Digital commuters

Björn Theis is a foresight manager and researches the future. In his column he writes about disruptive technologies, visionaries, and places where the future is being “made”.

Can you still recall the main idea in my last article that the future is distributed unevenly? When looking for such future agglomerations, I recently came across the U.S.-based company eXp Realty—a prime example of how the world of work could look in the future: the company employs some 16,000 people but has only a small storage closet in Washington as its official business premises. No, it is not a dubious mailbox company, but rather one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the United States. Since the company listed on Nasdaq in early 2018, its share price has soared by around 300 percent and its market capitalization exceeded the one billion US dollar mark on the very first day.

So what is the secret to the company’s success? Consistent use of virtual reality! The company has its own campus with numerous meeting and conference rooms and auditoria. However, all of these are purely virtual: Each employee therefore uses a computer to attend meetings and seminars in the virtual world of eXp Realty by means of an avatar. For Scott Petronis, Chief Technology Officer of eXp Realty, and Glenn Sanford, its founder and CEO, the digital working world is the company’s most important growth engine. The virtualization of the business premises brought further advantages in addition to the enormous rental savings. Now the company can hire anybody without having to consider their proximity to corporate headquarters; the only prerequisite is Internet access. What is more, the company has an excellent carbon footprint because the 16,000 employees no longer need to commute to the office.

Working in such virtual (work) realities is still an exception. The question is for how much longer. Facebook, for example, sees virtual reality as a big future market. Back in 2014, the company bought Occulus VR, a prominent startup making virtual reality glasses. In 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his goal to make virtual reality accessible to everyone and to get at least a billion Facebook users in virtual reality. As mentioned before, the future is often closer than one thinks.

Illustration: Romina Birzer

PUBLICATION DATE

23 JULY 2019

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Foresight manager Björn Theis writes in his column about disruptive technologies, visionaries, and places where the future is being “made”.

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