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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Millions have embarked on an enforced work-from-home experiment, but it's a little more difficult if you're the CEO of an online messaging company — and you're in quarantine.

Why it matters: Companies that enable remote working have become virtual utilities at a moment of high demand, and they're pushing hard to remain reliable while working under the same conditions as the rest of us.

Background: Symphony was launched in 2014 with backing by some of Wall Street's biggest banks as a secure messaging platform to be used by the financial world. Today the Palo Alto-based company is valued at $1.4 billion.

Like other collaboration and communication platforms such as Slack and Zoom, Symphony's services only became more important once businesses starting sending workers home in the face of COVID-19 — especially once the markets started swooning. "In global markets, we are seeing a higher volume of activity than ever before," says Symphony's CEO David Gurle.

  • While that was good for Symphony's business, the company also has to contend with the same conditions as everyone else — though with a bit of extra warning. "When it started in January, very quickly we learned what it was to work from home and remote," says Gurle.
  • Today, Symphony employees in every country the company operates save Japan are working remotely.

That includes Gurle, who has to contend with an additional impediment: less than two weeks ago, he was exposed to an employee who had contracted COVID-19. Since then, he's been in self-isolation in southern France, though he has yet to show any symptoms himself.

  • The biggest problem, he says, is the fact that where he's had to spend his isolation lacks good bandwidth. "When I come to try to do video, I can't do a video call," he says — so he resorts to the analog technology of voice calls.
  • That's been a challenge for a number of people who even in ordinary times lack access to the kind of bandwidth needed for effective remote work, as my Axios colleague Margaret Harding McGill wrote recently.

The bottom line: As much as companies like Symphony will be playing an important role in a remote-first work future, not even Gurle knows that that will look like. "We are all doing a massive social experiment."

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.