How do you connect with coworkers within your remote-first startup?

Whether a company is in-person or remote-first, I believe that building culture, making employees feel like they belong, and building connections between employees are important.

I know there are plenty of apps and tools for connecting people remotely in a synchronous manner – with the goal of replicating the water cooler chats or Friday happy hours.

Those of you that work at companies with workforces distributed across many time zones – how do you develop meaningful connections with your coworkers?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Startups Weekly: US visa freeze is latest reason to build remote-first

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7am PT). Subscribe here.

While the US tech industry relentlessly tries to do business with the rest of the world, this week it became further embroiled in national politics. High-skill immigration visas have been suspended until the end of the year by the Trump administration, precluding thousands of present and future startup employees and founders from coming to the US and building companies here.

Instead, the suspension is another accelerant to the global remote work trend that had already been a thing for many of us this decade, that has just been pushed to the mainstream because of the pandemic. For anyone trying to find great people to hire, the next funding check, or new markets, virtual solutions are often the only solutions available today.

Our resident immigration law expert, Sophie Alcorn, has been covering the issue in-depth this week, including an explainer about the crucial role of immigration in the economy for TechCrunch, and for Extra Crunch, an overview of what you can do if you’re affected. For subscribers, she also wrote about the impact of the Supreme Court overturning Trump’s termination of DACA.

On a personal note, our global editorial staff is looking forward to resuming our global events schedule as soon as possible regardless of these national political issues. We’re here for the startup world. In the meantime, here’s Alex Ames on how we’re connecting virtual Disrupt attendees this year.

New York tech after the pandemic

The big industries and big-city amenities that have made New York City what it is are going to help power it forward even as more people and jobs appear to be heading away from city centers. At least that’s my takeaway from reading the 11 investors who Anthony Ha talked to this week in an Extra Crunch survey about the future of the startup hub. First, even if you can work from anywhere, millions of people will prefer that place to be New York — with the big-city housing supply, networking opportunities and amenities to attract people like before. Second, many key industries like finance, real estate, enterprise software, health care, media and other consumer products are not dying but being reinvented, and appear to be maintaining their centers in the city. Here’s Alexa von Tobel of Inspired Capital:

I’ve seen NYC grow into the powerful startup hub it’s become over the last decade, and I think that momentum will continue. Now that we’ve learned high productivity is indeed possible remotely, we expect to see companies maintain some element of a remote workforce within their broad hiring plans. But for startups in their earliest stages, I think there’s still a power to sitting side by side as you build a business. When founders are making their first hires and inking their first deals, NYC remains an incredible place to do that.

Some of those industry reinventions are more exciting than others. In a separate survey, Anthony talked to 5 investors who have tended to focus on advertising and marketing tech… the good news is that advertising and marketing costs are dropping and tech-driven efficiency is improving for the world. For founders in the space, though, the challenges have only grown as the pandemic has forced more ad budget cuts on top of shifts to the largest platforms. As John Elton of Greycroft put it:

Only the next technology breakthrough will provide fertile ground for the next wave of innovation, just as mobile and internet breakthroughs gave rise to today’s giants. Perhaps machine learning is that type of breakthrough, so we are looking at companies that use machine learning to dramatically improve what is possible in the space. The issue there is the scaled players are also very good at machine learning, so it may not be a technology that provides the same opportunity as prior disruptions.

TIm O’Reilly

O’Reilly talks investing beyond the VC financial bubble

Tim O’Reilly has been going a different route from much of Silicon Valley in recent years. While his publishing company, series of conferences, essays and investments have helped to shape the modern internet for decades, he says that venture capital has gone wrong. Here’s more from an interview on with Connie Loizos on TechCrunch this week:

[I]’ve been really disillusioned with Silicon Valley investing for a long time. It reminds me of Wall Street going up to 2008. The idea was, ‘As long as someone wants to buy this [collateralized debt obligation], we’re good.’ Nobody is thinking about: Is this a good product? So many things that what VCs have created are really financial instruments like those CDOs. They aren’t really thinking about whether this is a company that could survive on revenue from its customers. Deals are designed entirely around an exit. As long as you can get some sucker to take them, [you’re good]. So many acquisitions fail, for example, but the VCs are happy because — guess what? — they got their exit.

His firm, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, has instead been focused in recent years on funding founders who are creating a product that is valued by customers and generates sustainable cash flow, on terms that incentivize organic growth.

 

They wrote your first check

Last week we launched a new effort to highlight investors who were the first to back your big and (increasingly) successful idea. It’s gotten a great response so far. From Danny Crichton:

Well, the TechCrunch community came through, since in just a few days, we’ve already received more than 500 proposals from founders recommending VCs who wrote their first checks and who have been particularly helpful in fundraising and getting a round closed.

