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Hopin founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat

Courtesy of Hopin


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  • 2020 has been the year of remote working, with coronavirus forcing unprecedented numbers of white-collar workers to leave offices for home set ups. 
  • From video calls to cybersecurity, businesses everywhere have been forced to adapt to the new normal.
  • Business Insider asked some of Europe’s biggest VC investors to pick out the remote work startups which they think are the most exciting after a massive year for the industry. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

COVID-19 has been an accelerant to many industries, from finance through to healthcare, but perhaps no more so than the remote working space.

Companies large and small were forced into what was previously unthinkable — a fully remote workforce.

The trend looks set to become permanent, with one US survey finding two-thirds of firms will be WFH in some form forever. More than 20 blue-chip firms have likewise confirmed permanent remote working in some form, including Google, Microsoft, and Indeed.

That’s led a shakeup in the tech stack that companies rely on, with an uptick in software for video meetings and virtual events, as well as changing requirements around HR software.

Business Insider spoke to nine venture capital investors across Europe, asking them to pick out best startups pushing the remote working revolution forward into 2021. 

Check out their picks below: 

Hopin

Hopin founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat

Hopin


Cited by: Paul Murphy, partner at Northzone

In the Northzone portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $171.4 million

What it does: Hopin, headquartered in London, allows users to host events and conferences online. The company’s business has boomed during the pandemic since most large global events and conferences have moved online. 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “For years, event organizers have recognized that their future needs to be fit for a digital-first world, which is how we came to develop our own investment thesis on the market opportunity for remote solutions that are fundamentally built up with that understanding,” Murphy said.

“Naturally, the global health pandemic accelerated that interest but the journey of hybrid event formats had already started. The most successful up-and-coming platforms supersede traditional video tools by having a laser focus on engagement and user interaction, and I think one of the reasons Hopin is successful at building this product is their remote culture.”

Bear Notes

Bear Notes, a product from Shiny Frog

Shiny Frog


Cited by: Paul Murphy, partner at Northzone

In the Northzone portfolio? No

Total raised: n/a

What it does: Shiny Frog is an app studio that specializes in the web design and development of apps for Mac and iOS devices, particularly Bear Notes, a note-writing service.

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Many investors are pretty bad in terms of what they push people to do with products. With their team of designers spanning across Italy, Ireland, the US, and no VC money, Shiny Frog crafts services that are product-driven, including Bear Notes which is the place I go when I just need to focus on writing.”

Cosmos

Cosmos founders Rahul Goyal and Karan Baweja

Cosmos


Cited by: George Henry, general partner at LocalGlobe

In the LocalGlobe portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $2.6 million

What it does: “Cosmos Video is a virtual venues platform that allows people to work, socialize and hangout together remotely, while still enjoying the energy and collaboration that you’d expect to experience in real time.

“By combining games and chat, the platform creates a relaxed, real-world atmosphere that lends itself to catch ups and kitchen chats with colleagues that we’re all missing.”

Why it’s hot in 2020: “While many startups are trying to tackle the idea of virtual offices since the pandemic, for the founders Rahul Goyal and Karan Baweja, who are Indian immigrants, trying to find a virtual space to spend time with family and friends has been something they’ve been dealing with for years,” Henry said. “This perspective has allowed them to capture the magic of being together and create a solution that allows people to connect across borders. This will be incredibly useful for startups taking advantage of the move to remote work to hire talent from across the globe, big companies wanting to bring international teams together, and communities holding virtual meetups.”

Oyster

Tony Jamous, CEO at Oyster, and Jack Mardack, cofounder at Oyster.

Oyster


Cited by: George Henry, general partner at LocalGlobe, and Sitar Teli, partner at Connect Ventures

In the LocalGlobe portfolio? No

In the Connect portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $4.2 million

What it does: At a time when remote working is the new normal, Oyster enables companies to hire, manage payroll and give local benefits to their full-time employees, wherever they may be in the world. 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “We believe remote working is a trend that’s here to stay as companies realize their employees can be as productive outside of the office, not to mention the benefit of recouping expensive real estate costs,” Henry said. “However, in order for this to be effective, companies need smart tools like Oyster to ensure that teams are supported and can receive the usual benefits and perks without any cross-border friction or pain.”  

