News & Views

 

Looking into the Future of Work, Workforce & Workplace

After we wrote  this in depth post – we talked with Coda founder Shishir Mehrotra about the Future of Work and  he had some great insights.  So we did a podcast.  We embedded it at the bottom but you can also find it anywhere you get podcasts. Season 3, EP 12 of Founded and Funded

Massive, enduring shifts happen infrequently. Modern examples include the advent of high-speed internet, the mobile phone, and cloud computing. Each of these innovations created monumental shifts in how businesses are run, and how people go about their daily lives. Today, we are seeing an entirely new force at play driving that shift: a global pandemic.

The effects will be lasting. In many ways, they already are. In order to survive, businesses have had to adapt to new realities that would have otherwise taken years: continuing to acquire and serve customers as well as attract, manage, and support employees absent of the physical presence of an office or storefront. In the blink of an eye, millions of companies, people, and jobs shifted to working online and remotely. It was a shocking predicament that, just a few years ago, would hardly have been possible. At the all-virtual EmTech Next conference in June, Stuart Butterfield said, “If you asked any CEO before (the pandemic) with more than 100 employees, ‘Could you get your whole org working remotely within the space of a week?’, they would have said no… And yet, they did it.”

To be clear, the future of work was not created by COVID-19. Many, if not all, of these trends existed before. But – the current global climate has dramatically accelerated the adoption of new technologies in all aspects of work and ushered us into this new era.

Now that the proverbial band aid has been ripped off, it is imperative that organizations think more strategically and long term about what the future of work will look like. What tools and processes will be needed to sustain and grow within these new ways of working? Embracing the future of work will require leaders everywhere to operate differently and enable their employees with the right tools to get the job done. There are massive opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups to build the next wave of platforms and tools to support these new ways of working – and we want to fund those opportunities.

But first of all, what does the “Future of Work” mean?
The future of work has strong ramifications on the workplace, workforce, and the nature of work itself.

(1) The workplace, or physical office as we know it, has undergone a massive change. With the sudden onset of COVID-19 cases, workers and companies have been forced at the drop of a hat to learn how to accomplish things that traditionally relied on in-person interaction as physical businesses and offices closed and extended social isolation swept the country. This has led to a surge in usage of cloud-based software tools that allow for what we call ‘multiplayer collaboration.’ These tools enable synchronous and asynchronous collaboration across teams, managers, and customers.

(2) The workforce is also changing. Not only do we now see physically distributed workers en masse, but companies are also thinking about the make-up of their workforce very differently than they did 10 or 20 years ago. Companies are using fluctuating blends of full time, seasonal, contract-based, and gig-economy workers as the needs of their businesses evolve. There need to be new HR and people management tools that can adapt to serving these different worker types and allow management to have better visibility and actionability across the entire workforce.

(3) Finally, the work itself has changed. We are seeing unprecedented levels of business and robotic process automation (RPA) across the board, from back office to customer success functions, marketing and finance. There need to be tools that enable digital-first workflows to augment existing tasks via automation and increase productivity via digital-first platforms.

We’re excited to see so much activity in this space, even in the last few months. In the following sections we dive into these three pillars in more detail, but we’d love to hear your thoughts as well – How are you thinking about the Future of Work? Have a vision to shape this next era? Let’s talk!

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The Future of Workplace: Multiplayer Collaboration

We believe that the future of the workplace will be more collaborative than ever, especially because of this new distributed nature. The workforce of the future will look different across employers — from fully remote to on-site only to a fluid combination of the two. This will lead to a “flipped workplace” model whereby more work is accomplished at home rather than at the office, and these teams will need tools to be more flexible and powerful than ever before.

Legacy applications are primarily built for “single player” usage. Think: Microsoft Word and Excel. These are powerful applications, but they don’t enable real-time, collaborative engagement. The future of work is built around software for multiplayer use cases. Continuing to use Microsoft as an example (although you could make the same arguments for Google), we see many startups today attacking different elements of the Office 365 ecosystem, reimagining productivity and introducing new, collaborative capabilities. Below are a few examples of companies doing this today and the strategies that are leading them to becoming breakout category-winners.