If you haven’t submitted a recommendation, please help us using the form linked here.

The short survey takes five minutes, and could save founders dozens of hours armed with the right intel. Our editorial team is carefully processing these submissions to ensure their veracity and accuracy, and the more data points we have, the better the List can be for founders.

Check out Danny Crichton’s full post on TechCrunch for answers to questions that we’ve gotten frequently so far.

Across the week

TechCrunch:

A look at tech salaries and how they could change as more employees go remote

Apple will soon let developers challenge App Store rules

China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

GDPR’s two-year review flags lack of ‘vigorous’ enforcement

The Exchange: IPO season, self-driving misfires and a fintech letdown

Extra Crunch:

What went wrong with Quibi?

Four perspectives: Will Apple trim App Store fees?

4 enterprise developer trends that will shape 2021

Ideas for a post-COVID-19 workplace

Plaid’s Zach Perret: ‘Every company is a fintech company’

Volcker Rule reforms expand options for raising VC funds

Around TechCrunch

Register for next week’s Pitches & Pitchers session

Join GGV’s Hans Tung and Jeff Richards for a live Q&A: June 30 at 3:30 pm EDT/12:30 pm PDT

Airtable’s Howie Liu to join us at Disrupt 2020

Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan will speak at Disrupt 2020

How to supercharge your virtual networking at Disrupt 2020

#EquityPod

From Alex Wilhelm:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week was a bit feisty, but that’s only because Danny Crichton and Natasha Mascarenhas and I were all in pretty good spirits. It would have been hard to not be, given how much good stuff there was to chew over.

We kicked off with two funding rounds from companies that had received a headwind from COVID-19:

Those two rounds, however, represented just one side of the COVID coin. There were also companies busy riding a COVID-tailwind to the tune of new funds:

But we had room for one more story. So, we talked a bit about Robinhood, its business model and the recent suicide of one of its users. It’s an awful moment for the family of the human we lost, but also a good moment for Robinhood to batten the hatches a bit on how its service works.

How far the company will go, however, in limiting access to certain financial tooling, will be interesting to see. The company generates lots of revenue from its order-flow business, and options are a key part of those incomes. Robinhood is therefore balancing the need to protect its users and make money from their actions. How they thread this needle will be quite interesting.

All that and we had a lot of fun. Thanks for tuning in, and follow the show on Twitter!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch

Startups Weekly: Remote-first work will mean ‘globally fair compensation’

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7am PT). Subscribe here.

Most tech companies base compensation on an employee’s local cost of living, in addition to their skills and responsibilities. The pandemic-era push to remote work seems to be reinforcing that — if you only skim the headlines. For example, Facebook said last week that it would be readjusting salaries for employees who have relocated away from the Bay Area.

But Connie Loizos caught up with a few well-placed people who see something else happening. First, here’s Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic (WordPress), which has been almost entirely remote for its long and successful history.

“Long term, I think market forces and the mobility of talent will force employers to stop discriminating on the basis of geography for geographically agnostic roles,” he told Connie for TechCrunch

Mullenweg went on to detail how the process was still complicated, and that his company did not yet have a universal approach. But ultimately, he thinks that for “moral and competitive reasons, companies will move toward globally fair compensation over time with roles that can be done from anywhere.”

Connie also talked to Jon Holman, a tech recruiter who is living and breathing the new world, in a separate article for Extra Crunch. The market forces will ultimately favor talent, he concurs, and companies that want talent will pay according to what they can afford. “If a good AI or machine learning engineer is working elsewhere and demand for those skills still exceeds supply,” Holman explained, “and his or her company pays less than for the same job in Palo Alto, then that person is just going to jump to another company in his or her own geography.”

Taking stock of the future of retail

Our weekly staff survey for Extra Crunch is about retail — will it exist? how? A few of our staffers who cover related topics weighed in:

  • Natasha Mascarenhas says retailers will need to find new ways to sell aspirational products — and what was once cringe-worthy might now be considered innovative.

  • Devin Coldewey sees businesses adopting a slew of creative digital services to prepare for the future and empower them without Amazon’s platform.

  • Greg Kumparak thinks the delivery and curbside pickup trends will move from pandemic-essentials to everyday occurrences. He thinks that retailers will need to find new ways to appeal to consumers in a “shopping-by-proxy” world.

  • Lucas Matney views a revitalized interest in technology around the checkout process, as retailers look for ways to make the purchasing experience more seamless (and less high-touch).

We also ran two investor surveys this week, with Matt Burns producing one on manufacturing and Megan Rose Dickey and Kirsten Korosec following up on their autonomous vehicles series.

