Someone once told me:
“You can maintain relationships online or through the phone, but you can only build a relationship in person.”
I love people, so the sentiment of the advice was easy for me to carry out throughout my career. Through Covid, there’s a debate to be had that you can build some aspects of a relationship through the internet, some combination of zoom and calls, but it still lacks the key ingredient of “mutual experience” for a relationship to be built.
Yesterday, I flew to Los Angeles, and drove to UCLA for a pitch competition called Bruin Tank. It was great! 10 early stage startups presented their opportunities and I was reminded how much fun those in person events can be, everyone just trying to figure it out, together. Having a bunch of quick experiences with each person, builds amazing bonds quickly, something that takes effort through the internet.
As an organization, Boost VC has moved back to in person one day a week. We chose Tuesdays because the bakery across the street has the best croissants and it’s not open on Mondays. So we chose Tuesdays. Yep, we made a strategic decisions based on a bakery. To be fair, it’s an amazing bakery.
When people ask me, “Will companies ever go full back to in person again?” I think of the answer on a sliding scale rather than on a binary track. It’s not a “Yes” or “no.”
In Venture Capital, our business is a service business. We should be out of the office a fair amount trying to find new deals, or coach the investments we have already made. I don’t think the change to “work from home” was difficult for many VCs, and in some ways it became more efficient.
On the other side of the sliding scale though, I believe deep tech startups that work with the physical world: Nuclear, Aircrafts, VTOL, Defense, Aerospace… In order to start a physical world startup, not a digital world startup —I believe “in person” is going to be a competitive advantage. There are so many decisions at the earliest days of a startup, where you need transfer of information to move at the speed of thought. It’s hard for me to think that these types of businesses will perform better in a remote world, however I’d love to hear of some examples where that has worked.
To conclude my thoughts, I don’t think the question of “in-person” versus “remote” is a question of “All” or “nothing,” I believe certain types of businesses will perform asymmetrically better than others if they are in person, but I also think that certain businesses will find ways to become more effective in a remote world.
I don’t think the new world is about a “return to what we were.” I think it’s about what types of teams should be returning to the office for the sake of effectiveness. And which teams will never see an office again!