We believe there will be opportunities to build many more “multiplayer-first” productivity applications, and here are some of the attributes we expect to see: 1) Relentless focus on reducing the amount of friction created by working with someone digitally, and distantly. 2) Powerful “low code” capabilities, such as the ability to integrate with 3rd party apps. 3) Simple, intuitive, and flexible user interfaces that appeal to technical and non-technical users.

The Future of Workforce: Distributed and Diverse

Tomorrow’s HR and recruiting departments and even first-line people managers will need better tools to attract, hire and manage a more distributed set of workers of diverse types that range from full time to contract to gig economy. There need to be specialized tools and capabilities that provide these managers advanced search, management and analytics workflows. On the worker side, there will need to be better tools and offerings for facilitated and self-learning, to become better at the job in a fast-paced environment as well as to more easily learn the skills of tomorrow as organizations and their needs grow.

Recruiters need more powerful capabilities to see and reach specialized candidates at scale. We believe the users of these tools can be flexible — whether an in-house recruiting team or specialized recruitment agencies. One such example of a new solution in the market is SeekOut, a Madrona portfolio company. SeekOut is a talent search engine that pulls from multiple sources to surface the best talent. They are applying modern AI and algorithms to people’s information, helping recruiters turn what would have been an 8-hour manual search process into a 5-min process with the click of a button.

In terms of managing and retaining employees, we believe a renewed focus will be necessary in helping the organization more intelligently understand and connect with its employees, manage them using smart tools, and help these employees grow the skill sets needed for the roles of today and the roles of tomorrow. Uplevel is an engineering effectiveness management tool which uses work data from calendar meetings, Slack, GitHub, and others to help understand what conditions lead to engineers being their most productive (E.g., achieving deep work time) and making recommendations for how to minimize distractions and disruptions.  Polly is a specialized survey software tool used inside of Microsoft Teams and Slack that helps teams better communicate. These tools are built with the worker and manager in mind to better enable teams to communicate, collaborate, and get work done virtually.

The other important angle of managing and retaining is training – how to empower and upskill your employees so that they can perform at their best level today and be better prepared for their job tomorrow. The demand for certain roles and skill sets that were in high demand 10 years ago are fading, and in turn seeing the demand rise for other roles and skills, such as cloud computing management, sales leadership, and analysis. Go1 is a portfolio company of ours that delivers an aggregator platform for online education and training. It works with hundreds of companies to house thousands of courses in its learning library and is scaling up to be the de facto next-gen learning solution.

The Future of Work: Digital-first Workflows

The flipped workplace model, where more people are doing work out of the office and away from their teams, is accelerating the trend toward all-digital and automated workflows and processes. A byproduct of this is the opportunity to leverage automation and augmentation into different tasks and processes to improve efficiency, accuracy, and speed. We see this trend happening across many functions including the back office, finance, customer success, and more.

There are a multitude of opportunities to create these newer, nimbler, and smarter workflows. Looking at specific functions or departments, SAP SuccessFactors and Workday have been stalwarts of back office management. Today, newer tools such as Moveworks which uses automation and augmentation to speed the time it takes to fix IT issues. Finance and accounting departments are also seeing a significant explosion of new tools to replace the manual usage of PDFs, Excel, and Salesforce. Some of these tools include Tesorio, a Madrona portfolio company, that help finance leadership have better visibility into AR collection and cash forecasting, among other things. Cross-functionally, there are a number of powerhouse automation and augmentation tools that have matured over the past several years and are perfectly developed for new businesses looking to add general automated workflow capabilities to their businesses. UiPath, another Madrona portfolio company, is incredibly powerful in this regard with RPA processes for anything from human resources to legal to healthcare payers.

