There have been winners and losers across the business realm in 2020, but any company built on the concept of remote work has found itself in a fortuitous position, be that video communication and collaborations tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, or cloud service providers such as Box.
For a fledgling company called Remote, there can be little doubt as to what the company’s mission has been from the outset, even if it has been aided by the tumultuous events of 2020.
Remote is a human resources (HR) platform designed to help companies set up and manage their remote workforce around the world, and today it announced that it has raised $35 million in a series A round of funding co-led by Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures. Other angel investors include Box cofounder and CEO Aaron Levie, Flatiron Earth cofounder Zach Weinberg, and Eventbrite founders Kevin and Julia Hartz.
Remote has established legal entities in more than 60 countries, spanning the Americas (including the U.S.), Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia, through which the company offers services spanning payroll, benefits, taxes, and compliance for businesses of all sizes. In return, its client — the employer — retains employees’ IP, invention rights, and the day-to-day operational control, while sidestepping the laborious and resource-intensive costs associated with setting up shop in each market.
Companies can manage all employees and contractors from a single dashboard, including viewing their location, contract status, salary, and time-off entitlements.
Employees are also encouraged to on-board themselves to the Remote platform once they’ve been allocated a company email address.
In terms of pricing, Remote offers various plans kicking off at free for a limited set of features aimed at contractors, all the way up to a more comprehensive toolset starting at $599 per employee per month.
Founded in early 2019, Remote — as one might expect — is a fully distributed company itself, with its two cofounders and leadership team spread between Europe and the U.S., though it is officially registered in San Francisco. The company only launched its platform to the public in April this year, and its Portugal-based CEO Job van der Voort told VentureBeat that it has expanded from five to more than 50 employees in that time frame, while its key business metrics are also looking skyward.
“Our growth has exceeded our expectations, with both our customers and revenue having doubled almost every single month,” he said.
Prior to starting Remote, van der Voort was VP of product at devops giant GitLab, which happens to be one of the most prominent remote-working companies in the world. GitLab is also one of Remote’s customers.
“I brought so many learnings from my days at Gitlab to Remote,” van der Voort said.
One of these lessons, he said, is the importance of explicitly making time to foster bonding outside of specific work-related tasks. “The company has to make time and budget for people getting to know each other, every single week,” van der Voort added.
Another lesson van der Voort gleaned from his time at GitLab is that asynchronous work — that is, work carried out by people at different times, usually in different locations — can be incredibly powerful, though managers have to lead by example. “That means that you don’t have meetings to do things that can easily be a written message,” he said. “Documentation is key.”
Society’s rapid embrace of remote-working due to the COVID-19 crisis has led a number of big-name companies, including Twitter and Facebook, to announce permanent remote working policies, but in many ways the pandemic merely served to accelerate something that was already starting to happen. Last year, payments processing giant Stripe announced a new remote engineering hub, which it said gave it access to a much larger talent pool, while Terminal raised VC funding for a platform that helps startups build their own remote engineering teams.
Elsewhere, WordPress.com parent Automattic has long served as a poster child of the remote-work movement, with its entire 1,200-plus workforce working from wherever they please across 77 countries. As such, the company has developed a bunch of tools in-house to help it communicate and collaborate, many of which it now makes available to other companies looking to go remote.
Remote continues a trend we’ve seen elsewhere in the remote-work technology space, whereby an investment was made early-ish in the pandemic, only to be followed up by a much bigger tranche months later. Just today, a young virtual events startup called Hopin announced a $125 million raise — its third fundraise of the year — at a $2.1 billion valuation. Remote only announced its inaugural seed round of $11 million back in April — that it has raised more than triple that figure so soon after is testament to the value currently being placed on all-things “remote.”
According to van der Voort, companies wanting to succeed at being remote have to commit to that philosophy, and ensure that talent is truly distributed — there can’t be any attempts to create little workforce silos.
“If you embrace that, you’ll end up with an amazing group of people from all corners of the world, which ultimately helps you build amazing products,” he said.