Horizontals and Verticals in a Remote-First World

I've been thinking a lot about the future of a remote workplace, a trend I believe (& data suggests) is here to stay. With it, I surmise, will come three areas of growth and opportunity:

  1. Live Virtual Interaction
  2. Async Collaboration
  3. Creator Monetization

Within these three areas, are vertical solutions that cater to niche use cases, and horizontal solutions that touch a wide variety. In a previous blog post, I talked about how forced situations keep us innovative. Fortunately for the world of innovation, while each area has these verticals and horizontals, there's a plethora of use cases still untouched (OR ones I have not yet discovered/not befitting to my standards!!) that are opportunities for even more growth.

Live Virtual Interaction


The first is live virtual interaction, which shouldn't be a surprise. Companies have been pouring dollars into improving video for their products. Improvements range from attempting to mimic the in-person look and feel of seeing coworkers in an office to hardware investments for better video quality. Zoom's valuation goes higher & higher as Google Hangouts' calendar button grows bigger and bigger.

Zoom and Google Hangouts are some of the horizontal solutions in this area. A couple use cases are events, fitness & games. I'm most bullish about Run the World, a company that foresaw this trend and acted on it.

On opportunities, I'm surprised there are no strong or obvious replacements for Zoom in classrooms, where classrooms ranging from elementary school to graduate programs are still using Zoom to hold virtual classes. On a personal note, I'd love to see how live dance classes can mimic the energy of being int the same dance studio and can help me tell what's left from right! Lastly, I'm SUPER curious to see how a religious gathering-focused solution might come along (imagine virtual communion blessing, mass lyrics being shown on the screen, & person to person matching for "Peace be with you's").

Async Collaboration


Next is async collaboration. One of my "favorite products of 2020" has GOT to be Figma. LinkedIn just started migrating to Figma from Sketch+Invision. I thought Sketch was already such a well-done product. It simplified complexity from its design incumbent, Photoshop, by squarely focusing on the product designer use case & did it so well! That, coupled with add-ons & plug-ins made Sketch hard to compete with. But it was just one thing Figma did exceptionally that completely won me over - collaboration.

Simple things like seeing people's cursors as they hovered over designs, clicking on someone's icon to follow exactly what they were seeing, directly commenting on mocks, version history, etc. Gone are the days of working on docs in silos and sending & exchanging files with the words "final version" or "FINAL final version" appended. The power of async file systems and online collaboration will only expand to all types of use cases. An abstraction of "Google Drive" is taking place, with focused solutions on Slides, Forms, Sheets, Doc, etc. As for opportunities, music and video async collaboration are niches I haven't seen elegantly filled.

Creator Monetization


Finally, creator monetization is a problem that will only get more rampant in time. More artists who already struggle to find steady sources of income struggle even more to find physical avenues to portray their art. More folks stuck & bored at home looking to find varied forms of entertainment will increase need for consumption.

I love how I continually see more "Buy me a coffee" stickers all over websites or how Substack has now become the latest edition in the "Techie Starter Pack."

I'm a friend and partner to artists and creators and am most excited about how we marketplaces can create economic opportunity for creatives to monetize their passions.

Last recession, Airbnb, Venmo, Instagram, Uber, Square, Slack & so many more companies were born. Forced situations keep us innovative. Hopefully we're coming to the end of this pandemic (wishful thinking?) but to the beginnings of a new wave of innovation.

💯 Special thanks to Denalex Orakwue, Amara McCune, Kevin Yang, Amy Shen & Mojia Shen for their open, honest & constructive feedback!