When the pandemic hit, Larry Gadea, CEO of the San Francisco-based office-services startup Envoy, saw a chance to pivot.
Gadea, who was born in Romania and raised in Canada, founded the firm in 2013 to create tech-smart ways for offices to run more smoothly, from booking meeting rooms to handling mail. Within two months, the company began focusing on building tools to help workplaces reopen safely, such as mobile apps that handle a health check questionnaire, contact tracing, capacity management and more.
“Covid has given us an even stronger sense of purpose,” said Gadea, 33, whose firm works with more than 2,000 companies globally. “Helping people with health and safety has been more rewarding than ever.”
Gadea had a chat with Reuters about the future of the office as well as his own altered work routines. Edited excerpts are below.
Q. What lessons have you learned from managing through a pandemic?
A. It’s all about forming unique, super-solid relationships with your customers and showing them that you can continuously innovate, making sure you consult with your customers and are talking to them literally about what you need to build for them.
Some companies have to keep track of how many people are in their office and make sure that it’s not over some amount, while others don’t have that issue, but maybe need to know how to do a health survey.
Q. What’s your biggest work-life challenge now?
A. Not being able to have separation. Like everyone, I literally live and work in the same place. At my desk, I have one of those ring lights, I have speakers, and my gaming PC is on the right of it. When I’m done with work, I’ll play a game, like Microsoft Flight Simulator or Cyberpunk 2077, which just came out and is all the rage.
Q. What were your early lessons about work?
A. Born in Romania, I lived in Germany (as a child). My dad was picking berries illegally, and my mother was cleaning houses. It’s all about working hard, no matter the circumstance. You have to work hard to find your way out of it.
Q. What did you learn from your first job?
A. I was 12. I had the world’s biggest Pokemon Pikachu pictures website in 1999. I learned that it’s all about building stuff that people want, keeping them happy and doing whatever it takes to keep your audience engaged.
Q. What advice do you have for someone starting out right now?
A. The opportunity to get to know new people is endless because you don’t have to fly around or travel for interviews. You can just do a Zoom call. It’s a lot easier when you don’t have to find a coffee shop and set up time to travel there.
Q. What will be your setup in your company when you can return to work?
A. Of course, we’re going to use all our Envoy products. We’ll have visitor sign-ins on iPhones or iPads – every contractor that comes in, they’re going to have to use that before they get to the office.
We may not be assigning desks to people permanently – like maybe you can reserve a desk for one, two or three days and when you’re not there, somebody cleans it and then we’ll give it to somebody else.
Q. How has your workday changed in this pandemic?
A. I have to cook now, which is very interesting. Being in Silicon Valley, I always had lunch and dinner catered, and sometimes breakfast too. You don’t have to think about it. It’s just ready to eat.
Now I have to learn how to make things and spend 30 minutes sometimes doing it. I spent a couple of months ordering in, but the big issue is, it’s a lot of containers. That’s a lot of waste, and it gets expensive. So I’m like cooking eggs and making salads and making sure the chicken is fried properly.