This week I'm covering two things that are on my mind: the startup funding situation, and remote work. Let's start with remote work.
Almost every software engineer is working remote right now. So what do you think: is remote work here to stay, even once we beat the pandemic?
I think it will be a mixture. Some people I know with are eager to get back to work. There are a lot of good reasons for this. The office is a social place, and it's a place designed for work: even an open office can be preferable to a cramped NYC apartment shared by two adults and an active toddler. (Let's have an open office rant another time, though, shall we?) And not to mention, physically going to the office anchors daily routines, and routine is possibly the most challenging aspect of remote work.
On the flip side, remote work has a lot of benefits to balance out its drawbacks. Your routine may be adrift, but you get more flexibility (if we could go outside, anyway). You may have to share an apartment with your toddler, but now you're far more likely to hear their first words and to have lunch with your spouse. And let's all remember the time saved by not commuting an hour to an office!
Let's just remember that what we're doing right now is not normal remote work at all. This is working during a pandemic. I have been working remote full-time for nearly 4 years, so I expected life during lockdown to be pretty normal for me, but it turns out that it's, you know, really hard. A lot of little things are gone overnight (help with childcare, meals with friends). There is a lot of new stress and worry about friends and family while feeling helpless because I cannot solve their most pressing problems — no phone call will fix lack of space, a distracting environment, missing your friends or grandkids.
Which is to say, those of us who like remote work now, even in the pandemic? I think we're going to demand to keep doing it once the pandemic ends. This is a sea change for our industry, and remote work is here to stay, in some form. It's not for everyone, but it can be a lot more widespread than previously claimed.
Fundraising has taken a hit during this crisis, but not everyone! Notion just closed a $50 million round. This is a big fundraising round by almost any metric but it gets better, there are some things that make this truly incredible.
Founded in 2013, Notion used a $2 million investment to build their product, but they ran out of cash and almost couldn't survive. They prevailed, launching in 2016, and have been lean and scrappy ever since.
They're also famously averse to raising more funding, but they did — last year. 10 months ago, they raised $10 million (at an $800 million valuation). They didn't want to raise more, but then the pandemic hit and raising this round — $50 million at a $2 billion valuation — gave them guaranteed stability with runway for ten years. That's over $1 million per employee. The company is worth about $40 million per employee (they have 42 employees). This is mind boggling scale for me.
Okay, but here's what really blows my mind about this, having worked at a few startups. Fundraising rounds usually take a pretty long time. You can do this for months, and it can take weeks to actually close the deal. Notion? They got the entire thing done in 36 hours.
36 hours. They made a phonecall to an investor who was interested, and apparently, 36 hours later they had $50 million.
Notion seems to do things very, very efficiently. Their fundraising is fast. They write great software with few engineers. Looking at this from the outside, what lessons can we learn from them?
I'm not sure, but it's something I'll be thinking about and would love to hear what anyone else thinks.