Useberry

Useberry cofounder Teo Tokis

Useberry


Cited by: Pietro Bezza, Connect Ventures

In the Connect portfolio? No

Total raised: $250,000

What it does: “Useberry is a codeless prototype analytics where users test feedback and rich analytics.”

Why it’s hot in 2020: “The switch to remote work has seen an explosion in remote usability software. One of my favorites is Useberry, which offers testing tools purposefully built for prototypes. It offers seven types of tests and results, including heat maps, user flows, video recordings, time bars, and timestamp notes.” 

StarLeaf

Mark Richer, StarLeaf CEO

StarLeaf


Cited by: Stan Laurent, partner at Highland Europe

In the Highland Europe portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $40 million

What it does: “StarLeaf enables seamless collaboration through intelligently engineered, reliable meeting room systems, superior PC and mobile-based video conferencing, and secure messaging.”

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Video calls have been one of the most in-demand tools as a result of the pandemic, and Cambridge-founded StarLeaf saw demand increase 10x with customers including NHS trusts, Parliamentary committees and businesses of all sizes needing a secure communications platform,” Laurent said.

“Whilst many have questioned if the demand for video platforms will continue after the arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine, we believe the future of work will be about flexibility, with some staff returning to the office and others staying remote. Demand for universal communications solutions like StarLeaf will only increase.” 

Bubble

Check Warner, Ada Ventures and Join Bubble CEO Ari Last

JoinBubble


Cited by: Stan Laurent, partner at Highland Europe

In the Highland Europe portfolio? No

Total raised: $4 million

What it does: Bubble is an on-demand mobile app that provides trusted, flexible childcare for working parents.  The platform connects parents with babysitters that their friends and family already know and trust. 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Parents have spent at least nine months wishing for some babysitting support and platforms like Bubble have been a godsend — when it’s been legally permitted of course” Laurent said.

“The app verifies a nanny’s qualification and lets parents book a babysitter at 30 minutes’ notice. It doesn’t just come in handy at the weekends – Bubble for Business offers flexible childcare to staff at companies including Uber, TeachFirst and Vitality. For parents who are continuing to work from home or remotely over the next 12 months, Bubble will allow them to be at their most productive, whilst knowing their children are being safely looked after.” 

Remote

Remote’s cofounders Job van der Voort and Marcelo Lebre.

Remote


Cited by: Hannah Seal, Principal at Index Ventures.

In the Index Ventures portfolio? 

Total raised: $46 million

What it does: Based in San Francisco, Remote was founded by two European entrepreneurs to organize payroll and compliance for distributed workforces. 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Remote.com takes care of all the complexity and bureaucracy of hiring workers around the world,” Seal said. “For one monthly fee it handles compliance, tax, benefits, payroll and all other paperwork for companies hiring workers abroad. In a way, Remote is removing country borders allowing companies to access top talent wherever they are, and that has been a very appealing proposition, fuelling Remote’s growth.”

Riff

Riff cofounders Isabel Bescos and Matthew Scheybeler

Riff


Cited by: Hannah Seal, principal at Index Ventures.

In the Index Ventures portfolio? 

Total raised: $1.5 million

What it does: Riff is a voice-first chat tool for teams to communicate when working remotely.

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Riff enables distributed teams to collaborate in real-time,” Seal said. “Riff makes it feel like your team is back in the same room. Less distracting than Slack or Email, and faster than having to schedule and wait for a video call. Riff exists so that your team can regain peak efficiency, whilst keeping track of all the siloed conversations across different platforms.”

Flexa

Flexa cofounders Tim Leppard, Molly Johnson-Jones, Maurice O’Brien, and chief morale officer, Gruff.

Flexa


Cited by: Robert Walsh, managing partner at QVentures

In the QVentures portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $337,000

What it does: Flexa helps companies promote flexible working practices within its hiring process.

Why it’s hot in 2020: “This year, we’ve seen the demand for flexible working accelerate as workplaces are becoming increasingly digitized. Having reviewed a number of HR tech startups for the QVentures pre-seed fund, the Flexa team’s vision for Flexification stood out to us as the seal of approval for candidates looking to find flexible companies that work with their lives and for companies to attract the best talent as the hiring market continues to shift.”

