We have been watching our portfolio of ~130 technology companies wrestle with this decision for the last two and a half years. Brought on by the covid pandemic and the work from home moment that it created, there has been a sea change in the way that technology companies organize themselves to get work done.
It turns out that running a technology company remotely works pretty darned well. It’s not perfect, but mitigating the cultural issues associated with remote work turns out to be easier than mitigating the employee satisfaction issues associated with forcing everyone into the office 5 days/week.https://a16z.com/2022/07/21/a16z-is-moving-to-the-cloud/
Most people are happier having a lot of flexibility around where they work. We have seen that people who are raising families have benefitted from the flexibility of working closer to where their families are and the ability to be somewhere quickly. But that is only one example of why flexibility around where you work is so powerful. Many job functions require, or at least benefit from, the ability to concentrate without interruption or distraction. A quiet home office is vastly better than a busy open workspace for that kind of work.
And then there is the commute. I am writing this on a commuter train heading into NYC. For a time in my life, I took a train like this (Read more...)
Every month I try to share the most mind-expanding links to read/watch/listen. If you find these interesting, please do share with your friends. Here are five links worth reading… It’s our moral obligation to make data more accessibleThe deep truths of humanity are at our fingertips. But we remain unwilling as a society to harness […]
I wrote a fair bit last year about the disconnect between how companies were being valued and the fundamentals of those businesses. It seemed to me that many companies, from the founders, to the leadership teams, and the rank and file employees got more focused on raising capital and valuations than the basics of a business (people, product, customers, revenues, profits, etc).
That is starting to shift. I can feel it. With the public markets bringing high flyers back to reality, you can now buy the best companies out there at multiples of earnings and profits that make some sense in a historical context. And we are seeing reports that many mutual funds and hedge funds are leaving the private markets because the values in the public markets are so compelling. All of this is healthy.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder of the Ethereum project, said this at ETH Denver this past week.
The winters are the time when a lot of those applications fall away and you can see which projects are actually long-term sustainable, like both in their models and in their teams and their people
Vitalik was talking about a “crypto winter” but the basic point is more broadly applicable.
Business models need to be sustainable. Teams need to stick together and ship things. The fundamentals need to be in place for a business to succeed. All the money in the world at eye-popping valuations won’t do that for you.
I have no idea if we are (Read more...)
Early in my career, I was taught that any team member was replaceable and that as long as you had sufficient time to find a suitable replacement, you would be fine. I have operated on that basis since then, imparted that wisdom to the founders and teams that I work with, and have always advocated for that approach to management.
But I have learned that on any team there are always a few members who are extremely difficult to replace. While most team members are “fungible”, there are always a few “non-fungible people” and retaining these NFPs can be incredibly important to the long-term success of the business.
The first, and most important, NFP is the founder. The person who originally conceived of the opportunity, recruited the first few team members, scoped (and often built) the first product, brings immense value to the business, mostly around long-term vision, setting the culture and values, and knowing when something is “off.” Retaining the founder’s interest in and involvement with the business is critical. There are times when the founder is bringing more difficulty to the business than value and they should depart. But those situations are to be avoided if possible because of how important a founder is to the business.
NFPs are usually individual contributors, not managers. The management function is much easier to replace than a uniquely skilled individual. A common mistake that I and others have made is to promote an NFP into management when they are much happier (Read more...)
I saw two charts last week that showed the same thing:
This chart was in the deck I shared here last week called Consumer Trends 2022. It shows that after a big lift in 2020 and a bit of a lull in 2021, the e-commerce trendline is back to its old baseline.
This is our portfolio company DuckDuckGo‘s search traffic curve, available here, on a ten-day moving average. You can see after a huge move up in late 2020, it had a pullback in early 2021 and has now gotten back on its normal growth curve.
Both of these are examples of what is called “the pull forward”, an event or a series of events that draws a large and unsustainable boost of new users. It is often followed by a lull where growth is flat or even down for a while, but then the normal growth pattern resumes.
We have seen curves like this throughout our portfolio this year as the pandemic and other factors (in DuckDuckGo’s case the presidential election also played a big part) have whipsawed growth curves. It feels great when things are growing faster than ever. It feels bad when things are flat or down.
My suspicion is a lot of these odd-looking curves are going to resume their normal shapes in 2022 when things gradually start to normalize.
The last two years have been a challenge to manage through. There have been endless curveballs coming our way. Boom and bust. It (Read more...)