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Hi friends 👋 ,
Happy Wednesday! In November, I wrote that We’re Never Going Back to the office 9-5, Monday-Friday. After I wrote the article, Dan Doyon introduced me to Flo Crivello, long one of my favorite tech and strategy writers and now the CEO of Teamflow.
Flo responded to the email with two pages about why, while he liked the piece, I wasn’t nearly optimistic enough. I rarely get that feedback; if anything, I get too excited about the topics and companies I write about. But Flo has a vision for what the world will look like when remote work is even better than working in-person, and he built Teamflow to make that vision a reality.
When Flo and I spoke, I knew I wanted to invest — the company hits so many of the themes I write about — and he agreed to open up some room in his 3x oversubscribed seed round for the Not Boring Syndicate. We decided that, since Teamflow (then called Huddle) was in stealth, we’d raise the round quietly within the syndicate, and then send the memo explaining why we invested once the product was ready for showtime.
That day has come. Actually, it came last week, and we were ready to hit send on Thursday until the events at the Capitol captured everyone’s attention and delayed the Product Hunt Launch. Help make this launch day better than the first by supporting Teamflow on PH:
So today, I’m excited to share why I’m so bullish on the Virtual HQ product Flo and team are building. Plus, you can hear for yourself. In a Not Boring first, I interviewed Flo for the Not Boring Podcast to talk about why he built Teamflow, his hiring process, and how he combines strategy and execution.
I believe Teamflow has the potential to be a generational company, and one that in five years, is synonymous with productive, collaborative, and happy remote work. Or as we’ll call it then: work.
Let’s get to it.
Teamflow: Not Boring Memo
When Salesforce acquired Slack, I got really happy at first, and then a little sad. I was happy for the vindication but needed to find a new favorite that checked as many boxes as Slack did for me. Enter Teamflow, a Virtual Workplace startup for hybrid and remote teams that just came out of stealth last Wednesday.
I’m not the only one who’s excited about Teamflow: in December, the Not Boring Syndicate filled a $250,000 allocation in a matter of hours (new record) and the company raised a 3x oversubscribed $3.9 million seed round from a roster of top early stage investors including Menlo Ventures, Elad Gil, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, Balaji Srinivasan and others.
It’s no surprise that investors are so bullish. The founder, Florent Crivello is one of my favorite business writers, a former early engineer and PM for Uber, and a founder I’d bet on eight days a week. If you’ve been reading Not Boring for a while, you should recognize the name. Plus, he’s attacking a trillion dollar market with which I am all too familiar: the office workplace.
As I wrote about in We’re Never Going Back, remote work will unlock the enormous potential previously constrained by geography, give employees more choice and leverage, and bring about second-and-third-order effects that will reshape the world.
But it’s not inevitable. To unlock the full potential of remote work will take relentless effort from talented and passionate entrepreneurs like Flo and buy-in from early adopters like us. Today, Readwise founder and Teamflow co-investor Dan Doyon and I are going to make the case for remote work, and for Teamflow as both the product and the business that will make working online better than working in an office. We’ll cover:
Meet Teamflow. The product offers a glimpse at what remote work should feel like, and a potential meta-layer for work and collaboration tools. And it’s still just in beta.
We Might Be Going Back. A remote-first world is now more likely than ever, but it’s not as inevitable as we very online folk might think. It’s up to early adopters like us to help power through the valley of mismatch (one of my favorite Florent essays).
Flo & Team Teamflow. Teamflow is a bet on Florent Crivello and the all-star cast he’s bringing together, from all over the world. That’s a bet I’m excited to make.
Virality & Moats. Teamflow combines Zoom’s virality with Slack’s moats.
Pardon my French (Flo is Parisian, btw), but it is so fucking cool to see so many ideas I find important come together in one product. If Teamflow is successful, it won’t just ride the remote work wave, it will lead it, making work better, wherever your team is.
The best way to experience Teamflow is to try it yourself. You can signup today, and by joining with the Not Boring Link, Flo will move you up the waitlist:
While you wait, let me do the next best thing: tell you about it using pictures and words.
Teamflow is what remote work should feel like. It’s a virtual HQ where teams can work, meet, and hang out together. It combines video, open spaces, meeting rooms, and tools like docs, whiteboards, video, and images to create a space that feels so much better than a Zoom.
See for yourself. From 9:30-10:30am est, I’ll be hanging out in the Not Boring Teamflow HQ.
