When will the first distributed company IPO?

by Ryan Thompson January 26, 2017

Distributed team ipo
At a conference last year, I found myself chatting with a group of tech founders and execs who were all hiring. Most weren’t located in the cities you think of as the traditional tech hubs, and one of their big laments was finding the right talent to fill open positions. Ask just about any silicon valley company, and they’ll be quick to mention a similar challenge hiring great talent.
Of course, working at totally distributed TaxJar, I had to ask the obvious question. “Would you consider hiring remotely?”
The answers ranged from an aghast, “No!” to “Cool idea, but probably wouldn’t work for us.”
While we see our remote team kicking ass every day, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of resistance to the idea of a team without a central office. As we wrote in a previous post, we felt similar pushback from potential investors during TaxJar’s early days.

But I contend that not only are distributed teams the future of work, but that a totally distributed company will IPO before 2020.
Wait, what?
It’s true. To be clear, I don’t have any visibility into any distributed companies on the IPO path, and am not writing this post to speculate about which company that might be. But having worked for several tech companies (with offices), and now our distributed company, I can see the path of distributed companies changing our workforce and daily lives of employees, and it’s fascinating.
I’m already imagining the Wall Street Journal article interviewing the first distributed company that IPOs. It will say something like…

“Being distributed has saved us a LOT of cash”

We saved millions of dollars of rent and utilities alone. In the early days, we were able to put our money to better use, hiring the team we needed to grow faster, and providing employee benefits and perks that went beyond what was “normal” for a company our size. And this hasn’t changed with growth. Less overhead directly led to faster, smarter growth.

“The caliber of our employees is simply unmatched”

Finding great people is the biggest challenge many companies will face. Placing a geographical boundary on hiring exacerbates the challenge. We knew from day one our ultimate success would depend on the quality of the team we would build, so we did everything we could to find the right people.
Sure, a distributed team faces challenges around culture and communication, but what company doesn’t have those challenges? If anything, being distributed has encouraged us to focus on these issues instead of taking them for granted – and we’re better off for it.

“Our execution is masterful”

Ten years ago a distributed company IPO wasn’t possible. But our numbers don’t lie. With collaboration tools available today, our workforce is that much more connected, and we’ve been able to accomplish amazing things. If you surround yourself with the right people, the right processes, and the right tools, in many ways execution as a distributed team is easier.

“We are happy”

We don’t worry about rush hour and our cars don’t break down on the way to work. We don’t worry about having to pick kids up from school, and wondering what our bosses will think when we need time away. We don’t have a dress code and we get to use our own bathrooms. (Hey, it’s the little things…) We don’t have to walk down hallways and up flights of stairs to rush between meetings, only to have to fight over a conference room. We set schedules that work for us and our teams, exercise and vacation when we want, and spend more meaningful time with our families and friends. We’ve discovered a new way to work and we’re not going back.

So there you have it. I’ve put it all out there and predicted the first distributed team IPO by 2020.  Do you agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Start the conversation in the comments!

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