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Thoughts on remote co-founders?

I was previously a remote employee #1 and am now quite soured on having core team members remotely located. It worked out, but I don't think it was optimal.

Does anyone have any experiences with remote cofounders, pros/cons, best practices? In my case, it's a designer - which may affect how important face-to-face contact is.


20 Replies

Scott Le Grand
4
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Scott Le Grand Entrepreneur
Principal Engineer at Amazon
I ran a video game company in the 1990s where two of us were on the west coast with a third person in Chicago and a 4th in upstate NY. Against all odds, we were one of the few developers to actually ship the fruit of our labor. If a company stays small, and you have talented people who know each other, distance is not an issue. However, I think that changes the minute you hire anything but the absolute best with whom you already have strong communication and understanding, which is to say most startups. But that said, the current movement to ban all telecommuting seems like yet another one of those pointy-haired memes we're going to have to endure the next few years. Scott
Lawrence Botley
4
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Lawrence Botley Entrepreneur
Software Architect
The key is to have daily 10 minute calls to go through details. I think this keeps people on their toes with clear targets.. Im my experience, no matter how professional the person is they are likely to take advantage
David Benoit
0
0
David Benoit Entrepreneur
CTO at GoInterpay
In my current company, we are all remote. However, at one point in history we all have worked together in the same office. We know how we work, when we work, what moods we get into, how we cope with pressure, when each of us retreats, when we charge on, when we want to sleep, when we want to be alone, when we want to talk, and when we want to work. We are all driven to perform.

Working in a small company, or being a co-founder is an extremely intense relationship. It challenges the best of us. Without that in-person insight we have with each other, this would be much harder than it is already.

If you're going to go forward, I highly suggest spending as much time together in person as possible. That's where the real creativity happens. It is very hard, but not impossible, to recreate remotely. Get to know that co-founder as well as possible. Get to know as many of those details about their personality that will ultimately define how you work together.

Good luck!
Scott Le Grand
2
3
Scott Le Grand Entrepreneur
Principal Engineer at Amazon
"The key is to have daily 10 minute calls to go through details. I think this keeps people on their toes with clear targets." I couldn't disagree more. When I'm expected to write code, I need to be left alone to write code. You're not paying me to take attendance, you're paying me for results. If I don't produce those results, fire me. I despise process-oriented methodologies. If you feel you have to take attendance like this, you hired the wrong people IMO. Good luck with that. People who are going to slack off are far cleverer than you seem to believe. Sure, they'll do your daily ritual. And then they'll find even more creative ways to waste your venture funding down to the last cent. The proof's in the product, not the process. http://softwaremaestro.wordpress.com/2007/06/30/scrum-master-jar-jar/
Lawrence Botley
0
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Lawrence Botley Entrepreneur
Software Architect
sure, its a fair opinion and it works for you so I wouldnt argue.

However being a software contractor for over 15 years I feel that a quick catchup/scrum in the morning to discuss roadblocks and dependencies is no big deal. In the the few startups I have created I have tried working with indian, pakistani, german, russian, romanian remote developers and each have their own standard of isolated work environments.

obviously, you yourself scott are a bright guy and are self sufficient. I find most developers arent so self sufficient and unless you keep tabs and keep them regularly informed then they will stray.

I understand the frustration of devs trying to work when and get harassed by pointless project managers who probably dont have much to do with their time apart from writing lists. I think small startups are different and clearer focus is needed, especially when the project is perhaps not so run of the mill.
Lawrence Botley
3
0
Lawrence Botley Entrepreneur
Software Architect
one final note: you arent being paid to code. you are being paid to develop the right product. coders dont just code, they build, and what they build should be what the client requires
Lawrence Botley
1
0
Lawrence Botley Entrepreneur
Software Architect
plus mate, you program GPU's... this is not building web pages.. so yes.. i would leave you alone to code :)
Geoff Whitlock
2
0
Geoff Whitlock Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder and President of Surround
If the person is integral, you need their energy. You can get some on the phone, but real energy, real synergy comes from working closely together. Thanks.
Jason Wang
1
0
Jason Wang Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at TrueVault. A HIPAA Compliant Secure API to Store Health Data.
I second Geoff's comment above. Having co-founders apart is a really bad idea. When the startup is just the two of you, you'll miss out on synergy. Once you start to have employees, one of you two will feel left out (because all the activities will happen in the HQ). Then "out of sight, out of mind" will kick in. But the lack of synergy and the lack of spontaneous ideations is the biggest concern.

Of course there's a chance you'll beat the odds and be the few startups that's successful having co-founders apart. But as hard as starting a new company is already, do you really want to have another thing stacked against you?
Luis De Avila
3
0
Luis De Avila Entrepreneur
Owner/Fullstack Architect at IdeaNerd LLC
The question should be... What process do I and my co-founder need to agree to in order to both feel like we are making progress and succeeding to the best of our abilities and situation.

People will give you different opinions that may or may not work for you. Only you can define what you'll need from this relationship.

With that said... I've had both successful and unsuccessful remote relationships. They have not worked when...
1) I don't get an email response within the day.
2) I can't call/chat/Google Hangout with the person if it's urgent.
3) When they work hours that I am working and therefore it's hard to collaborate

As long as clear deliverables and deadlines are met, and communication is swift and honest I am happy. There's PLENTY of technology out there that helps facilitate collaboration and communication.

As for Synergy... assuming they are working full time on the project like you... just call them or chat them.

Just my opinion.
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