you can hang out like in a real office. I’m not personally a big fan of tools trying to mimic reality, but this one is really well done and is full of little big details that make the difference. Also, I know that creativity doesn’t come from planned meetings, but from random moments. Teamflow recreates these random moments, even if it’s in a virtual manner.

Café is another good one. As work is becoming hybrid and we’re going to the office less regularly, we need a way to manage this flexibility, to be able to know who is where and when. Café allows just that.

Spot is a very simple concept, the kind of idea I feel bad about not having had myself: an app to do walking meetings. You can see it as some kind of private Clubhouse, as it’s audio-only, but it provides much more possibilities than the famous audio social network. In addition to reducing your Zoom fatigue, it will also help you become more fit. Double win.

Fleex is very different from everything that’s been presented here thus far, but it’s very smart as it’s solving a new problem that appeared with the rise of remote work: not everyone has everything that they need to work from home in the best conditions. Fleex solves that by providing a platform where companies can offer their employees to buy the equipment they need for their home office (screens, printers, chairs, desks, coffee machines, etc.), and also offers to deliver and set up everything.

Last but not least, TL;DV is a bit similar to Claap or Spot, or at least they’re trying to solve the same problem (Zoom fatigue), but in a different way, as they allow to tag the most important moments of your meetings (aka highlights) for you colleagues to catch up afterward without watching the entire thing.

Those are the 6 startups I wanted to talk about today, but I probably missed many, so don’t hesitate to send me interesting things that solve the problems that have arisen because of our new ways of working.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that all these startups are actually created in Europe, or from European founders (mostly French). The European tech scene is growing fast! (But this is also a topic for another article.)

Vincent Battaglia © 2021