Whereby

Whereby Team

Whereby


Cited by: Robert Walsh, managing partner at QVentures

In the QVentures portfolio? No

Total raised: N/A

What it does: Whereby is a collaboration tool for easy video meetings.

Why it’s hot in 2020: “As people are working remotely, we believe that video technology companies such as Whereby are helping workplaces communicate more effectively. Whereby’s platform allows users to host meetings and collaborate seamlessly which is crucial when so many minutes can be lost to poor connection and UX.”

Element

Element cofounders Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape

Element


Cited by: Itxaso Del Palacio, Notion Capital 

In the Notion portfolio? Yes 

Total raised: $18 millon

What it does: “Element is the leading provider of secure decentralized collaboration solutions, letting governments, companies, teams, and individuals run and control their own secure chat apps rather than being beholden to centralized or unencrypted comms services like Slack, Teams, and WhatsApp.” 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “The firm has raised $18 million so far and has benefited significantly from the global shift towards remote collaboration, providing communications for organizations who don’t want to entrust their data to Facebook, Google, or Slack.” 

Radical

The Radical team.

Cord


Cited by: Itxaso Del Palacio, Notion Capital 

In the Notion portfolio? No

Total raised: Undisclosed 

What it does: “Radical brings collaboration into the software where we actually do work.”

Why it’s hot in 2020: “The concept is simple. Radical allows you to add comments, mentions, and annotations across tools, so teammates can easily get on the same page.” 

Workvivo

Workvivo CEO John Goulding

Workvivo


Cited by: William McQuillan, Frontline Ventures 

In the Frontline portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $16.6 million

What it does: “Workvivo is your Swiss army knife for employee communication, combining an internal social network, employee app, community spaces, and quick links to your existing tools, all in one.” 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Workvivo is a new breed of employee communications platform created for ‘the new normal’. It’s beautifully designed to bring remote teams together, helping companies connect, engage, motivate, recognize, and update their employees, wherever they work from, in ways that traditional tools wouldn’t allow.

“Organizations using Workvivo consistently see much higher levels of employee engagement.” 

Hofy

Hofy cofounder and CEO Sami Bouremoum

Hofy


Cited by: William McQuillan, Frontline Ventures 

In the Frontline portfolio? No

Total raised: Undisclosed

What it does: “Hofy is an online platform that enables businesses to make remote working work in just a couple of clicks. Among other things, Hofy helps you manage health and safety, equipment provisioning, and remote onboarding.” 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “Hofy can deliver extraordinary experiences at home, including remote onboardings. Picture a corporate-branded box arriving your new hire’s home at 8am on their first day.

“When the box is opened, three helium balloons fly out, reading: ‘Welcome to your new job!’ How could they resist tweeting how awesome their first day was?” 

Hiya



Hiya


Cited by: Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Balderton Capital 

In the Balderton portfolio? Yes

Total raised: $18 million

What it does: “Hiya is a developer of a caller identification application designed to offer a better phone experience to mobile users worldwide.”

Why it’s hot in 2020: “The shift to remote work has made Hiya’s voice performance service more critical than ever before. 

“The firm itself has had a distributed workforce for year, so adjusting to remote work was fairly seamless … They’ve also donated to local charities in lieu of holiday parties, and I love how the team look at this opportunity to help those in need during unprecedented times. 

Aura

Aura CEO Hari Ravichandran

Aura


Cited by: Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Balderton Capital 

In the Balderton portfolio? No

Total raised: Undisclosed

What it does: “Aura products offer a powerful shield safeguarding the digital lives of those you love. Their digital threat protection platform unites best-in-class privacy, identity, and security products that enable customers to manage disparate cybersecurity needs with ease and maximum effectiveness.” 

Why it’s hot in 2020: “As we’ve embraced working from home in a year like no other, everyone is living remotely, and all our digital activity is happening from the perceived safety of our homes. 

“Unfortunately, identity thieves and fraudsters are taking advantage. That’s why Aura is special. Trusted by millions of customers, Aura is a technology company dedicated to simplifying digital security for consumers.” 

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