Lessons from our experience being remote co-founders and how to start a company when the founding team is across multiple cities or even continents.
Like everyone else who started working on something new in the past year or two, we began Taskable as a fully-remote founding team. Moreover, we are based on two separate continents and don’t have plans to base ourselves in the same metropolitan area.
A few years back, I doubt I’d have considered starting a company with someone that required a transatlantic flight to see. But, times are changing, and now it will likely be the default for many founders and early startup teams. Why limit who you work with based on geography?
As a seasoned remote co-founder, here are a few of the tips, tricks, and lessons we’ve learned along the way if you are thinking of starting something up fully remote.
One significant advantage to note - Tom and I worked together in an office at a previous startup for a couple of years. And when we were initially brainstorming the ideas that would become Taskable, we were located in the same city. So, while we started the company fully remote, we had that in-person experience that allowed us to understand how each other works and build trust.
I tend to think this time spent working in person together before starting Taskable was critical. However, who knows if it would have worked out the same if we had never been in a room together. It’s something to consider you’re thinking about starting a company with someone you don’t know well offline.
We have a daily standup that almost always begins with small talk about weekend plans, personal relationships, how the kids are doing, etc. From a personal standpoint, Tom is one of my best friends, and I enjoy joking around and hearing how things are going with him. From a work standpoint, it helps solidify our relationship as founders and builds trust and understanding.
Related to the above, when you are remote, it’s important to communicate as much as possible, particularly about those minor issues that can over time snowball into big ones. It’s easier to get a sense of someone’s stress levels and annoyances in person, and it’s easier to confront. However, it can be harder to spot minor issues until they become much larger ones. And then it becomes harder to fix. You can’t sit in a room together or go for lunch and hash it out.
Fixing interpersonal problems remotely is much more complex than doing it in person, so try and get out ahead of these things.
Now that we’re both vaccinated and travel is a bit easier, we’ve started having our first in-person get-togethers. We aim to do these every three months, which aligns with our quarterly planning. We use this time to brainstorm and whiteboard new ideas, work in the same room, and just hang out. We met somewhere nice (Spain) and got an Airbnb with a suitable workspace for the last one. We worked a lot, but we also were able to have some fun and hang out.
We use Tandem for internal calls and screen shares because it’s always on; you can see what the other person is doing, and with one click, be on a phone call with them. Removing this friction makes it super easy to ask quick questions or brainstorm. It’s the equivalent of being in an office and tapping someone on the shoulder - but since it’s digital, the other person can ignore if they are in the middle of something.
We also use Tandem to host our co-working channel, where we can hop on and work together virtually and even share playlists. We wrote up how this works and why we like it here.
Since we work across time zones, we’ve found aligning our working hours as much as possible is super helpful. Luckily Tom is more of a night owl, and I’m a morning person. That means I am up for stand-up around 5:30 am my time, and Tom works as late as midnight (or beyond) his time. We thus have several hours online together and can have those quick chats or brainstorms.
Some of the tips we recommend for remote co-founders are:
Starting up with remote co-founders is possible. Don’t let geography stop you from working with the right co-founder.