What is the value of an idea in the world of startups? Here, Cleverly founder Adam Edgell-Bush explores just this topic.
Making Remote Work Work
In response to lockdowns and pandemics the word on every workplace's mind is hybrid. There are clearly pros and cons but how can you make it work for you.
As someone that works in PropTech I am caught somewhere in the middle of the debate around what will happen to the workplace.
For a bit of context, Cleverly provides a software platform for physical-first businesses to allow them to better manage their processes and properties. Our clients include facilities managers (or FM companies), hospitality operators, manufacturing companies and office or property managers.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, with my property hat on, I am keen to see the world return to a time when leaving the house was likely, let alone legal.
But on the other hand, we are a company that wants the best talent wherever it is located. We want the increased productivity that comes from eliminating a commute. Our development team was already distributed globally and we have always been using productivity tools such as Figma, Miro, ClickUp etc. to achieve our objectives without being in the same room.
So, what do we think will happen?
There is no denying the fact that the world of the workplace is changing. But it’s not just the world of real estate - it’s all the infrastructure that properly allows remote work to happen that needs to move with it. Unless it does, this is going to be more of an experiment than an exchange.
And despite Zoom’s 8x increase over 2020, I think its single purpose and unintegrated technology leaves it vulnerable. Unless video becomes a feature not a product, we have not come far enough.
When Salesforce acquired Slack this was a strategic slam dunk. Even the price (in the context of other WFH stocks) seemed reasonable.
What Slack has that Zoom doesn’t is moats.
Companies spend time and resources integrating with Slack. It never achieved its original goal of being ‘the email killer’ but it does play a huge role in disseminating information quickly and easily and storing it there for access at a later date. Companies either end up becoming data repositories or abstractions sitting atop them. No company being birthed today does not ‘have an API’ with a view to either getting data from, or pushing data to, other companies.
But somewhere along the way, that company needs to capture value. Either by making its customers lives either doing what they do (capturing data) or providing knowledge based on the data that others collected.
It is difficult for many parties to succeed at the latter.
As Aaron Levie, CEO of Box tweeted in 2020:
"The push happening around remote work is as game-changing for the future of tech as the launch of the iPhone was in 2007. This is not about real estate; it will change how products will be designed, how teams collaborate, and how companies will be run going forward."
So, where do I stand on the fate of the office? I think that rumours of the death of the workplace have been greatly exaggerated. Take that for what it’s worth, because as disclosed above we have been bigger beneficiaries of the way things were than if everyone goes full remote. But we will never base our business model on the way things were, but rather on the way they should be. Even on that basis, I think that things will revert around 85% back to where they were (still a huge decline in the $1 trillion office market) before the foundations of full remote are really ready to take the weight of that tectonic shift. It’s the way things have worked before … and it’s always the same when this time it’s different.