Emergence Capital’s Lotti Siniscalco: 4 Key Layers of a Hybrid Work Model
Thesis BriefsEmergence CapitalLotti Siniscalcohybrid workAI/MLEVC List 2022

Terra Nova Insights Team,

Emergence Capital’s Lotti Siniscalco: 4 Key Layers of a Hybrid Work Model



For many industries, the pandemic has forever changed the workplace, hence the need for new and better work tools to help navigate the experience. As companies continue to operate with flexibility, Carlotta “Lotti” Siniscalco, partner at Emergence Capital, evaluates the “hybrid work pyramid of needs,” and dives into 4 key areas: culture & employee engagement, internal communication, the in-office experience, and real estate utilization.


Why is the “hybrid work pyramid of needs” such an important category moving forward?

  • The pandemic redefined how and where people work, highlighting the need for technology solutions that navigate the new ‘normal.’ “Just a few years back, no one thought that many of the hybrid practices that are often commonplace today were even possible,” says Siniscalco. Zoom, for example, spearheaded the stack of technological solutions that made this hybrid structure possible, and “opened peoples eyes to the opportunities surrounding this massive shift,” says Siniscalco.
  • There is no ‘holy grail solution;' while technology will pave the way and bridge some gaps, companies need to approach with a holistic perspective. From real estate utilization to employee engagement, companies need to rethink many aspects of the working “experience” that extend beyond communication tools. “Technology won’t replace the need for great managers,” she says, and managers will need to identify courses of action with the greatest ROI, especially during an economic downturn.

What applications or use cases might be attached to this category?

  • Employee engagement tools will transform culture and foster community. Employee engagement is one the toughest areas to measure, especially as more and more individuals increasingly look for connection and meaning in the workplace. “We think there is room for a new generation of employee engagement tools to serve this difficult problem by leveraging data insights,” says Siniscalco.
  • Communication tools that unite in-office and remote worlds can enable more seamless collaboration. “Companies that are fully remote typically have a culture of documenting all decision making and progress in writing, which results in accurate record-keeping,” she says. “On the other hand, companies with all on-site employees get the benefit of ‘spur of the moment’ collaboration that is essential for creativity and innovation,” she says. Technology that coordinates both synchronous and asynchronous communication can integrate the best features of both work styles.
  • Providers will leverage data to elevate the in-office experience as it becomes a bigger priority. “By collecting data, analyzing our behaviors, and decoding the office social graph, technology might soon tell us who to sit next to and when, which corporate events to attend, and who to grab lunch with, so that we might, after all, look forward to the in-office days.”
  • Tools for reimaging corporate real estate and usage are critical to hybrid work success. “One of the most visible issues for this space is around physical office space, such as coordinating when people are coming in, allocating space efficiently, and identifying how to leverage spare office capacity.” Emerging players in this category are addressing access control, Airbnb style office solutions, sensor & workplace analytics, conference room bookings and internal ops.

What are some of the potential roadblocks?

  • The debate around whether hybrid work models will endure could impact demand for solutions. “Many people believe that the future is hybrid, but you also have people like Elon Musk saying that everyone has to be in the office. There is a greater than zero probability that, by the end of the decade, companies will revert back to fully in-person or remote models. This is a possibly existential risk,” says Siniscalco.
  • As corporations look to cut costs, they may overlook culture & collaboration tools by focusing on solutions with more immediate ROI. It may take a long time to measure the impact of engagement tools. Additionally, economic factors are forcing dollars to areas with the highest and most immediate returns. “I do believe that the longer time goes by, the more this will become a measurable problem. You might not know that you have employee morale crumbling today, but in a few months, it will become painfully apparent if you haven't invested in keeping your workforce motivated and connected,” she says.