In Conclusion

These digital-first, collaborative, and smart tools that augment workers’ and leadership’s ability to collaborate, allow for better management and development of teams, and enable a new kind of leverage via automated and augmented workflows are a necessity now and in the future. Given the rapid shift happening as a result of the “flipped workplace,” there is an incredible amount of new opportunities for the tools and platforms of tomorrow to be built today.

The new way of working is here. Let’s embrace it together!

 

 

Transcript

 

Erika: [00:00:00] Welcome to Founder and Funded. This is Erika Shaffer with Madrona Venture Group. And we’re back for a  podcast that is a continuation of the conversation with Shishir Mehrotra, the CEO and founder of Coda, a company we recently invested in. And they are in the future of work space. And in this discussion with Elisa La Cava and Soma from Madrona,  they talk about the market conditions that made it perfect for Coda and frankly, for several other companies that are in this space to start expanding now. They talk about the all-in-one workspace. The fact that users are much more sophisticated. And how COVID has really impacted the growth or sudden growth as it appears of these companies. It’s a really interesting conversation with some great insights, including a reference to fixing your own sink, but not going to Home Depot. And I urge you to listen.

We start off with Elisa asking a question of Shishir.

Elisa La Cava: [00:01:11] Okay. Future of work. We have alluded to this several times so far. but this is a big theme that we definitely believe in at Madrona and obviously Shishir you had an early conviction on this years ago when you founded Coda. And in general, future of work, it’s not driven by, but absolutely accelerated by COVID and what we’re seeing today and how we’ve thought about future of work so far is breaking it down into three categories. So the future of the work itself, and then the workforce and the people involved. And then the workplace, the office. So things such as digital first workflows embracing remote work environments. Although you just talked about how you don’t like the word remote, which I appreciate, multiplayer collaboration, learning tools, different automation, all of these things are rapidly being innovated on and adopted by a tons of different companies over the past four or five months.

And so we’re looking at, what does this look like moving forward? Like for example, some of the tech companies today, Amazon is doing extended work from home through January of 2021. Google just announced that extending through summer of 2021, and then Zillow here in our backyard in Seattle, just announced today that they’re offering flexibility for most employees to work from home indefinitely.

So we’re seeing some huge, serious shifts. And along the way, habits are forming and new norms of business are hardening. Just wanted to get your sense on some of the enduring repercussions of this work from home lifestyle that we’re having now in terms of how businesses will continue, but also, how do you think they’ll adjust once we have a vaccine, how much snapback will there be towards this previous life we all lived versus what we’re getting used to today?

Shishir Mehrotra: [00:03:06] It’s a great question. I like that. I like the framework workforce workplace. I like that. And maybe we can take them in reverse order. I think the, how much snapback will we see one observation at Coda we’ve had about 10% of the employee base move, their physical homes and the last four months that we’ve been in this process.

and, yeah, it’s, I don’t know. I actually, I have no idea what the status is for others. Yeah. I know that, for many people they looked up and said, Hey, I’m, working from home. It seems to be working anyway. And I’d rather live closer to family or live closer to, a friend or a family member or maybe my spouse’s job is taking me somewhere or there’s lots of reasons why people do that?

My co founder moved to Idaho. He lives on a ranch there, which to me sounds like a total pain in the butt, but to his family, they absolutely love it.  And so I think will it snap back. I think some portion of it won’t be possible. It is clearly the case that many of these companies in this period who’ve now hired remotely, onboarded remotely.

We all now have employees that we’ve never met in person and it’s going to be super hard. I was thinking about. I do this new hire orientation, with every new batch of employees and as going to the new batch. And I realized as I was starting to call us, I have no idea where these people live.

Like I forgot to ask, like it, it just didn’t seem to, didn’t seem to be relevant. and a couple of the people said, I live here now, but I think I’m moving here next. and it was like, it wasn’t like location is going to become more transient. So I think in terms of the, maybe this is the workforce.

