For several years, the overriding narrative in tech has been about funding; venture funding, IPOs, and M&A. The obsession with ‘Unicorn’ creation has spread from the US and has become an obsession in the European tech media too.
‘Success’ has become measured by the size of an exit, often with very little thought or consideration to the outcomes for early investors (often washed out by the time a liquidity event happens) or the founders (there are plenty of founders with company exits of hundreds of millions, or billion $ headline exits that leave with very little, or in some cases, nothing).
Leaving aside the lack of financial success in many cases for both founders and the teams they have built, there is increasingly more talk of the effects that driving or riding the rocket ship can have on relationships, mental health and quality of life.
There will be more focus and thoughtful content around different ways of doing things in 2020.
Mental Health/Work-Life Balance
Beyond the sticking plaster of mindfulness exercises and counselling in the workplace, (often the cause of so much angst, stress and personal disruption in the first place), there will be an increasing realisation that, for many people, it doesn’t have to be that way. Founders and employees can find their own path and pursue a career and a life that works for them – why live to work when you can work to live is an old adage that stands the test of time.
There will be more tools that challenge the dominance of, for example, Slack, which encourages people to keep plugged in. Asynchronous group communication tools (like Twist from Doist) will become more accepted and acceptable. There will be a realisation that people don’t do their best work if they are always working.
Not just for ‘lifestyle‘ businesses, remote working is being talked about but there are still lots of issues in the way it is positioned and viewed within high growth companies. This is changing. Large companies – Stripe, Hubspot – are doubling down on remote working. Others – Automattic, Zapier – have reached a size where they can no longer be dismissed as the outliers. They can offer a working environment and a career that is not possible for many when they have to be office based. They’re also increasingly hiring people in locations that are not traditionally considered to be the usual source of remote workers – places where labour is viewed as cheap. San Francisco based Zapier, for example, has made multiple hires from tech behemoths in London, where they consider the talent to be cheap – compared to SF!
Other tech companies are pushing back against the 24/7 & 365 always-on, ‘go big or go home’ culture by exploring different working hours. For example, Wildbit moved from a five day to a four day week in 2018 and their employees get more time to do other things resulting in happier employees and their profits are up.
Every startup is on a mission to change the world. People are getting increasingly savvy about whether this is really true. Mission-driven businesses – the businesses that can truly have an impact on the world – will become more visible.
- Maybe this is my ‘letter to Santa’, something I wish to be true.
- Maybe 2020 will not be the year when every tech headline is dominated by these themes in the same way that every headline for the past 15 years has been a combination of $£ x New Thing (X raises Y for SaaS/ICO/AI/ML) blah blah.
Hopefully, we will see more of it and the world will be a better and smarter place because of it.
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