- Two Sigma Ventures is the venture capital arm of the financial firm Two Sigma.
- TSV is helping some of its portfolio companies make a permanent pivot to virtual work.
- Insider took a look at how four of TSV’s portfolio companies are planning to make the shift.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Depending on whom you talk to on Wall Street, the future of the office can be a very different picture.
Some companies have been sticklers about getting people back to work, while others are adopting a more flexible approach.
Two Sigma Ventures, the venture arm of the financial firm Two Sigma, is helping some of its 60 portfolio companies make the long-term pivot to going remote, and staying that way.
The push for remote work comes as Two Sigma Investments, of which the TSV is a part, is making changes of its own. Two Sigma Investments’ chief technology officer Jeff Wecker said in March that the company’s staffers should anticipate a hybrid model permitting them to work remotely two days per week, Bloomberg reported last month.
As companies in TSV’s portfolio adjust, execs are reexamining how they lead and taking a closer look at perks and benefits they can roll out to make the transition to permanent WFH better.
“Every single one of us who is now managing teams virtually are starting to have to think about, ‘How will I change the way I’ve managed my team now that I’m not face-to-face with them all the time?'” Lindsey Gray, a Two Sigma Ventures partner, told Insider in an interview.
Gray joined TSV in 2016 and leads TSV’s day-to-day operations and support for its portfolio.
“We run a regular peer group for heads of people,” Gray said. “Because we sort of sit at the nexus of 60+ companies, we’re well positioned to see best practices, especially in these things that are evolving and connect dots.”
Gray also addressed the impact that WFH could have on some portco’s bottom lines. She said that companies would naturally reassess their real-estate needs, but that hasn’t had an impact, so far, on how TSV assesses its short- and long-term investments.
“If anything, it has reduced people’s expenses and extended their runway, which is great,” Gray said of the benefits of a distributed workforce. “It just means they have more capital to work with, or longer time before they have to go back to the market to fundraise.”
Insider spoke to the CEOs of four companies in TSV’s portfolio to understand how they see the future of remote work, and learn what they’re doing to create a collaborative spirit, even if employees plan to WFH for good.
Here’s what four portfolio companies are doing as they fully adopt remote work:
Enigma is bringing remote employees together with pop-up ‘Enigma Haus’ rentals in cities across the country.
Total number of employees: 70
Policy: Hybrid model, with a functional headquarters in New York City, but enabling employees to work from anywhere.
At a time when “hybrid” means different things to different HR departments, tech firm Enigma says it’s got the bonafide “hybrid model” down.
“We will always have a main office in New York City, but are fully supportive of anyone wanting to go fully remote,” CEO Hicham Oudghiri told Insider. “We are calling this a true ‘hybrid.'”
Enigma provides data about SMBs in the United States to help small-business lenders underwrite loans, monitor portfolio risk, and improve marketing and sales effectiveness.
The company’s New York offices at 245 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan will remain open for business (the company is hoping to reopen the office by summer), but Oudghiri sees the space moreso as a place for employees to collaborate and socialize.
“You may be single, young, unattached, wanting to travel the world and be a digital nomad. You may be someone who has a family and has parents that are sick somewhere and want to go live by them for a period of time,” Oudghiri said. “Why can’t work accommodate for that flexibly and dynamically?”
One step the company has taken has been to introduce a “2021 Expansion Pack” of wellness benefits, including a $100 stipend for employees to get reimbursed for expenses like fitness equipment, running shoes, massages, and therapy — anything that falls into the health and wellness umbrella. It’s also offered access to five wellness apps: Headspace, Aaptive, Spring Health, Carrot (for fertility and parenthood), and Quit Genius.
For remote employees who are craving togetherness, though, Enigma has piloted the pop-up “Enigma Haus,” hosting a five-day gathering of five employees in Los Angeles in early 2021. The plan involved reserving a large AirBnb rental in the Hollywood Hills and covering all costs during the stay, including transportation and food.
