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How Startups Are Leaning Into Remote Work

By Sarah Hallam

Last updated: Feb 15, 2023

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In order to stay relevant in a fierce job market, here's how different teams at tech startups are prioritizing remote work.

Luis Alvarez for Getty Images.
Luis Alvarez for Getty Images.

Remote work isn’t as cutting edge as it used to be.

In the past, small startups allowed fully remote employees as a competitive advantage. Startups used the freedom of remote work to compete for talent with big tech companies in a small talent pool like Silicon Valley.

But today, remote work is not only normalized for office workers, but an expectation that workers have of their employers. According to a Gallup survey conducted at the end of 2021, 30% of potential remote employees want to work from home for good, while 60% want a mix of remote flexibility into their work life.

Bogged down by an extremely tight job market and still reeling from the vacancies left from last year’s Great Resignation, more startups than ever before are adopting remote practices.

“The pandemic really accelerated this shift,” Amit Matani, CEO of Talent at AngelList, told The Org. “We sawn an increase from 40% of companies posting remote jobs, to almost 70%.”

This monumental shift in how we work has opened doors for thousands of job seekers around the globe to access opportunity at unprecedented rates.

“On the candidate side, the difference was even stronger,” Matani said. “We went from around 40% to almost 95% of candidates applying to at least one remote job.”

Take a look at how startups are accommodating to remote workers in nearly every department across the leadership suite.

Recruiting and Talent Acquisition

“This is one of the tightest job markets I’ve ever seen and that we’ve seen on our platform,” Matani said. “I think it's even tighter for engineers, and people working and building new companies and new startups, especially with Web3 and everything else.”

There were 1.2 million unique active job postings for computer occupations (such as software engineers or programmers) in the U.S. as of September 2021, according to an analysis conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy.

Technical recruiters are feeling the heat from this phenomenon and tools that offer a way to parse through much larger pools of talent look especially attractive.

Matani’s product, Remote by AngelList Talent, is at the forefront of this sea change. While AngelList has always had some options geared toward remote-friendly work, its new search tool allows both recruiters and candidates to filter by remote or hybrid options, time zones and even through workplace culture. Matani sees more emphasis on attracting remote talent as a benefit for startups.

“Instead of focusing on a small pool in a specific location, startups have the entire world available to them,” Matani said. “What we've seen is companies hire a lot faster because of that they hire great, more senior talent.”

In his own company’s case, Matani said that on average it took two months to make a senior engineering hire. Now, AngelList has converted nearly 40% of its engineering team to Europe, and to hire takes an average of 30 days.

“It's almost a no-brainer, if you're a small startup,” Matani said.


Outside of a contentious job market where startups are deploying remote work as a competitive advantage, an entire new appetite for remote tools has materialized over the past two years.

Investors have continued to pour money into new startups. Global VC funding to startups surpassed $643 billion—more than half a trillion dollars—in 2021. Everything from streamlining the onboarding experience to communication platforms that work best for asynchronous teams has become fair game for budding startups.

The former is a problem that Berlin-based startup Userlane is trying to tackle. Launched by CEO Hartmat Hahn, Kajetan Uhlig and Felix Eichler, Userlane is a digital adoption platform that aims to help users get onboarded and familiar new software programs without any training.

Though it was founded in 2016, the boom in remote work the past few years meant a boost in Userlane’s business.

“We saw from our existing clients that they are using our product for much broader applications,” Hahn told The Org. “And we also saw that there are a lot more companies introducing more software in their tech stack as they go remote.”

Interestingly enough, while the company operates with a flexible remote structure with offsites and caters to a remote audience, Hahn doesn’t see his company staying fully remote itself in the future.

“I think in the long run, companies rely on human interactions, and each company will have to find their own model to do it,” he said.

People & Culture

Perhaps the department that remote work affects the most is the culture of a company. 4.7 million people in the U.S. are working on some sort of hybrid schedule, pushing People Operations leaders to acknowledge a remote strategy for the first time.

“We’ve moved from a world where only random, smaller companies were adopting remote policies and it was considered crazy,” Matani said. “Now, every single People leader needs a remote strategy. It’s either they are going to do it or not, but we’ve added more critical thinking to the process.”

Part of that critical thinking is developing a workplace culture that is just as welcoming and inclusive for remote workers as it is for in-person employees.

Marie Kretlow, Senior Manager of People Experiences and Programs at Superhuman, has been working in remote roles herself nearly all her career.

She spent nearly a decade building a remote culture at the New York-based SaaS company InVision, and has been using her past experience as a remote worker to build a new one at Superhuman, which allowed employees to choose fully-remote options in March 2020.

“One thing we have been pretty thoughtful about is proximity bias, and really intentionally combating that,” Kretlow said.

“It’s ensuring that folks have equitable access to information and equitable opportunity to participate. So that for us is leaning into a lot of asynchronous collaboration first, just so folks have the opportunity to work together in the ways that work best for them at a time that works best for them.”

One way of incorporating remote-friendly practices into organizations is by leaning on more technology.

Heather Dunn is the Chief People Officer at Gem, a recruiting CRM platform. Dunn says that Gem has built a healthy stack of technology tools dedicated just to human resources.

“We are using things like Culture Amp from an engagement survey perspective to make sure we are getting a good sense of how folks are feeling on a regular basis,” Dunn said. “We are able to look at different demographic cuts as well, and create action plans.”

Communication is Key

Kretlow says that ensuring that all employees are understanding of the workplace norms is essential to building a standardized culture in a hybrid workplace.

“I had a great boss at InVision, and she used to frame this up as making the implicit, explicit,” Kretlow said. “It’s those things that you learn via osmosis when you walk into an office, where you kind of see how folks are interacting with one another. You walk in the door, virtually you can't see that. I've seen a lot of companies today writing down who they are as an organization and how they work together, and it’s pretty neat to see that evolution.”

A tip for People and Culture leaders navigating this new challenge of inclusivity? Intentionally over-communicate.

“As humans, we get a ton of our information in communicating with others through non verbals,” Kretlow said. “And when you shrink your, your field down to a screen, and you can only see this much of someone or or video is off, you can lose a lot of context. So it is important that you over communicate both proactively stating things to others, but also asking if you're on the receiving end.”

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