Because Teamflow is spatial, it lets users do things that they can’t in Slack, Zoom, or a Google Doc. You can move your Bubbles around the space, pop into conversations with co-workers, or enter closed spaces to have private conversations or meetings. You only hear people who are nearby. You can even click on co-workers to teleport to them.
Just like a physical office, Teamflow lets you leave artifacts in a space -- the Marketing Room, for example, might have a doc with notes on your new campaign, images on the wall, and a whiteboard with the brainstorm from the last meeting. A Zoom room is like an office that the cleaning crew totally empties out at the end of each meeting. A Teamflow HQ persists.
Working in Teamflow brings back the casual face-to-face interactions we miss when we’re not in the office, without bringing back the commute.
Despite not having a “team,” I use Teamflow to create a focused work environment with the things I need for the task at hand. Here’s me watching an interview Flo gave to prepare to interview him.
I have my whiteboard, a scratchpad, my very own desk, and a YouTube video up in an iFrame. Today, there are just a few simple tools integrated, but over time, Teamflow plans to integrate all of the products that teams use to work. The team is currently working on a chat tool à la Slack. Soon, you’ll be able to design in Figma, work on presentations in Pitch, pair code, close the books, and do all of the things companies do today, together, in Teamflow.
Teamflow brings collaboration and communication into one place. In The Arc of Collaboration, Kevin Kwok wrote about the “meta-coordination layer” for work:
There is a need for a layer across all the applications. A layer for things that should be shared across the apps as well collaborative functionality across them.
There is some mix of presence, collaboration, coordination, and identity that should be ubiquitous across whatever apps are being used. A layer more attached to the people doing work and what they’re trying to accomplish—than which specific app they’re in.
That sounds an awful lot like what Flo and the team are building at Teamflow.
In Slack: The Bulls Are Typing…, I wrote that such a product could be a Slack killer. I believe that even more after seeing Teamflow: since it adds a spatial layer to collaboration software, which multiplies the number of potential apps that can be embedded into Teamflow versus Slack.
After I wrote about Slack, Salesforce acquired it for $27.7 billion, both validating the size of Teamflow’s opportunity and making it less likely that Slack develops the meta-coordination layer itself. Have you tried using Salesforce?
That leaves a huge opening for Teamflow, and I actually think that $27.7 billion undersells the opportunity. Slack was born in an office-first world. Teamflow is born in a remote-first era, and remote is poised to become the next big platform shift for enterprises. While Slack’s promise was killing email, if Teamflow is successful, it might take down an even more despised foe: the scheduled meeting.
No unnecessary meetings. All your work tools in one place. No commute. Serendipity.
While the benefits of remote work are potentially immense, a post-COVID remote-first world isn’t guaranteed. It will take products like Teamflow, and people like us to join the movement.
We Might Be Going Back.. Unless We Do Something
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to get to work from home over the past year has gotten a taste of the benefits (and some downsides, but just know that your kids will eventually go back to school). Today, the benefits of remote work are mainly non-work-related: no commute, more time with family, freedom to travel, etc… The work part is still sub-par, though, because we’re using tools designed for an office-first world.
Teamflow is more than an enterprise SaaS product; it’s on a mission to accelerate the transition by making remote work more enjoyable and productive than the physical thing. Flo believes it’s the highest impact return-for-effort he can possibly achieve, because remote work can:
Give everyone 54 minutes a day back in commute time.
Unlock opportunity for everyone.
Create the biggest labor market in the world with hundreds of millions of people.
Make it 10x easier to find a job or hire people.
Make people happier at work.
Teamflow is redesigning what work can be like when physical limitations are removed. The opportunity if they get it right is massive: CEBR estimates a $2.3 trillion (with a T) potential impact to GDP from remote — just in the US.
I assumed, as I wrote in We’re Never Going Back, that since we’ve experienced the positives, a remote-first future is inevitable. My friend, and co-author of this essay, Dan Doyon, agrees that remote can and should be the default mode going forward, but he doesn’t think it’s a given.
Dan's professional profile is somewhat illegible. On one hand, he's spent 15 years in institutional private equity focused on office real estate and currently runs a forward-thinking company in the sector. On the other hand, he's lived nomadically for the past 5 years and built one of my favorite consumer software products, Readwise. As a result of that bizarre mashup, he's thought more about both the future of office and remote work than most will in a lifetime.
After I hit send on the original piece, Dan did two things:
Introduced me to Flo, who he said was building the best virtual HQ product he’s used.