A piece of this, not only do I think people will see more distributed teams. I think those people are going to start making life choices differently and if you just think about how much of our lives are shaped by being close to work. The all sorts of choices come out of that and the way schools work and the way houses work.

And I think that being uncoupled, the number of relationships that breakup when one of the spouses has to be one of the partners has to move, because of their work or so on. All of those things are not really good for society. People who are forced to spend all their money on housing, when their income can’t necessarily support it.

Cause they have no easy way to move to the right place. There’s a lot of badness to that. So I think we’re headed to that will be all permanent. And I don’t think it’s going to be easy to snap back and I think that’s a good thing. I think the workplace maybe to go to your third one. I think we’re going to see workplaces that form a very different function for people. We were talking a little bit about why Coda is distributed and so on. I gave this principle, I think the distributed companies that do this well, lean into the pros because those, the pros are being distributed.

Make them a better company, even when they’re centralized, just to give like an easy, or maybe a pithy way to say this is. I think today you’ll a very frequent phrase will be something like I come into work for the important meetings I had and I think that’s going to be reversed. And I think what we’re going to find is the important meetings are actually the ones where you can give the best tools and the best utilities to be able to manage them distributed and were actually really important to be able to do them in a timely way.

So waiting for everybody to be in person is going to make no sense. And we can all get, we can all get together or get on a video conference so on. We can use tools like Coda and so on to be able to, solicit opinions, understand what people are feeling and you can structure those things. The thing you can’t do very easily when you’re remote is actually the less important things and the team building and the bonding, it’s an, all the basics of what allows us to work together as humans.

And I think what we’re going to find is that the times you get the team together. We do something at Coda. We’ve done it since the start is, we get the entire company together four times a year. At Google, as a team got bigger it got down to two times a year, but the Coda we’ve been able to do it four times a year.

And, we timed them around hackathons. And so we get the team together. The whole company does a hackathon. Everybody intermixes, you work on a team of people that you’ve never really worked with before, you build a new thing. You’re in creative mode. We do some form of fun bonding activities as part of that, we went to this blacksmith shop and we all made um, what are those things? We made bottle openers and, we’ve done all sorts of fun things,

And interestingly, as we’ve been remote and everybody’s been distributed in the way we are now. Now the thing we miss is all getting together for the board meeting or for the staff meeting or so on, the thing we miss is, man, it really sucks to have hackathons be distributed. And so I think we’re going to find that, workforce is gonna spread all over the place and the workplace is going to be the place we come together.

For those less important things. And I think finding the right reasons to do that in the right excuses to do that, I think will be really important. So I think that’s interesting, changes your way of thinking about the office space and how many desks do I need and what’s the role of that.

And I think we’re going to see a lot of changes there. And I think if I go back to the first one, the future of work, I think the big shift that’ll happen. Is I think that, and this is maybe leaning a little bit into Coda. We talk a lot about, as part of the Coda mission, we talk about what we call the maker generation and the, maybe I’ll step back for a moment and just explain what I mean by that.

So I joined YouTube in 2008. The first time I had to give a public talk about YouTube was early 2009. I gave a talk in New York where I was asked to talk about the future of YouTube. And I use this line that I ended up using a lot over the course of the next decade, but this line that was, at the time, somewhat new.

And I said, online video is going to do to cable what cable did to broadcast. And we’re going to go from three channels to 300 channels to 3 million channels. And this is 2009 and I almost got laughed out of the room. People looked at it and said, what are you talking about? Like this site, you have to remember this timeframe YouTubes competition was seen as Flickr. It was seen as MySpace like that. That’s who we were in competition with. I get up and I talk about, online video is going to do to cable what cable did to broadcast and people’s view of it was how could you possibly compare this site where people post pictures of their cat doing stupid things to Disney and ESPN like that seems nonsensical.

And of course now when I make that statement, everybody nods their heads and says that’s of course exactly what happened. and, online video did the cable, what cable did to broadcast. We went from a three channels to 300 channels to 3 million channels. So the thing that people missed in that and that arc was they underestimated human ingenuity.

