How this YC S21 startup pivoted to the next Level with Remotion

Much has been written about the upsides and downsides of going through Y Combinator remotely, but there’s no question that it remains a demanding process.

Teams try to take advantage of the many resources and networking opportunities offered by the program, while working to hit ambitious goals and nail the high-stakes demo day. That requires an intense level of close collaboration, which can be difficult remotely. 

We spoke to Vladimir Korshin, cofounder and CEO of Level, about his experience using Remotion as part of YC’s S21 remote batch. Level is building a platform that helps lending startups get access to capital without selling their equity—but that wasn’t the idea they started Y Combinator with. 

Here’s how the three Level cofounders used Remotion to successfully pivot in a matter of weeks during YC, and stay closely connected through YC and beyond.

Faster, easier collaboration while working against the clock

With Remotion, Vladimir put his cofounders Molly and Asa on the edge of his desktop, where he could see their activity and easily hop into spontaneous video calls with them. 

Vladimir and his cofounders getting goofy on the edge of his desktop.

Throughout YC, the three cofounders found themselves with packed schedules, working odd hours. Remotion helped them tell when their teammates were available to talk—be it for a quick, unblocking question or a longer strategy brainstorm as they worked closely to decide which direction to take the company. 

Beyond availability, the Remotion dock gave the Level team a background awareness of one another’s activity—like who was chatting or in a scheduled meeting—like you might have when sharing a physical space.

“I like to pop in and see who's available at that moment, and I'll sometimes see Asa and Molly talking, and I'll be like, oh, what are they talking about? And I'll easily join them.” 

Having quick access to one another was a huge boon to the Level team’s productivity and collaboration. It helped them iterate faster as they were facing down the high-pressure deadline of demo day.

Energizing moments of connection, without forced fun

Of course, it’s not all about productivity—you want to enjoy the ride and build strong relationships along the way. Those in turn ladder up to a more effective team.  

Vladimir isn’t a fan of “forced fun” or virtual happy hours, but was grateful for the ease of shoulder-tap catch ups in Remotion. “Two of us are the parents of young kids, and we’re all really busy,” Vladimir shared, “but we found it easy to catch up quickly with Remotion.”

Remotion helped give Level’s cofounders the camaraderie of a classic YC experience, where you’re working closely side by side with your teammates, but bonding and getting closer in the process. These moments helped them feel more like a team, and gave them the energy they needed to sustain a breakneck pace of work.

A lightweight experience with “positivity built in”

In a stressful time where the Level team was gunning to hit ambitious goals, Remotion helped them stay positive with a range of “small and uniquely delightful touches,” Vladimir shared.

He cited Remotion’s design as something that helped his team keep things light through the long hours.

“The circular UI, the emojis, the way it’s so unobtrusive on your desktop—everything about it feels just warmer and lighter than what we were using before,” Vladimir explained. “It has positivity built in. In every way, it’s the opposite of a cold Webex.”

The cofounders sent each other emoji badges as a fun, non-intrusive way to say hi or share encouragement. They took selfies at escalating levels of goofiness, bringing their personalities to one another’s desktops. All of it made their work experience feel more personal, and took the edge off the stress.

While Vladimir didn’t intentionally set out to create a remote-first team, his success in fostering casual social chats and tight-knit remote collaboration with Remotion helped him embrace remote work as a long-term strategy. 

Want to connect with your remote team in Remotion? Join our free beta.

The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.

Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.

Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:

1. It fosters casual conversations.

Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.

2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.

It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.

3. It's easy to say yes to.

Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.

4. It improves remote collaboration.

Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.

5. It's scalable.

Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.

6. It creates shared momentum.

The feeling of togetherness is motivating!

Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.

It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.

Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.

Best practices for virtual coworking.

Keep group sizes small.

Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.

Signal boost coworking.

Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.

Make it routine.

Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.

Set expectations ahead of time.

When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:

Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.

Listen to music together.

Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.

Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.

Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.

We'd love to hear how coworking goes for you, or what practices you've found helpful on your team — let us know @remotionco on Twitter.

Want to try coworking in Remotion, our virtual office? Get free access today.