Remember the days when working at a hot early-stage startup meant trekking to an office in a major tech center like Silicon Valley or Boston?
These days, a commute is not necessarily required. At scores of venture-backed companies, the ability to work from home is already the status quo—a perk as ingrained as office-based enticements like free coffee and snacks.
But really, how common are remote work opportunities at hot startups? To get a sense, we compiled a sampling of U.S. companies1 that raised some of the largest early-stage funding rounds in the past six months. We then scrutinized job openings at each, looking to see how many were tethered to a physical location.
The findings? Only about a quarter of the 20 companies in the sample were fully or predominantly remote.2 Half of the companies required all or most employees to be on-site.
Another quarter were mixed. They have either a combination of remote and site-based jobs or are working remotely for now, with a possibility of being on-site in the future.
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Quite unsurprisingly, the biggest determinant for whether a company is remote or location-based appears to be whether it requires physical infrastructure beyond computers and cellphones.
Generally speaking, desk jobs can get done from your dining room table. Thus we see remote-first as the ethos for desk job-centric companies like MoonPay, a crypto payments upstart, Elemy, a provider of remotely delivered autism support services, and ClickHouse, a database management platform.
By contrast, companies focused on laboratory research, hardware and other areas with physical products generally need employees on-site. Commonwealth Fusion, which is building a 47-acre commercial fusion energy campus, wants employees to work at that campus. Dexterity, which is building robotic automation systems for warehouses, also lists most positions at its HQ in Redwood City or at other locations where its technology is in use.
This dichotomy for remote and on-site hiring seems obvious in principle. Clearly, for instance, one can’t build a world-changing, zero-emissions, first-of-its-kind fusion energy facility by clicking around on a laptop at home in pajamas.
But for some reason this doesn’t exactly jive with stereotypes. Perhaps that’s because when one envisions a venture-backed startup, the image commonly features techies in front of screens furiously coding. While this is representative of many, it’s notable that a large portion of the most heavily funded early-stage startups also do things in the physical world.
Beyond fusion energy and robotics, biotech is also a space in which positions tend to be location-specific. Eikon Therapeutics, which has raised more than $660 million in early-stage funding for technology to analyze single molecule protein behavior in living cells, is an example. Its website lists open positions as based in Hayward, California, and features video of mask-wearing researchers wielding cutting-edge-looking lab equipment that could not be replicated in a home office.
Meanwhile, there are companies that occupy a kind of middle-ground, with a plethora of desk jobs that can be done remotely alongside some on-site positions. One that fits this category is AvantStay, a fast-growing hospitality brand that recently closed on $160 million in Series B funding. Desk jobs are remote, but there are some in-field positions, such as stylist and maintenance technician, that are on-site.
Bottom line? Remote-first is definitely a thing and certainly a fundable approach. As we’ve seen in recent quarters, investors are quite willing to shower massive funding rounds on startups with distributed workforces.
But much as metaverse-boosters wish otherwise, we do live in the physical world. And not every job can be done virtually.
Luckily, for those who are location-bound, in the venture-backed startup sphere that does tend to come with plenty of perks. For some of the companies in this category in our sample list, benefits beyond the usual coffee and snacks included catered restaurant meals, bonuses and unlimited vacation days.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
Sample list is taken from U.S.-headquartered companies that raised the largest amounts of early-stage funding in the past six months. We selected 20 companies from the top 50, with an eye toward covering a variety of sectors.↩
Fully or predominantly remote companies in some cases offer a physical office or hybrid work as an option.↩
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