Friday Letter: WFH may become the future of work

Investors miss the personal interaction, but anecdotally they say business is still taking place and deals are still getting done.

When the shelter-in-place orders went into effect here in California and elsewhere in mid-March, I wondered how those in the VC community would adapt to the changes in how they work. Specifically, I began asking GPs and their LPs how they were getting things done while working from home.

Many of the investors told me they miss the camaraderie of the office, among other downsides. But two months into the WFH lifestyle, slowly and surely, it seems more are coming around to the notion that they are just as or more productive when they don’t have to commute.

One VC told me last week that he was happy to not have to fly around the country anymore and can meet just as well via teleconference with entrepreneurs, the partners on his team or with LPs.

Agreed: the stress over long-distance travel and using phones and laptops in airports and the backseats of Uber rides is something no one relishes. But can people get anything done while WFH?

Damien Steel of OMERS Ventures told me a couple of weeks ago how one of his portfolio companies raised a follow-on round of financing with a Silicon Valley investor that the company’s executive team only met via teleconferencing.

That’s not the first deal to be done remotely and likely not the last.

Akash Bhat of Scrum Ventures wrote a Medium post in late March of how the firm completed its first deal virtually.

This week, I spoke with Mike Smerklo, co-founder and managing director of Next Coast Ventures in Austin, Texas. Smerklo, a longtime Silicon Valley resident before launching Next Coast five years ago, relayed a story to me of how an LP told him recently that WFH was never before seen as a viable option. But two months of WFH has shown them that everyone is productive and they’re not missing the commute time.

Now, the LP can’t imagine ever having a sizable real estate presence again.

In March, Brian Hirsch, co-founder and managing partner of Tribeca Venture Partners, told me that the tech and venture industries will weather this storm. He compared it to life in 2000 and said if the world was put into shelter in place twenty years ago, when cell phones and video-conferencing and WiFi capabilities were not what they are today, then it would have taken a lot for society to recover.

What are your thoughts on WFH? If you have news or views you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at agoldfisher@buyoutsinsider.com and I’m open to voice and video calls.