Considering the hybrid workplace, and dealmaking in a pandemic

Even with the business world slowing down during the initial onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year and the move to a hybrid workplace, money still found ways to move around and innovative new companies managed to find the funding that they needed, albeit with very different ways of doing deals and meeting partners. With far fewer in-person meetings, what had once started as “handshake deals” between business leaders had to be discussed and largely consummated over Zoom and other online meeting platforms, forever changing the way business partnerships take shape.

During the inaugural Vyoptaverse conference on collaboration intelligence, two of the modern day leaders in venture capital funding and enterprise-level finance shared some of the details of how they’ve adapted to online meetings and the shift to remote work while doing the same kind of mutually beneficial multimillion-dollar deals that they’ve always carried out.

During the conference’s Fireside Chat session, Vyopta CEO Alfredo Ramirez talked with Saemin Ahn, managing partner of Rakuten Ventures, and Haim Zaltzman, partner with Latham & Watkins LLP about things like the importance of existing business relationships during the pandemic and how the trust built over the years made it possible to conduct transactions remotely that had traditionally involved travel and in-person meetings.

Ahn, who is based in Singapore, said his work looking for startups for possible investment had to initially be done by connecting with well-known colleagues and partners since he wasn’t able to travel to San Francisco, Bangkok or Jakarta to meet with founders or others involved in VC deal flow.

“The initial friction of being able to converse and having to have contact has been removed because the need or the obligation to meet in person, which used to be a very important social contract, is gone now because of this whole situation,” he said. “That’s made all of these transactions very seamless but at the same time, it is providing friction for new connections, for new transactions to happen.”

Zaltzman, one of the worldwide leaders in putting together business financing, said he and his team relied on the best digital meeting and interaction tools they could find to connect with parties in their potential deals and build the trust needed to get everyone onboard.

“Some of the lessons learned is that we we can adjust throughout the world and the technology platform is there,” he said. “It used to be that affluent people said they would never sign a deal without meeting someone in person. Obviously that happened because we had no other choice.”

Talking about the shift to the hybrid workplace, Zaltzman sees the business world moving back toward the office for the most part but with more considerations for flexible work-from-home days if not longer time periods given for some workers who only need to report in person occasionally.

“We think human contact is important and, particularly for our staff and our colleagues and associates, it creates team camaraderie that will push better results. We do believe that connection is there now,” he said. “We’re obviously very cognizant that individuals will have certain yearnings to maybe do a Friday at home, not travel as much, things of that sort. I think we’re going to be very, very flexible but I in terms of coming back, we’re expecting fully to be open and most businesses to be open in the fall.”

Ahn said employers are working to find the balance between delivering on previous levels of success attained during in-office working and giving employees the freedom and flexibility via the hybrid workplace they need to keep from burning out.

“When we talk about the Zoom fatigue or overall, how do we deal with general mental health nobody has really cracked the code on understanding that. That kind of general fatigue also existed before… it just hasn’t been kind of precluded and segmented towards Zoom or general, web interactions,” he said. “Improving general corporate culture is very important but at the same time I see that giving better guidance to managers in terms of how to interact with employees in this new era is so, so critical.”

There’s so much more to learn from Vyoptaverse

Chad Swiatecki

Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.