How remote working helped startups grow outside of Silicon Valley

Audra Melton/The New York Times

more than two years after the pandemic sent workers to pack their belongings and Work From HomeMany companies are now making every effort to bring employees back to the office – at least a few days a week. However, some companies that have hired remote workers during the pandemic say returning to their previous workplace is not an option. Remote working, which has become more common due to the pandemic, has changed the way companies work, especially when it comes to hiring. companies of technology Those outside of Silicon Valley, in the United States, are able to grow as their access to talent has increased.

Such is the case with Craig Fuller, the founder of a logistics data analysis company in Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA), which is used to hiring software engineers and data specialists who live out of town. In the past, this meant making arguments to persuade them to move to a mid-sized South American city. He highlighted the low cost of living and living in an open-ended community. “We were looking for people with families,” he said.

But for the last two years there has been no need for such talks. Fuller’s company, FreightWaves, doubled the size of its team by implementing remote work. And about 60% of the 120 new employees live outside Chattanooga. “All of a sudden, hiring rules and restrictions were no longer an issue for us,” Fuller said.

That’s the case with Olive, a healthcare automation company in Columbus, Ohio, which went from about 200 to 1,350 employees during the pandemic. The company’s professionals are now distributed in 47 states of the country. “We couldn’t have grown without taking advantage of our access to the most diverse talent across the country,” said Brian Rutkowski, the company’s hiring head.

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For some startups outside of Silicon Valley and others in large metropolitan tech hubs, remote working has been key to enabling rapid growth. Companies can recruit talent from anywhere without asking candidates to relocate.

It wants to continue working remotely after several pandemics. Revolution, a Washington-based investment firm that focuses on startups outside of Silicon Valley, informally surveyed 200 institutions in its portfolio this year about remote work policies. About 20% of them said they offered remote work options before the pandemic, and 70% said they would let remote work take the lead.

Remote work can be good for the tech ecosystem outside of Silicon Valley, said Steve Case, Revolution CEO and co-founder of AOL. When he formed the company in 2005, he said, “Even if one was an entrepreneur, the question was whether they could build a team to structure the company and, in particular, grow the company.” To make a team?” Now, according to Case, “they can stay where they are.”

competitive advantage of companies

But even though remote work has expanded the range of business options outside of startups silicon ValleyOf course, that doesn’t necessarily make them easy to rent. That’s because it likely works both ways: Just as a startup in Chattanooga can hire a software engineer in San Francisco, wealthy startups and tech giants in San Francisco can hire software engineers living in Chattanooga. .

Fuller said remote work took away a “competitive edge” over his company. “All of a sudden, we’re now competing with companies in Silicon Valley and New York for equivalent or existing employees; so they’re starting to look at our teams.” For Olive, competition at the national level meant the company would have to adjust its pay scale, Rutkowski said.

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“We had to get creative with the pay in this model,” he said. Olive workers living in high-cost areas earn more, and the company has implemented additional inflation adjustments to their wage ranges.

Hiring remote workers during the pandemic-induced lockdown has also made it difficult for companies to demand a return to offices. Those who employ business hours will have to gain access to a more limited number of local talent – ​​but it is now more competitive than it was before the pandemic.

“I don’t think you can change that,” said Scott Siegert, chief operating officer of BuilderTrend, an Omaha, Nebraska-based company that makes software for homebuilders and has acquired three small businesses during the pandemic, among them No one is here. Area. “I don’t think that’s what employees expect and I don’t think it’s best for the company.”

Fuller said he is not disappointed that FreightWaves employees are unlikely to have a full return to office. Their business improved when the company switched to virtual workplaces, and they had no trouble filling positions, even if it meant paying a higher salary and hiring a first-time recruiter.

“Every metric you’d care about has really gone up,” he said. “Sales have gone up. The pace has picked up.” Most of its employees continue to work from home, even those living in Chattanooga.

Robert Hatta, a Columbus partner at Drive Capital, an Ohio-based venture capital firm that invests in offshore companies, said that before the pandemic, about 20% of the firm’s roughly 70 portfolio companies allowed remote work. , Now about 90% have included some form of remote working in their permanent plans.

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But he’s not convinced remote work will remain the norm.

“I think most people would agree, all things being equal, that a co-located team is better than a distributed one. [por vários lugares]Even in the tech sector, and it remains as a default belief in the startup world,” he said.

Hatta said it’s too early to say which model will be the new normal. “Right now, we have over 60 companies, each running 60 different versions of an experiment that will work from the workers’ point of view,” he said.

Case said he believes that sooner or later, workers outside of Silicon Valley who were hired to work remotely during the pandemic will likely be recruited by local companies. “They will see their opportunities in those cities and maybe even look for opportunities to start their own companies — and in those cities,” he said.

/ translation by Romina Cassia

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About the author: Sarah Gracie

"Proud social media buff. Unapologetic web scholar. Internet guru. Lifelong music junkie. Travel specialist."

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