Helped me appreciate an important nuance: remote work is not necessarily inevitable.
Despite the obvious societal benefits of a remote-first world, he thinks We're Never Going Back should have been more accurately titled We Might Be Going Back, and that it’s imperative that we collectively do something about it. Now is our window of opportunity.
Dan argues that while we have known about the benefits of remote work, both societally and for employers and employees, for half a century, we’ve been stuck in an inadequate equilibrium for decades.
What makes an equilibrium inadequate, a fruit that seems to hang tantalizingly low and yet somehow our civilization isn’t plucking, is when there’s a better stable state and we haven’t reached it.
We know that remote gives us two weeks per year back in commute times, that it is more inclusive, both geographically and demographically, that it gives employers access to better talent, and even that it’s good for the environment. But there are powerful forces in favor of in-office work:
Office landlords who would really like this whole work-from-home-thing to be temporary
Ex-Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer who claim that “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”
The simple inertia of doing things the way we’ve always been done.
Until now, they’ve been winning. Remote work grew at only an 8% CAGR between 2005-2014 based on data from the American Community Survey administered by the Census Bureau.
Having worked in the space for a while, Dan knows that the office isn’t going to go down without a fight, so he’s issuing a call-to-action:
If you care about living in a world in which the air is cleaner, cities are livelier, families are closer, women and minorities are enabled, and people are happier, then the next time a traditional corporation, worker, or commercial real estate bagholder tells you that real magic only happens inside the office, take a stand.
There is a movement forming. Tens of millions of people have experienced the benefits of remote work first-hand. Now, inertia is on remote’s side. Teamflow and other remote-first software and tools are going to make an until-now hacked-together experience purposeful and delightful.
But the war is not won, and remote is not inevitable. Any good movement needs the best, brightest, and hungriest to lead. Via Teamflow, remote work has Flo Crivello.
Flo & Team Teamflow
Flo envisions a world in which we eliminate the “drawbacks” of remote work (as compared to office work) and enhance its benefits. People will have more time to do the things they love, find the perfect job for them, collaborate more efficiently, and have fun while doing it. If you just think “Zoom” when you think about remote work, it seems like an impossible task. But software is eating the world; it will eat the office, too.
Luckily for proponents of remote work, and for all of us who want remote work to work better, when Flo wants to make something happen, he doesn’t fuck around.
When he was 16, living in the country in France, he and his dad got into an argument about Flo’s desire to study computer science. They couldn’t come to an agreement, so Flo moved to Paris, where he lived, essentially homeless, in a 120 sqft apartment with eight people for two years. It was an unimaginably risky move that paid off.
Flo went to school for, and got his master’s in, computer science, while working as a software engineer and then founding his own web and mobile consulting agency in Paris. After school, Flo moved to SF, where he spent two years as an iOS engineer, before moving to Uber.
Uber is a company known for hiring entrepreneurial people and giving them autonomy to build, and even among that crowd, Flo stood out. After two years as an engineer working on the Driver App, he co-founded Uber Works, the “Uber for Staffing Agencies,” and grew it to $6 million in ARR and twenty employees within nine months. For a reprise, he launched gig charging for Uber’s Jump division, and saved the company more $20 million per year with a team of thirty people within a year.
After leaving Uber, as he was thinking about what to do next, Flo’s three ideas were: a drone delivery startup, a flying car, and Teamflow. He’s not afraid of problems that others might find impossible.
Plus, he’s building a dream team to make sure Teamflow has an even bigger impact than drones or flying cars would have. He spent two months’ worth of thirteen-hour days interviewing hundreds of engineers and designers to find the absolute best.
When I spoke to him, he admitted that he’s probably the least talented person on the team. He likes it like that. Teamflow has 2 of the 15 core contributors to Pixi.js (one of them ex-core contributor), the world's biggest 2D WebGL Library. They’re in the top 100 worldwide in their field. All six people on the team are absolutely killer.
They’ll need to be. Teamflow is one of the pioneers in the COVID-fueled remote work acceleration. Pioneers, the saying goes, take arrows in their backs. And certainly, as TechCrunch pointed out, there are competitors, and there will be more.
Teamflow’s Strategy: Virality & Moats
Every single time I write about moats, I turn to Flo’s 2018 summary of Hamilton Helmer’s 7 Powers, Mind the Moat. Flo has been my unwitting, unofficial guide through the world of how businesses build and sustain a competitive advantage for a couple of years. It’s not a surprise, then, that he’s building a business that, on paper, has one of the best business models I’ve seen.