Looking forward, Oudghiri is already eyeing future destinations. This time, employees should toss a bottle of sunscreen into their backpacks before they go.
“We already have plans in the works for another Enigma Haus in Miami and Montauk,” he said.
Replicated is setting up a WFH reimbursement program to comp each employees’ home-office expenses by up to $10,000 per year.
Total number of employees: 50
Policy: Replicated gave up its Los Angeles offices in 2020 and has opted to move toward distributed work altogether.
Replicated is a tech firm that gives software vendors a way to deploy cloud-based applications with greater security and control.
CEO Grant Miller — who left Replicated’s Los Angeles headquarters during the pandemic and has since resettled in Austin, Texas — has adopted a permanent distributed model, hiring employees from anywhere.
The company is rolling out a reimbursement plan that will enable it to spend up to $10,000 per employee, per year on monthly WFH reimbursements. That includes anything related to making the home office better and breaks out to about $833 per month.
“Having gone fully remote,” Miller said, “we feel the burden of providing a great work environment has unfairly shifted to employees, and we want to address that.”
“We can start it now and we’re at five or 10,000 employees, we can still do it because we’ve been doing it from the beginning,” Miller added. “If a big company tries to implement that, it becomes really prohibitive.”
Miller has also looked to keep things light at the tech startup in the midst of a difficult year. He purchased Cameo appearances from saxophonist Kenny G, NBA champion Brian Scalabrine, and “Brady Bunch” actor Barry Williams for the company’s virtual holiday party in 2020.
It’s one example of how Miller has tried to make WFH fun, by asking big names to shout out the hard work his employees have been doing all year.
Flatfile offers employees the chance to work with a designated interior designer to trick out their home workspaces.
Total number of employees: 35 full-time, 11 contractors
Policy: Flatfile has been dispersed since the company was founded in 2018.
Flatfile, a software company focused on helping firms overcome issues around data onboarding, was remote from the very beginning.
During the pandemic, it’s deepened its menu of perks.
The company offers workers up to $10,000 to spend on home office improvements, and, as part of that expense, employees can team up with a designated interior designer to create a personalized home office space that best fits their needs.
“Sometimes, you have to encourage people,” CEO David Boskovic said. “The company can help you out here. You don’t have to carry this burden alone.”
Flatfile’s team can even take advantage of an offering to claim a special rent stipend that covers the cost of an additional 150 square feet (based on real-estate costs in their area), so long as they agree to designate one room in their home as a designated Flatfile-only home office.
More than two-thirds of the company is already using this perk, Boskovic said.
The remote work formula hasn’t proven to be an issue in terms of the company’s growth.
Flatfile announced a $35 million Series A funding round in March, as Insider reported at the time. It now has plans to roughly triple its current full-time staff by hiring for as many as 80 open positions over the coming year.
Tech firm Remote is already predisposed to WFH, given that it helps power other companies’ ability to handle HR-related tasks for distributed work.
Total number of employees: 160
Policy: Remote has had a fully-distributed workforce from the start, and are sticking with it.
To Marcelo Lebre, the chief technology officer at Remote, “people’s productivity is only as high as their state of mind.”
Remote, enables companies to recruit talent from anywhere by offering services to address needs like payroll, benefits, compliance services, and stock options in dozens of countries worldwide.
It’s a single, automated resource for addressing some of the most complicated aspects of human capital management.
The firm has seen intense interest from across the Two Sigma Ventures portfolio throughout the course of the pandemic, Lebre told Insider.
“In Remote’s journey, it went from riding a wave to riding a tsunami,” he said.
Meanwhile, in addition to servicing the remote-work needs of other companies, Remote had to see to the needs of its own workers during the pandemic.
So it gave all of its workers their very own Oculus Quest headsets in the fall of 2020, with the goal of using virtual reality as a way to augment Zoom and other work-collaboration tools, to help bring employees together.
“The future of work is way more than just allowing people to work from home,” Lebre said. “It is ensuring that everyone has a platform to reach the same opportunities.”