How to think about strategic investors (in a pandemic)

Maybe you could use some more money, distribution and partnerships these days? Those are the eternal lures of corporate venture funding sources, but each strategic VC has a different mandate. Some are there to help the parent company, some are just there to make money… and some may be on thin ice themselves given the way that they get money to invest.

If you’re taking a fresh look at getting strategic funding now, check out this set of overview articles from Bill Growney, a partner at top tech law firm Goodwin, and Scott Orn of Kruze Consulting. The first, for TechCrunch, goes over how corporate funds are typically structured (and motivated). The second, for Extra Crunch, covers questions for startup founders to anticipate and other recommendations for dealing with this type of VC.

Calm chooses a more enlightened path to growth

It is high times for meditation and “mindfulness” apps, as people look for ways to adjust to pandemic life. Sarah Perez, our resident app expert, took a look at a new app store analysis on TechCrunch, shredded some of the top-ranked companies for opportunistic marketing, and came away with a positive feeling about the global market leader.

Calm, meanwhile, took a different approach. It launched a page of free resources, but instead focused on partnerships to expand free access to more users, while also growing its business. Earlier this month, nonprofit health system Kaiser Permanente announced it was making the Calm app’s Premium subscription free for its members, for example — the first health system to do so.

The company’s decision to not pursue as many free giveaways meant it may have missed the easy boost from press coverage. However, it may be a better long-term strategy as it sets up Calm for distribution partnerships that could continue beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis.

Mindfulness pays. On that note, subscribers can read her excellent This Week In Apps report every Saturday over on Extra Crunch.

Around TechCrunch

TechCrunch’s Early Stage, Mobility and Space events will be virtual, too

Win a Wild Card to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020

Extra Crunch Live: Join Initialized’s Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan for a live Q&A on Tuesday at 2pm EDT/11am PDT

Join GGV’s Hans Tung and Jeff Richards for a live Q&A: June 4 at 3:30 pm EDT/12:30 pm PD

Across the week

TechCrunch

AI can battle coronavirus, but privacy shouldn’t be a casualty

Living and working in a worsening world

How to upgrade your at-home videoconference setup: Lighting edition

Equity Morning: Remote work startup fundings galore, plus a major court decision

Extra Crunch

API startups are so hot right now

Investors say emerging multiverses are the future of entertainment

Dear Sophie: Can I work in the US on a dependent spouse visa?

Fintech regulations in Latin America could fuel growth or freeze out startups

The secret to trustworthy data strategy

#EquityPod

From Natasha:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week’s show took a break from regularly scheduled programming. Our co-host Alex Wilhelm, who usually leads us through the show, was on some much-deserved vacation, so Danny Crichton and Natasha Mascarenhas took the reigns and invited Floodgate Capital’s Iris Choi to join in on the fun. It’s Choi’s fourth time being on the podcast, which officially makes her our most tenured guest yet (in case the accomplished investor needs another bullet point on her bio page).

This week’s docket features scrappiness, a seed round and a Startup Battlefield alumnus.

Here’s what we chewed through:

  • LeverEdge raised seed funding to get you and your friends a volume discount on student loans. Fintech has been booming for years now, and startups often crop up around the painful world of student loans. Yet this startup still caught our eye, and it has a little something to do with its choice to use collective bargaining power as its modus operandi.
  • Stackin’ raised a $ 12.6 million Series B for a text-messaging service that connects millennials to money tips, and eventually other fintech apps. According to CEO Scott Grimes, Stackin’ wants to be the “pipes that port people around fintech.” We get into if the world needs a fintech app marketplace and how it targets younger users.
  • D-ID, a Startup Battlefield alumnus, digitally de-identifies faces in videos and still images and just raised $ 13.5 million. We’re all worried about our privacy concerns, so the funding news was a refreshing change of pace from the usual headlines we see around surveillance. Now the company just needs to find a successful use case beyond the goodness in people’s hearts.
  • ByteDance, the Chinese parent company that owns TikTok, hit $ 3 billion in net profit last year, reports Bloomberg. TikTok also recently snagged former Disney executive Kevin Mayer for its CEO. This one, as you can expect, made for an interesting conversation around privacy and bandwidth. We even asked Choi to weigh in on Donald J. Trump’s recent tweet threatening to regulate social media companies, as Floodgate was an early angel investor in Twitter.
  • We ended with a roundtable of sorts on how the future of work will look and feel in our new world, from college campuses to offices. We get into the vulnerability that comes with being on Zoom, the ever-increasing stupidity of “manels” and how tech talent might be flocking to smaller cities but investors aren’t just yet.

And that was the show! Thanks to our producer Chris Gates for helping us put this together, thanks to you all for listening in on this quirky episode and thanks to Iris Choi for always bringing a fresh, candid perspective. Talk next week.

Startups – TechCrunch