Teamflow combines Zoom’s virality with Slack’s moats. In May, I wrote about the perceived trade-off between the two in While Zoom Zooms, Slack Digs Moats. My argument was that while Zoom benefited from ease of adoption in the short-run, it was making a deal with the devil since the customers it acquired could just as easily leave. Easy come, easy go. On the flip side, Slack’s moats made it impossible for it to grow as quickly as Zoom — think about the work that goes into joining a Zoom versus setting a team up on Slack — but those moats also mean that customers stick around and expand with Slack for a long time.
Flo realized that that trade-off is a false dichotomy. To be sure, Teamflow is built to be viral: every time a user invites a teammate or someone outside the org to a meeting in Teamflow, they get someone else to experience the product for themselves. Like Zoom, all it takes is a link, and you’re in. Even better, since Teamflow lives in the browser and doesn’t require an app install, it’s potentially more viral, since less friction should lead to better conversion and more virality.
Unlike Zoom, though, once teams start using Teamflow, it will be very difficult to leave. In that sense, it’s more like Slack. In the parlance of 7 Powers, Teamflow benefits from high switching costs: to use a new product, the entire team would need to switch, and they would lose a lot of the data, integrations, and customizations they’ve built into Teamflow. Counter-intuitively, it might actually be harder to move out of a virtual office than a physical one.
Teamflow also benefits from network effects: the more people who use Teamflow, the more useful it is to each user, because Teamflow is all about getting teams together in the same place. Over time, as Teamflow integrates more apps and products, it may benefit from platform network effects as well. If all of the users are in Teamflow, developers will build for Teamflow, which will attract more users, and so on.
The unlock here, the way that Teamflow has both virality and moats, is that virality should be inter-org, and moats should be intra-org. In other words, new people should be exposed to the product through viral mechanics (like getting invited to a meeting) and see enough benefits in that first encounter that they put in the work to invite their own team and customize their workspace.
It’s early, but the theory seems to be playing out in the numbers: Teamflow has over two thousand companies on the waitlist, and all cohorts of beta users have spent more time in Teamflow each successive week.
Of course, the remote work opportunity isn’t a secret, and a business model this attractive is bound to invite competition.
One advantage that Teamflow has on that front is that it’s the first-to-market with a Virtual HQ product that’s really built for work. Other products that I wrote about in We’re Never Going Back look incredibly promising, but are more focused on the social aspect of work.
The dynamics of a business protected by network effects and switching costs powers depends on capturing the market in its "take-off" period. First-mover advantage is critical.
That’s one of the reasons Flo wanted to get out growing crew of smart, curious Not Boring people involved. We can help make remote work a reality, and give Teamflow a fast start.
What we’ve all experienced together over the past year is remote work in the same way that pop ups and banner ads were a business model for the early internet.
Projecting out the internet economy back then as “more and more pop ups and banner ads,” it would have been easy to deeply underestimate both the size of the opportunity and the quality of the online experience.
Remote work thus far has been like those early ads: a lossy approximation of the offline model, hastily brought online. Despite that, we’ve seen benefits already: no commute, more time for focused work, more time with family. The list goes on.
Imagine what remote work will feel like when we adopt the next generation of products, those designed expressly for a remote-first world and taking advantage of the digital world’s unique opportunities. I believe that Teamflow is one of the companies that will lead this wave of work products. It can become a generational company, led by a founder who will not quit until he makes remote work so much better that it just becomes “work.”
By reading this, you’re one of the first to know about Teamflow. Your team can get ahead of the curve, work better, and begin enjoying the remote work experience, together. And you can be a part of making remote work a permanent reality, helping to usher in unimaginable societal and economic benefits and creative potential.
So how can you join the mission?
First and foremost, start using Teamflow. Teamflow starts at $15/person/mo, or about 2% of the cost of a physical office. By signing up with the Not Boring link, you can move up the waitlist:
You can also help others learn about Teamflow by upvoting it on ProductHunt and commenting with your thoughts:
And when you’ve done both of those things, come join me in Teamflow:
I’m incredibly excited to be an investor, user, and evangelist for Teamflow. I want to keep working from home, ten steps away from Puja and our baby, un my sweatpants. I hope you’ll join me, Flo, and Dan on the journey.
That’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you on Monday.
Thanks for reading,