“This is our attempt at defining the hybrid work pyramid of needs to help inspire founders to build solutions to address these challenges. Some of these challenges are more foundational and are immediately obvious and pressing, while others will become more burningly apparent over time.” See the thesis article, here.


saidbyblock~ via Zoom & Email correspondence
Lorri Siniscalco

As the pandemic has shown us all too clearly, there are significant benefits to working remotely. But for organizations that straddle the line between fully remote and fully in-person teams – what we call ‘hybrid companies’ – simply adapting existing remote strategies for their needs isn’t enough.

Instead of trying to blend remote and in-person solutions, hybrid companies will need to develop new ways of thinking about the unique challenges they face in managing their teams.

This could include revamping workflows and processes to better suit remote workers, building tools and systems that allow the marriage of in-person and virtual collaboration, and entirely rethinking office spaces. Whatever solutions these companies develop, one thing is clear: the future of work lies in the hands of these hybrid organizations, and we are excited to see where they take us next.

The reason I'm excited about this is that, with everything I've seen so far, hybrid models can optimize the lowest common denominators. The best aspects of remote and in-person work can be converged, and I really believe that technology can make hybrid better than either individual option.

Tackling this space is a big data problem. It will probably be about gathering data through in-person aspects and asynchronous apps and building these things together. Then, you have to build the right triggers, so that the end result is even better than what would be possible from a great manager with the same visibility to these data points and processes.


Q: How are you approaching the time horizon in terms of investing in these categories?

A: “In terms of investing for us, the timing really is now because we are at the emergence point in this space. We are Series A and Series B investors, which means it typically takes 5 to 10 years for a company to come to build what they want to build and start considering an exit.

I get excited in these moments because, while there's a lot of fear and noise, you kind of know that the world is going in that direction. So if you're able to cut through the noise and not get too distracted by what's happening in the short term, you can be thoughtful about what solution the world would need in 7 years.”

Q: Do you think these companies have an argument to make in terms of selling at times of budget cutting and macroeconomic headwinds?

A: “It all depends on time to value and ROI. For things like office space optimization, if you buy a solution that tells you how to properly use your real estate so you don't have to take on a really expensive lease, that's cost saving right off the bat. You don't need to be too creative to figure out how to sell that.

Other things, especially those that relate to culture, I do think they have a longer time to value before you can see what the real savings are. And the reality is that you don't really have a statistical counterpoint. You don't know what would have happened to your culture if you hadn't implemented that tool, you just know where you started from.

Having said that, moments like this in the market are when people start building products that are really needed versus nice to have. In the last few years, we saw a number of companies trying to build in the culture sphere with fairly mixed results. There's not going to be a lot of room for companies that don't have great product market fit. Plus, you always can make the point around retention and productivity, and that happier employees are more connected and more productive.”

Q: What do other market participants often misunderstand about this category?

A: “A lot of people confuse hybrid work with remote work. It's a totally different thing, especially in regards to designing solutions around it. Oftentimes, people just try to plug in a remote solution, but in reality you're ignoring the fact that half of your workforce is not remote. Even the way people talk about and define hybrid models can cause confusion. You can be hybrid if you're having people come to the office 3 days a week, or you can be hybrid because you have a group that's always remote and a group that's always in person. Those are two very different sets of companies with very different problems to solve. I don't think there's enough new examples in the market right now to really understand that piece. It all gets wrapped up in remote work, but that’s too simplistic of a categorization.”


AI/ML could support tools that focus on the ‘science of culture’. “I wouldn’t say that AI will be the only thing that will make many of these tools work. However, at the top of the pyramid, the AI component will matter,” says Siniscalco. “Many years ago, people weren’t sure that you could turn salesmanship into a science. They said it was an art that couldn't be quantified until Salesforce and a lot of other tools came along. While it may be hard to imagine now, AI could help pave the same path for culture.”


Editors note: See Lotti Siniscalco's Hybrid Work Pyramid of Needs thesis article, here.

The 2022 EVC List honors the top 50 rising starts in venture capital. Terra Nova’s Thesis Brief series showcases each investor’s insights and category expertise.

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