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The global pandemic shifted social, economic, and business scapes across the globe. In Emerging Venture Markets, FinTech, Transport & Logistics, and HealthTech startups were met by a surge of funding over the past two years. On one end, the pandemic expedited the adoption of and conversion to fully digital solutions boosting investor interest in industries of digitization. On another, remote living provided opportunities for the entrepreneurial and private sectors alike to expand their talents beyond their direct geographies.
This week we invite venture builder Alexandra Di Nella to reflect on the possibility and burgeoning potential of hybrid work models, unlocking the hidden potentials and emerging obstacles of the new norm:
Post pandemic world is opening an infinite array of options for the up-and-coming ventures when it comes to how to structure their teams. Pre-pandemic, rare were the cases when we saw a series B Fintech operating with a fully distributed team - now this becomes normality. Seed to growth-stage startups have an incredible luxury - freedom of choice on how they wish to structure their team and what culture they wish to hone both now and in the near future.
Here are 3 core options teams usually think about:
- Co-locate the talent in one central or regional office, relocating talent from abroad to join your team full time, all working on-site with various degrees of home-office present (from 10-100%, aka hybrid model majority of corporates are now open to).
- Hub-it out - create the teams around the geographies that have strong talent in the niche you are after. This can work for the whole department, smaller product teams, or subject matter experts. Example: Product team in London, Engineering team in Poland, Sales team in Portugal etc.
- Distribute partially or fully, opening up to the talent from abroad without relocating them. The remote-first company.
Based on the industry and the talent you need to attract to make your product a success, here are the few things to consider before you make a decision:
Relocation cost to candidates and to the startup: Pandemic brought families closer together with 60% of Americans attributing to the statement based on a recent study by neighbor.com. The emotional cost of relocation, the stress involved in it, and the hassle of your whole family members changing jobs, schools, kindergartens can be overwhelming to the extent that one will no longer consider relocating, even for a perfect role. The financial cost of relocation and compensation increase needed to consider the switch is becoming larger as the talent places a higher value on comfort and flexibility. In the market where many opportunities are open to remote work with some degree of travel, the positions that offer lifestyle-oriented flexibility will win in the war for talent. For some niches like product and engineering remote is an expected parameter and no longer is a competitive differentiator.
Your talent pool: if your talent niche isn’t located in your geography it will prove to be difficult to have one move to your location. Pre-pandemic this was a difficult but doable task for some levels of seniority (mainly due to the family status), post-pandemic, the talent pool will favour the environments they know and their established social ties. Quite recently I spoke with 6 Google developers and Data Scientists, all are working remotely and will not consider coming back to the office. They are also receptive to leaving Google if that will become a mandatory ask. When it comes to engineering and product it helps to remember that we are in a talent-driven market.
The generation you are hiring: Consider the preferences and communication styles of the generation that is coming in or already is a part of your workforce. How will it change in the coming 3-5 years? Plan for the upcoming changes to attract and retain the up-and-coming talent in your teams.
Disability inclusion: We aren’t talking about this enough. The shift in the past year to remote work opened opportunities for those that had been previously excluded from the workforce. According to a 2020 survey by Stack Overflow, an online community for developers, 5.4% of 45,446 respondents identified themselves as having a concentration or memory disorder, like ADHD. 2.3% identified as having autism or an autism spectrum disorder. Quiet spaces can make a big difference. The unemployment rate for disabled women and men pre-pandemic kept still at 53.2 and 54.4%.
Culture: There are various things you can do online to keep the company culture thriving - from 9 am coffee meetings to quarterly physical getaways. A big part of supporting the culture is placed on your leadership and how they are enabling the success and communicating with their direct teams, be it online or offline. I would argue that it is leadership, not the location per se that affects your culture. If you embrace remote and open the door for feedback and suggestions on how to make it work for all your employees, you can create a culture of trust and responsibility, where employees feel empowered, not watched over.
Your determination to hire A players. In geographic areas where talent pools in given niches are rather condensed and the requirements for the role are exact, it is likely that teams will need to widen the net and the outreach to find the perfect fit to the role they wish the individual to occupy - this requires flexibility in location and respective adequate compensation, which is not always being considered by the leadership.
About the Author
Alexandra Di Nella spent 10+ years building products with companies like BCG and Rocket Internet prior to starting her own search and consulting firm. She is a Venture Advisor in NOMU VC, a KSA-based venture studio, and is coaching teams in Founder Institute, University of Miami, and VC competitions. Alexandra works with early and growth-stage companies to bring the right team onboard at every step of the startup growth journey.
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