And the people’s presumption was in order to be a great, content producer. You have to live in LA and you have to go to USC film school. There’s all these Gates that were put in place of what it is took to make content that was at this point, this caliber. So I get asked a lot about, and sometimes people ask me, how’d you go from YouTube to Coda?

They seem like so different. Like one’s a big consumer product, in the media space and Coda feels like so different in the productivity space. Like in my head, it’s a completely linear shot. It’s exactly. I’m always working on an extension of the same mission because in my view, what we’re doing with Coda is we’re going to do to software.

What YouTube did to  video, and we’re going to see the same thing happen. And it’s the same almost seems like the same level of craziness when I say that and I say the next Salesforce. So I’m like, where are those? What is going to happen in the next generation of those companies?

I think they’re going to be formed by people that don’t feel at all like today’s software developers. And we’re going to see where we are in that arc of broadcast cable, online video, we are in that cable generation of software. And, we had the broadcast generation that was, you used to buy SAP and you bought the 400 modules of SAP and it ran everything in your entire enterprise.

And right now we have thousands of SaaS apps and we have 4 million apps in the app, the store, and it seems like that’s enough. Like, why would you need one of the 300 cable channels? Why would you possibly need more than the 10,000 apps we have in the 4 million apps we have in the app store? And I think when I hear that, all I hear is you’re misunderstanding the potential of these makers.

And so I think these people are going to end up building things that are going to surprise us. They’re going to often feel small in their initial purpose, but in aggregate, they’re going to, they’re going to add up to two a lot more than that. And so that’s why, and I think that’s all part of the same thing.

People are gonna live where they want, they’re going to come into work when it’s not important, not when, not for the important meeting and they’re  not going to be handed tools. They’re going to craft all the tools that they use to do their job and to run their families and so on.

And I do that as all one continuous trend is we’re going to see a great empowering of, of the world’s population.

Elisa La Cava: [00:11:27] That was beautifully put I’m floored after this is published. I’m going to go back and listen to that again, because he just said so much in one condensed piece.

I love it. We should slow it down for our listeners. I, you struck me, when we think about this next gen and future of work, or really even future of life, what are some of these. Favorite tools that you use or next gen tools that you use either on your computer or your phone, other than Coda, of course, to get things done.

Do life today, do work today, do work tomorrow, do life tomorrow.

Shishir Mehrotra: It’s a great question. I was commenting to my, to my daughter. She said, you’ve worked at three companies in a row. where 90% of the tools you use are made by the company you work at is Microsoft, Google, Coda. So it’s a big change.

Actually, I remember going from Microsoft to Google and thinking, how am I going to give up outlook and Excel and so on? And it was actually like high on my list. It’s what am I going to do with all these new products? And, and nowadays I watched people join Coda and they go through this process of what you really do all of that and Coda like that.

So I think you’d probably be surprised at how much we do in Coda and run much of the company that way and much of our lives that way. That said, I think, of course I have lots of favorite products and I’m a product lover at heart. And I get to, sometimes even participate as an investor advisor.

So on, in different products. Let’s see a few that I think I could mention one that came to mind immediately as a tool called Figma. Figma is a, for people who don’t know, it’s an online design tool. It’s basically like Google docs meets Photoshop or Google docs meets Sketch. And I think, I think it’s a really awesome tool.

It turned out that we’ve been using them actually since, since about 2015. And I didn’t know this at the time, but Dylan told me later is apparently we were their first customer. And so they kinda got mad at him when he told me that I thought everybody was using Figma, but that’s okay.

But it’s a great example of a tool that is built cloud first web first and with a different set of modalities. So that’s one example. I’ll pick one in a very different space. I’m a pretty loyal Superhuman user, Superhuman, a new email client and a, probably not surprising a power user of email.

And I expect a lot of my software there. And I think Raul and team have done a really nice job crafting a great piece of software, for rethinking an experience that we mostly have, I’ve seen stagnate for a long time. So those are a couple that I think get a lot of usage out of me.

