Distributed Remote Talent Will Revolutionize How We Build Companies

There will soon be more software engineers outside the US than in it. Deploying their talent effectively will change the startup landscape as we know it. This will be a seismic shift bigger than the impact of the Indian outsourcing revolution.

Twenty years ago, while at McKinsey & Company, I predicted the impact that unlocking raw Indian IT talent would have on the world, and I played a pivotal role in launching the Indian technology outsourcing industry. In 1998, the industry accounted for less than $800 M in revenues, and we predicted that it would grow 100X in 10 years to more than $80B. That seemed outlandish at the time. Today, the sector has grown to $150 B in revenues, employs ~5 million people, and accounts for almost 10% of India’s GDP. Offshore remote work has transformed India, and enabled companies in the US to create and deliver projects that would never have been possible otherwise.

The future is remote distributed global teams

I believe we are on the cusp of another revolution. The way companies create and deliver engineering projects as well as how they engage talent from around the world is changing rapidly. The future of work lies in how we build and scale companies. And we can reach that future by tapping into new talent pools.

Twenty years of Indian outsourcing has created a new paradigm. Employing an engineer on the other side of the world to write your code is no longer a foreign concept. Facebook, Google, etc. now have offices in India and many other places around the world. In fact, there are Google-caliber engineers in almost every country in the world.

Most successful companies have also learnt to work with distributed teams. With ubiquitous broadband, video conferencing, and tools like Trello/Slack/Github, teams are able to collaborate without being physically co-located. Increasingly, software developers also want to be able to work from anywhere in the world.

The shortage of talent is getting worse. Hiring software developers is a rising cost in Silicon Valley as demand increases at a faster rate than supply. However, software developers outside the US are locked out of opportunities. Focusing on only hiring locally in Silicon Valley is not a sustainable model.

Having lived in India, Nigeria, and Sudan, I have met talented people who could add so much to all our companies if we could learn how to work with them.

Bold idea to solve a gigantic problem

Jonathan Siddharth and his co founder Vijay Krishnan have a unique solution to this problem. Their company, Turing, uses machine learning to change the way companies work with remote software engineers.

I believe that ML/AI is possibly the greatest technological paradigm shift that we’re currently living through. I am manically focussed on finding startups that apply machine learning across the enterprise stack to automate repetitive tasks that information workers do, and thereby reinvent how businesses operate. One function in particular that I believe is ripe for automation is talent acquisition and management, and Turing is at the forefront of that revolution.

Turing was started in Foundation’s Palo Alto office. Vijay and Jonathan, had successfully sold their last company, Rover and were brainstorming ideas for their next one. As we were talking about various ideas, they kept coming back to how the secret sauce behind Rover’s success was its globally distributed team, and how they wanted every other start-up to leverage the same talent. In addition, Jonathan and Vijay realized that the state of the art in ML had advanced to the point that they could now automate many of the matching related tasks that they had done manually at Rover. And so, we all had a Eureka moment: the demand for elite engineers was immense, Jonathan/Vijay had a unique technical insight and there was market-founder fit. In a matter of days we went from idea to working together to figure out how to make it a reality.

Scaling teams like scaling AWS

It’s been less than a year since that Eureka moment. Today, Turing helps companies scale their talent needs as effortlessly as scaling on AWS.

For elite developers living in remote corners of the world, Turing offers the opportunity to work with their peers unconstrained by location. For companies, it enables them to hire Google-caliber talent instantly without worrying about the million logistical issues associated with hiring remote workers. Furthermore, by using machine learning to analyze coding skills, engagement, and other management data, Turing continues to improves its matching capabilities, delivering more value to the ecosystem.

When the Indian outsourcing and IT revolution was in its infancy, I predicted that the market would grow 100X over the next decade. People thought I was crazy at the time and, in retrospect, my prediction seems like a gross underestimation. I feel the same way about Turing. We are creating a new category around remote and distributed work. The future of work is remote, and we’re just getting started.