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Tech co-founders - should I be concerned with geography?

Briefly, I moved to Mexico from Vancouver last May for personal reasons. However, the rapidly developing tech landscape here in Mexico is very exciting with support from some very big players across the border. So with my current startup, while focused primarily on the US market, I decided to concentrate on building the team and the product in Mexico City. The project is a shoe in to one of the valley's leading accelerators here in Mexico City (they love the concept) and I am in discussions with tech co-founders.

However, I'd like to work with a US or Canadian based tech co-founder. Which would likely mean that he or she were remote from the team we build. Has anyone been through a similar situation? I would appreciate input from anyone who has worked with remote teams - specifically a technical co-founder.

Thanks!

20 Replies

Eric Rogness
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Eric Rogness Entrepreneur
Technical Product Manager
I replied to a similar question here:http://members.founderdating.com/discuss/683.
Jeremy Stanton
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Jeremy Stanton Entrepreneur
CTO / Co-Founder at Kali, LLC
I have built and run teams remotely on several occasions. The most notable was for an advertising company (Fetchback) that ultimately sold to eBay 3 or 4 years ago. It can absolutely be done but I would be wary about doing it with anyone that hasn't already done it and done it successfully. Managing a team remotely is a very different animal than being co-located. The essentials are the same but there are key differences in how you communicate. I can provide you with lots of reference material but you can start by reading a post I wrote and was interviewed for here and here. I love talking about this subject so feel free to email me if you want to do a call.
Trey Stout
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Trey Stout Entrepreneur • Advisor
CTO at Gracious Eloise Inc.
I'd be a little worried myself. I had some experience running a fully remote team for Adkeeper a few years back. While the product itself was technically sound (few bugs) it was chock-full of product misunderstandings. You gain a lot from the business and tech leaders being in close proximity. If every little decision takes an email thread, you will quickly turn into a semantic witch-hunter and either nitpick people's written communication to death, or just wing it. The just winging it approach works fairly well, but the product suffers from not having all those clarifying sessions in person.

Sometimes what you need is a beer and a whiteboard. There is no replacement for a remote team.
Kate Hiscox
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Kate Hiscox Entrepreneur • Advisor
Boss at Venzee
I love that - a beer and a whiteboard. I fully agree. There will definitely need to be some time with 'boots on the ground' for the whole team to become cohesive. There was a great point made about moods and how people work - and that its important to know that with a remote team. I hadn't thought about that but of course, creating a founder team is exactly like starting a relationship. Even long distance, at some point, you have to be in the same place to insure the fit and how you can move forward together.
Jeremy Stanton
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Jeremy Stanton Entrepreneur
CTO / Co-Founder at Kali, LLC
Trey,
In general, I don't agree. I think having a team be remote doesn't create communication problems so much as it amplifies problems you already have. Craft a culture that places importance on meta process and you'll be able to tackle communication problems handily. That approach applies to any organization co-located or otherwise. If you make hiring/culture choices that are incongruent with this goal it will get much harder as you grow. If you want healthy communication or the ability to support remotes or to manage a team remotely you have to make specific/deliberate choices to that end very early in the life of the company.

But to your anecdote, I agree. If you don't make those choices early, trying to work remotely or manage remotely can be a real pain.
Brahm Kiran Singh
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Brahm Kiran Singh Entrepreneur • Advisor
Eng Head - Deep Search at Quixey
My 2 cents : there are some problems with remote locations. My experience was marred with time zone difference of about 12 hours too (yeah!) but in general I feel that the best coordination happens when the co-founders are co-located. Reason being that there will always be ideas coming to your mind that you want to discuss - with co-location, you can instantly have a group-discussion and bounce your ideas off of your co-founders. Remote locations - it kinda gets difficult with a little more barriers. ? - Brahm
Alexander Laszlo Ross
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Alexander Laszlo Ross Entrepreneur • Advisor
Head of Business Development at Verifide
I agree that it magnifies possible communications issues.

I'd say the toughest part is establishing trust and understanding remotely. Some initial face-to-face will be important.

Btw, I'm thinking about setting up a shop in Mexico down the round. Would love to ping you when I am more actively exploring it.
Jeremy Stanton
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Jeremy Stanton Entrepreneur
CTO / Co-Founder at Kali, LLC
It's totally doable if the two of you have the right chemistry. The biggest challenge will be if you intend to share product ownership. Product development can be a bit like being in a jazz band where the two of you are constantly riffing off of each other. That's a challenge without being in the same room.
Muhammad Awaid
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Muhammad Awaid Entrepreneur
Co-Founder and Director at Apponative
Geography does not matter at all. I run an offshore company and we deal with clients from USA and Canada all the time. You just need to be sure that you guys share the same passion :)
Kevin Marzec
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Kevin Marzec Entrepreneur
Chief Technology Officer at HostelSystem Ltd.
I'm currently involved in two software development startups, both with less than 10 employees, and both are highly distributed. Initially there's some time to get familiar with all of the collaboration tools that are available to assist with communication, etc - but ultimately while I wouldn't say that communication is 100% of what it is when everyone is in the same room together, its not too far behind.
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