Soma: [00:13:55] That’s great Shishir.

You had mentioned in one of your earlier comments that, in the last, say three decades or four decades, the core metaphor for the productivity tools that the world is used to hasn’t changed much. But I wouldn’t say from a different perspective, particularly the last few years, there’s been a tremendous resurgence of innovation in the productivity tool space.

You mentioned Figma, you mentioned Superhuman. I can talk about Smartsheet. I can talk about Apptable. I can talk about Notion. I can talk about Coda. There’s all these sort of tools and companies that have trained to reimagine what productivity could look like in today’s day and age.

Okay, among all these sort of tools and know the competitive landscape, what do you see as Coda’s unique value proposition both today, but more important in the future, as you think about all the future of work constructs that we’ve been talking about for a little while now.

Shishir Mehrotra: [00:14:48] Yeah. Just to reflect on the first part of the observation for a moment.

It really feels like a Renaissance of tools.  I’m not always sure why that happens, that all of a sudden, there was a set of social network started at the same time. And those, it’s the world kind of lines up that way and some of it is ecosystem shifts. Yes.

Some of it is like a lot of people come to the same conclusion, the same time in this case, I think. the cloud is clearly a part of it and that, the fact that everything can actually be built web first and so on allows for a new class of tools to emerge. But that isn’t that new. Some of these things could have been built earlier.

I think a lot of it is, the ways teams are operating has changed, an empowerment culture is different and the same, the same metaphor I just gave of makers building their tools. And so on would have sounded terrifying a few years back. And now it seems like somewhere between obvious and empowering, as you think about, as you think about teams, and so I think some of this like cultural shift, I think that sometimes some mechanical shifts, like I think one big benefit that has helped Coda a lot is the shift away from file formats. It is really important if that kept a lock on being able to innovate in the productivity space for a long time.

If you look back at 40 years of innovation there, everybody, there had to be backwards compatible with the last player. Because they had to be able to import and export with a lot from the last player. And that was like a key piece of why you think Apple, for example, Apple built Numbers, Pages and Keynote.

Three of, I think actually, some of the most interesting innovations in the space and that each of those products did things a little bit differently, and none of them really took. And that is, in my mind, the reason it’s obvious if you use Numbers and you built a spreadsheet of numbers, you had to know when you sent to someone that they not only had numbers, but they had a Mac.

And it was like very hard to guarantee that for, is that okay? What do I do? I go use Excel. And you fall backwards into these things. So I think there’s, these moments of Renaissance are often like a collision of different forces all happen at once and we’re used to the web and we’re ready for empowerment, and we’re not stuck with this file formats.

We don’t have to be backwards compatible and so on. And now you can start again and now you can think fresh. So our view of the world and what’s unique about our perspective. And, I think, I think it’s working so far, we use this phrase a lot that we believe anyone can make a doc as powerful as an app.

You can break that into two parts and talk about the doc part in the app part. And you’ll get to what are interesting. opportunity is, but also what are, what the interesting product challenges Coda starts as a document it’s as familiar as you can get. It’s a blinking cursor blank screen.

If you’ve ever used anything from Word and Notepad to Google docs. You probably immediately know how to use Coda and open it up, start taking notes for your meeting, having one on one with your boss, whatever you might need. And if people want to know where the name Coda comes from, if you spell it backwards, it’s just a doc.

and this is super important for how we think about a Coda. I think I use the analogy a lot. I call it the Home Depot analogy, which is, think about last time, something, sometime something broke in your house and what does everybody’s first instinct? What do they do? They go, and they get whatever’s in their toolbox and they go try to fix it.

And before you know it, you’ve got a screwdriver down your drain. And what you probably should have done has gone to Home Depot and get the proper tool for the job. But you didn’t do that. You use the tool that was right next to you and you just made it work. And if you think about that and you say you didn’t go back to my observations for Coda, we say that the world runs on docs, not apps.

