It’s happening.  We’re there. We’ve reached the tipping point and we think we’re going to look back and say that this was the moment when things started to change.  Remote work is going mainstream. For some, this is welcome news, for others this is troubling. No matter which side of the equation you’re on, we believe most companies aren’t well prepared to effectively harness remote talent. We couldn’t be more excited to be launching Telescoped with a vision to impact the biggest change in how we work since the industrial revolution.

So what makes us think we’re at the tipping point?  The signs are getting difficult to ignore. Here are a few that we’re seeing.

Let’s begin by looking at the classic early adopters: startups.  As active participants in the Boston tech ecosystem we have the privilege of meeting lots of new startups.  Not too long ago something started standing out to us – MOST of them have at least some remote employees (and a non-trivial number are actually fully distributed).  That is a change. As these fledgling startups go head to head with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Facebook trying to recruit talent, they are flipping the equation upside down by drastically redrawing the geographical hiring boundaries.

Despite the booming startup ecosystem, did anyone notice that housing prices in San Francisco have actually been going down?!  How is that possible you might ask? San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the longtime center of the universe for startups has hit a breaking point in terms of affordability.  Sure, the startup founders who built companies that got acquired by Google or Facebook aren’t going anywhere. But, housing prices have become so unaffordable that the entry-level employees those founders are trying to hire for their newcos have no hope of finding a place to live within a reasonable commuting distance. So, companies are starting to build teams that are not exclusively located in Silicon Valley.  Could that be starting to impact the housing market?

Back in New York, Wall Street took note of the distributed workforce trend when Zoom went public earlier this year.  Despite being headquartered in San Jose, CA, at the time of Zoom’s public offering it had over 500 people, or 30% of its entire workforce, located in China. It turns out there are some real cost savings to thinking outside the box.  Investors were stunned when they saw that by locating most of its product development in China, Zoom was able to spend just 10 percent of its revenue on R&D compared to a more common 20%+ for tech companies.  The result was unexpected profitability for which Zoom was rewarded handsomely at the time of their IPO.

But Zoom wasn’t the only public company to be making some noise when it comes to thinking differently about staffing.  Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot, made remote work one of the central pillars of his keynote this year at the company’s annual conference, Inbound.  Revealing that “remote work” was the second most searched term on the HubSpot jobs website, Dharmesh vowed to work hard to make HubSpot a more remote friendly company. 

Some companies believe so firmly in remote work that they have every single person in their company work remotely to become fully distributed.  While this phenomenon is not entirely new, what is new is that at least 3 of these startups have reached or exceeded the 1000 employee mark. Gitlab, InVision, and Automattic are all around 1000 people and they have somehow managed to make it work. It’s starting to look like remote work might even be scalable.

Going back to our own ecosystem, ten years ago, everyone we knew worked in offices with a handful of outliers working out of the only shared space that existed in Boston – Cambridge Innovation Center.  WeWork may have stumbled recently, but the broader proliferation of co-working spaces is undeniable. Today, many of the people we know work from co-working spaces and a couple have taken it a step further to adopt a geographically agnostic work lifestyle.  These nomads quite literally travel the world, while working in a fully remote and asynchronous way.

For those stuck in offices, commutes in technology hubs like Boston and San Francisco are hitting breaking points.  A recent survey of biotech workers in Massachusetts (who tend to be clustered in difficult to get to Kendall Square) found that fully 60% of people would be willing to change their job just for a better commute!  These long commutes are even starting to be talked about in terms of their potential environmental impact.  Could more remote work ease commutes and pressure on the environment simultaneously?

Employees battling long commutes assumes that you can find somebody to commute to your office in the first place.  Unemployment in the U.S. has hit 50 year lows, and in the technology sector the unemployment rates are even lower than the average at an astounding 1.3% (the lowest level ever recorded).  On LinkedIn alone, at the time of the writing of this article there were 220,000 open software jobs listed in the United States.  The United States does have the largest population of developers in the world, but it is still less than 20% of the global population of 24 million developers.  Should we look outside the geographical boundaries of the U.S.?

But, “How will all of these remote workers collaborate?” you ask. When we founded our last company, ThriveHive, in 2011, now ubiquitous tools like Zoom and Slack didn’t even exist. Progress in things like cloud computing and high speed internet connectivity through your cell phone, have made it exponentially easier to work in a remote fashion.  The days of massively expensive Cisco video conferencing setups are long gone.  

So if all of this is happening, then the question becomes, “What is the current status of company readiness to adopt this new way of working?” With the writing on the wall, surely companies should be ready and willing to adopt remote first work environments. We believe the opposite is true; that companies have never been less ready to enable first class remote employees.  

If you’ve worked in a decent sized company, you probably have already had the experience of working with a couple of remote colleagues.  These folks are the ones who started off working in the office and then after 3 years had a life event that caused them to need to move and the boss made an exception.  They are the folks who dial into conference calls, who you forget are on the call. They are the ones falling behind on the corporate ladder. They are fully second class citizens within your company that espouses equal opportunities for all.  The worst part is that because these companies figured out the mechanics of how to pay someone in another state and how to get them a laptop, they believe that they know how to work with remote employees, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It is about to be 2020, not 1820.  The first industrial revolution brought people from the countryside into cities so they could work in centralized locations to best maximize investments in big machinery inside mills.  The original forcing factor that brought everyone into cities and established things like fixed work hours are long gone and it’s time to start breaking these cultural norms that are partly responsible for driving widespread dissatisfaction with work (fully 2/3rds of all American workers hate their jobs). People want autonomy and we finally have all the pieces necessary to enable them to achieve that autonomy, and ultimately to achieve fulfillment at work.

Make no mistake, becoming a remote friendly company comes with challenges.  But, the companies that are able to successfully navigate that journey will be the winners of tomorrow as the global war for talent continues to rage.  We couldn’t be more excited to be starting Telescoped to work on solving this problem. Cheers to everyone making a 2020 revolution!

– Adam, Max, and Nick

Categories: Remote Work


Jon Fraser · December 20, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Well written guys. Truly an exciting read. I’m looking forward to see where you take this.

    Yosi Bekker · December 21, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Good luck with your new endeavor. I am looking forward to see how you tackle this challenge. Changing a cultural barrier, modifying people’s behaviours is definitely a big challenge. Good luck!

Clement Cazalot · January 10, 2020 at 4:28 am

I love it. Congrats here. I see this every year as a rapidly growing trend, and yet despite some marginal improvement in the video conferencing systems (Zoom as you mentioned in the article) working with remote team is same as it was in 2010, and sourcing truly good remote candidates is always as hard. Looking forward to be a customer 🙂

Renee Dovich · April 14, 2020 at 8:39 pm

LOVED this and couldn’t agree more! Looking forward to seeing great things happening with Telescoped!

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