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Summer is upon us, almost half of America’s adult population is fully vaccinated, and, increasingly, employers are beginning to plan to welcome employees back to the office. Employers are facing a complex new reality in which only some employees return to the office some of the time. As employers prepare for the post-COVID workplace, startups are creating tools to help them establish new work routines that accommodate distributed workforces and leverage our newfound reliance on video. Here are the trends I find particularly exciting:
Video-based meetings are getting augmented with superpowers
The Zoom era is here to stay, and companies are eager to extend its capabilities. Gong, Otter, Macro and Fireflies are helping us make the most of critical meetings, whether they’re in person or online, and whether we attend them ourselves or just need to know what was said. These tools record and transcribe meetings and make it easy for us to store and search our notes and track key metrics. Before those meetings even begin, Warmly gives us context on who we’re about to meet. And after the meeting, Grain transforms us into video producers by capturing key moments through video. (Disclosure: My firm is an investor in Warmly.)
In our post-pandemic lives, we will likely never return to the full level of in-person engagements we relied on before COVID broke out. This is especially true in sales functions and for internal team collaborations. This shift creates an acute need for tools like these that track and record meetings, analyze transcripts, improve information flow, facilitate new workflows, and supercharge the effectiveness of post-meeting, follow-up tasks. Augmented with superpowers like these, many meetings will never need to be in person again.
Innovation in HR Tech is going into overdrive
More than half of HR leaders reported an increase in budgets from 2020 to 2021, and nearly as many reported plans to purchase new IT solutions. This is no surprise: Over this past year, suddenly distributed work environments put a strain on existing systems and processes and necessitated the creation of new capabilities in every sector of HR. When companies went fully remote, they were able to hire talent from anywhere across the globe. This required new collaboration and documentation systems able to manage distributed workflows, home offices equipped to handle sensitive information securely, and managers adept at building and maintaining cohesive teams across distributed geographies. Papaya Global, Deel, Remote, and Oyster are helping companies hire, manage, and pay distributed teams, while companies like Upwork are helping employers adjust to the continuing rise of professional gig workers who relish the flexibility that comes with contract-based and short-term work. These companies are only the beginning, though: We should expect a renaissance of innovation targeting the numerous additional challenges complicating the post-COVID workplace.
Events are returning as big as ever — but more complex
Events were big-ticket affairs before the pandemic and will be so again over the coming months and years, with slick production value, creative interactivity, and contact management tools to help companies reap the full benefits of their efforts. Some types of events will always be more effective in-person, such as meetings requiring high levels of collaboration or intended to build relationships, but many traditional events requiring less collaboration, such as those featuring small numbers of active speakers and large numbers of passive attendees, will never return fully in person. We’re seeing many small events move permanently online and many larger events getting reborn in hybrid form. Goldcast, Welcome, Accelevents, and Hopin (which recently secured a $5.6 billion valuation) are all enabling the shift to fully virtual or hybrid large and small events, both for consumers and the B2B marketplace. These companies have all identified a blind spot for horizontal platforms like Zoom and YouTube, which were never designed explicitly for events. These newer event platforms include features targeted for each stakeholder — speakers, attendees, sponsors, and event managers — as well as niceties like room transitions, easy breakout room management, engagement tools, and analytics to track success.
After 15 long months, a return to (at least periodic) office-based work is finally on the horizon for many professionals. I’m excited to see how this new crop of startups will help us ease into the “new normal” — and hopefully make it even more engaging, more productive, and more fun than the old one.
John Lin is a Principal at F-Prime Capital, where he leads the west coast’s technology practice.
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