Why does the world run on docs not apps? And the answers sometimes, but usually the answer is, I started with the doc and I just never stopped. And, before I knew it, my use case grew and grew and grew. And that idea of unbounded expansion is a thing that we lean heavily into is we’re going to start, with as simple, a metaphor as possible.

And one that is correct slightly intuitive, and then we’ll let you discover over time how that can expand and how that can grow. And so I think that’s one really important part of code his approach is a very familiar, starting point a document. that can grow with you at the other end of the spectrum.

We say anyone can make a doc as powerful as an app, and you can take the building blocks of Coda and you can gradually build anything with it. The building block metaphor is a very powerful to me. I love Legos. My daughters are on this Lego robotics team.

They’ve actually gone, they placed in the world championships two out of the last four years. This year, they couldn’t go because COVID. And I just love Legos. it’s the history of that product is just amazing. And the precision of which they’re built and pieces that were made in the 1960s still fit with the pieces that are made, today.

And it fit exactly what like 10 micron precision, and, and the reason they’re amazing is each piece is individually, Powerful understandable so on, but it’s how they fit together that is really amazing. And so our viewpoint on Coda is it’s a familiar document and anybody can get started and can get moving, but its building blocks are intentionally constructed so that they fit well together.

And as you learn one concept and then you learn concept A and then you learn concept B and then you don’t learn a concept C what you learn is A and B work together and now you can build something that has a multiplying effect. That I think is if you talk to our users and especially get to users who are really in love with Coda, what they’ll talk about this feeling of opportunity, this feeling of I can do anything and that feeling of empowerment and so on. And I love that feeling if I think about the two things that is unique in our approach, you could make a doc as powerful as an app. It’s we have to be as simple as a doc, as familiar as a doc. And we have to have the building blocks that allow you to build anything that you can imagine. And that’s two parts of our philosophy.

Soma: [00:20:17] That’s great. That’s a succinct way of describing like what, what is unique about Coda and more importantly, why we are excited to be part of the Coda journey. The world and if I look at the world today, on the one hand you got established companies like Microsoft and Google that have got a like meaningful play in the productivity tool space.

And then you’ve got the new age companies, like Coda and Notion, Figma  and things like that are all playing in the productivity tool space. If you take out your crystal ball and think about Hey, what does the world look like from a productivity tool space in the next three years, in the next five years, in the next 10 years, how do you think the world is going to reimagine the space and what can consumers expect?

Shishir Mehrotra: [00:20:59] That’s a great question and I’ll, I’ll try not to give an entirely Coda biased view of the answer. In any industry that has been stagnant for a long time, the level of innovation can often be astounding and pick an old space that you and I have worked in like the database space.

It was years of Cod wrote his book in the 1970s and every database did the exact same thing for 30 years and the idea of a no SQL database. And so it’s like unheard of, and now we have like new companies forming in this space all the time and things like Snowflake and so on are all coming out.

And so I think sometimes once the dam breaks and you say, Hey, you can do a different, we’ll probably see things that we can’t imagine. And so this sort of, that’s my escape hatch answer. I don’t know. I think there’s, I think we’re going to see some things. I’m not sure I can picture them all. There’s a few things I do think we’ll see if I had to pick two themes.

One is, I think the all-in-one workspace, the all-in-one doc. I do think we’re going to see the traditional boundaries, go away. And I, if you asked today, if you ask a user today, Okay. You use office, what’s your most frustrating moment? A lot of times it will be the new doc moment.

It’s the, I’m starting this thing. Is this a document? Is this a spreadsheet? Is this a presentation? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure we have to present it to my boss at some point. So I guess it should be a presentation, but I’m pretty sure I need to do some calculations. So maybe it should be a spreadsheet, but actually I want to write my thoughts out and no, maybe it should be a doc and now you’re stuck and you can’t really, you can’t really pick.

