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

1 hour ago - Technology

Why Puerto Rico is still struggling to get online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Internet connectivity remains a weak link for the disaster-wracked U.S. territory Puerto Rico, and some experts fear a new tranche of Federal Communications Commission subsidies set aside just for the island might not help the people most in need of a broadband connection.

Why it matters: Puerto Rico is locked out of most federal funding available to U.S. states to help expand internet service. The island risks being left behind as carriers expand and upgrade high-speed internet networks elsewhere, even as infrastructure-damaging tropical storms come faster and harder and the pandemic makes broadband even more of a must-have.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 a.m. ET: 31,343,430 — Total deaths: 965,250— Total recoveries: 21,516,481Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,858,010 — Total deaths: 199,886 — Total recoveries: 2,615,949 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

The price of Washington's stimulus failure

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

America's elected representatives have failed America.

Why it matters: The bipartisan inability to deliver economic stimulus could impede economic growth for months to come. It will create widespread damage across America — from small businesses to large industries to schools and day cares — and leave many Americans without jobs or homes.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!