The Quest for the Remote Unicorn
This article was originally published in the August/September 2020 edition of Playboy Slovenia
2020 has brought many new things to us all. From understanding the importance of social distancing to caring for your neighbors to appreciating the freedom of being able to travel. But one thing that we know is going to have a global impact for years to come is the rise of the remote worker.
The ability to do your job from home, not having to spend time traveling into an office every day and being more flexible with the time you actually spend working. Who wouldn’t want that? While many of us spent the lockdown yearning for a physical connection with our friends, when it came to work, we were in no rush to return to the status quo.
The idea of remote work is nothing new, and since having the internet in our homes became the norm, it has been growing. A 2019 study showed that 16% of companies worldwide were already working remotely. Then we went into lockdown. The whole world suddenly stopped. Everything shutdown and created a situation that forced companies to rethink the very concept of an office and to embrace the remote worker in order to survive.
Picture a unicorn. Not the mythical equine creature, but the metaphorical variety: the startup the becomes a billion-dollar company. Prior to Corona Time, we’d have imagined a company located in cities like San Francisco, London or Berlin, with large glassy offices full of hundreds of team members working dawn till dusk on the latest innovative technologies, only taking breaks to play ping-pong in the recreational room, drink organic coffee with rice milk, or join in team-building yoga. What the recent lockdown has taught us is that this isn’t going to be the future.
We’re seeing some of the world’s largest companies already tackle the role of the remote worker, with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google allowing some, if not all, of their employees to work remotely since the lockdown. This shift is going to have a lasting impact on distribution of opportunities. These powerhouses are no longer reliant on a single location.
In recent years, Slovenia has had its share of successful startups, most recently with rise of cryptocurrencies, through which Slovenia cemented itself as crypto-capital, and a number of the world’s leading crypto-currency companies were born here on Slovenia soil, creating a number of overnight millionaires. However, many of these companies soon realized that, in order to keep their companies growing and hire the right team, they needed to move to larger cities that could more easily provide the teams and financial help they need.
This need to pack and move to larger cities comes at a cost, whether financial or to our health, and not everyone can make it. As these San Francisco, London and Berlin jobs go international, the opportunities rise to live in Slovenia but enjoy a large-city career without the high expenses. Slovenia has produced unicorns in the past, and the talented individuals who are capable of giving birth to more are here. Slovenia has already proved it has the knowledge and work-ethic ready to make itself the Silicon Valley of central Europe.
Even before this shift away from big-city reliance, there have been a number of people who have been adopting this remote-work ethic and seeing Slovenia as home. Between the two of us, your intrepid authors Noah Charney and Jon Butterfield, we’ve found our own ways to be able to appreciate the beauty of Slovenia while keeping our international edges. Charney, originally from the United States, is a world-renowned author and has made Kamnik his home while still working with his American agents and writing best-selling books. Butterfield is a successful British serial entrepreneur who also turned to Kamnik after going from London, Los Angeles and Amsterdam and has now turned his attention to the local startup scene. There are plenty of others like us here, successful foreigners who have chosen life in Slovenia, and see it as a land of plenty.
Slovenia has proven to us that it is the perfect hub for remote workers. Whether your dream is to work for an established company located elsewhere, or if you want to pursue the world of entrepreneurship, there is no better time than the present. Slovenia offers a balance between professional life and relaxing nature that isn’t found in many other places. The desire to be constantly engaged in the rat-race seen in larger cities is all but lost here. Just think about it: if someone offered you the chance to live in the Alps, or in the midst of the “rat race,” which sounds more appealing? (Apologies to any rats who might enjoy racing and are reading this magazine).
As more and more companies ease up on this pressure of location and office culture, more people are appreciating the importance of work-life balance. The lockdown revealed the cracks in the current system where people in the larger cities see their big paychecks disappear into the cost of living, and then begin to wonder what they are working towards.
It wouldn’t be surprising if more people begin to venture out of the larger cities to move to places like Slovenia. As the world’s largest companies are reevaluating their organizations, this spread of wealth and opportunity opens doors for those of us who don’t want to commute or relocate. From what we’ve seen so far, there is certainly no reason why the next startup to become a unicorn won’t be from Slovenia. As London becomes less relevant, Ljubljana rises.