It’s a very artificial way to look at the world. and it’s if you look historically, the reason is because every one of those products was built with a goal of replacing a physical artifact with a digital metaphor. And we were replacing a typewriter, the professor’s slides and the, and the accountant’s ledger.

And that’s nobody has any idea. My kids have never used a typewriter and I have no idea what an accountant’s ledger is or what an actual slide is. Those are not terms that are important. And so I think one view of it is I think we’re going to see a convergence of tools. And maybe back to your question on bundling and so on, I don’t think people want those boundaries and if you can find ways to seamlessly blend them, then then I think that will become part of the expectation.

That’s one important thing.

And then the other one I think is I think we’re going to see tools with a more sophisticated view of their users. And yeah, what I mean by that is the world oscillates between treating our users and our, our customers, they’re helpless. And our job is to hand you things that, don’t let you make any mistakes and we’ll never let you break anything.

And you can only do it this one way. And so on. I’ve found the perfect way to do it. I think we’re going to see an oscillation back and we’re going to see tools that embrace this thing. I call the maker generation. We’re going to see tools that expect to be customized, expect to be integrated, expect to be, brought to life in a different way.

And I, I think if you think about building a company these days, I think it leads to a completely different model for how you approach software deployments and so on. A lot of times we classify companies as either being, top-down sold or bottoms up sold. And like the top down sell sold products are, I build a product, I have the best way to run an HR team and I have the best way to run your finance organization.

And I just, the way I sell it is I find the vice president of whatever that division is and I bombard their inbox and I hope and hope that they call me back and try my product and I can give them a demo and so on. And that’s one class company and it’s a totally different class of companies that starts with the, every user and says, I’m going to, you’re going to use Dropbox because you’re storing your pictures for your family, and then you’re going to gradually bring it into your workplace and so on.

And this, the true bottoms up products, I think we’re seeking to see a generation of products that I call maker first. And now you are looking for an influential person, but their influence isn’t defined by their job title. Their influence is defined by the way they operate in their team. And I think if you ask people, who are the makers and your team, and, interestingly, like people will answer the question very fast.

And they’ll say, Oh yeah, who’s the person that plans the camping trip or plans that figures out how to do the, the task tracking for this new project or, in your household, who is the one that the plants and explication, an interesting observation is, it could easily be the CEO.

It could be the executive assistant. It could be the sales person. It could be the sales leader. It could be, the parent or the kid. It could be the teacher or the student. This who is the maker is like really challenging to find. And I think right now, like all these companies battle to get into the VP of HR is inbox.

And all of a sudden, we’re all going to battle call to get in front of this person who is the software developer of the future. And this is the person. And then even, code, obviously this is a big piece of our product is designed for that person, but even products that are not necessarily. Obviously designed for that person are going to find that their ability to be successful is going to be that way.

Picks them up, brings our product to life, integrates it with the right systems at their workplace, recrafts the workflow to fit in with how the team is working figures out their use case that really justifies itself it’s deployment and then brings it to life in a company. I think we’re gonna see lots of innovation, dam is broken.

I think, I think traditional boundaries will get broken down and I think that we’re going to see companies that, sell maker first, as being much more successful.

Soma: [00:26:14] Shishir, I can probably keep talking to you for the next 14 hours at least because you’re hit a fascinating guy with a lot of great sort of perspectives and comments.

But I do want to be respectful of your time and, it’s been an awesome conversation. And, thank you for sharing your perspectives and feedback on a variety of topics. It’s been a pleasure to host you on the Madrona Founded and Funded podcast series. So thank you for taking the time and being here with us.

Shishir Mehrotra: [00:26:42] All right. Thank you. This was a lot of fun, lots of great questions and a great exploration.

Soma: Thank you.

Erika: [00:26:50] thanks for joining us on Founded and Funded. Please continue to tune in and send us feedback. If you want to send feedback directly to me, I’m erika(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)madrona.com. That’s E R I K A at madrona.com. I’d love to hear from you. Thank you and talk soon.