In March of 2019, Stripe famously wrote that their 5th engineering hub would be remote. Other startups and early-stage investors followed their lead. What was previously seen as taboo — having and backing remote companies — became normal overnight.¹
What happened was such a strong shift, it reminded me of the first time I stepped inside of an Uber. In the transition, we gained a few great things, but lost some of the great aspects of the office.
What was lost in transition
💁♀️ Team: being part of a team that is collectively working together at the same time in the same place. An all-hands meeting is an example of this. Another example is looking up from your desk and seeing everyone else in the same office at the same time: a type of peripheral vision that’s always on.
💬 Social: water-cooler conversations, group coffee runs, desk drop-by conversations, lunch table conversations.
🎮 Fun: Xbox games, ping pong, group activities, happy hours.
👀 Awareness: high-bandwidth meetings and interactions (HD no-lag video and access to subtle social cues and body language via human retina)², looking over to a conference room and seeing someone interview for a role, seeing who’s in the lobby and in various meeting rooms, bringing someone in for interviews and giving a tour of the office + team (their awareness rather than your team’s awareness).
Software is eating physical spaces
As the world moved towards remote, they clamored for better tools to replace the office experience. We now live in the Virtual Office Era. All of the subtle interactions and practices of the real physical office space are being eaten by software. We’re just getting started.
I joined Tophatter early on as it entered a hyper-growth phase (from $10m/year to $500m/year in GTV). Tophatter took the in-person auction experience and digitized it. You’d compete in real-time with other bidders for that item.
Tophatter itself was inspired by a digital party called Turntable.fm, where people would become digital DJs.
Before Turntable — when the Internet was first getting started — there was a way of keeping people connected that felt life-like called Habbo Hotel.
We saw other adaptations pop up as well, but there hasn’t been anything like this for the new Virtual Office Era. There have been a few products that get close to it.
We’re building the new virtual office
At Agave.com, we’re solving a few key problems that are uniquely happening now:
- We make it easy to have informal conversations.
- We help remote teams experience more serendipity.
We can achieve both better social and presence by using visual space instead of text-based #channels.
Seem interesting? We’d love to talk. We’re looking for 10 Remote or Hybrid teams to gain early access to what we’ve built. If you’d like to jump to the front of the line and get grandfathered in for free.