This is the story of how tech company, Fairytrail, works remotely.
Remote from Day 1
Fairytrail is a dating app for remote workers (we can live anywhere!), and we started the company fully remote. With developers in Canada, Berkeley, and India, we got to work developing the MVP in late 2018. There was no hesitation whether or not we should be remote. It was a necessity. Given our budget, there was no way we could build out our product hiring experienced developers in Silicon Valley for $150 per hour. We brought it down to $45/hour by hiring in Canada and $20/hour by hiring in India.
Since I had worked at tech companies with different offices, remote teams, and WFH policies, I was familiar with remote teams and the best practices. I adopted them for my startup.
We’d have our daily standups, Trello, and sprint planning meetings. Easy.
The only difference is instead of having 5% of the team remote, we had 100% remote.
As things developed, some issues arose. Our Silicon Valley intern developers soon were lured away by companies like Uber and Google. We also unfortunately, had a developer who was not a team player. Being located far away only exacerbated that issue. He created conflicts with other developers, brute forced his decisions, and resisted video chat (voice only). Meeting conflicts and offset schedules compounded the pain. We ultimately had to let him go, but that did not deter us from the remote strategy. We made a bad hire and learned from it.
Lessons We Learned
Here’s what we learned after a year of working remotely.
- Team spirit is hard with a remote team. So hiring the right person is even more important because we’re less able to manage and shape that person.
- Remote work allows amazing access to talent. It literally makes the impossible possible.
- Remote work means more efficiency. No commute and your team members could work in another time zone while you’re sleeping.
Doubling Down On Remote
Photo courtesy of @skipwithgrace
Given the success of our foray in remote, we started to purposefully source remote writers for our travel & dating blog. We were able to leverage lower wages outside of Silicon Valley to find talent that was up to 50% less expensive. That is a lot of savings for a small startup like ours.
We used sites like Indeed and Upwork to find our writer. We got 20,000+ applicants in just a few weeks! No way could we have gotten so many applicants and diversity if we only sourced locally. The tradeoff was we also had to screen more people, but it was definitely worth the effort.
A few applicants thought we weren’t legitimate because they couldn’t believe we would be hiring people in all those places. And we had to explain that we’d allow them to work remotely, so we were legitimately hiring in Albuquerque.
Photo courtesy of @skipwithgrace
As we grow our app and business, we’ll be expanding our team. This will create greater strains on communications and collaboration. We believe our company will still see a net benefit by being remote, so will continue our remote company strategy. Plus, I like to entertain the idea that I might be able to live anywhere in the world one day.
This year, I’ll be looking into having more offsite meetings to boost team spirit and teamwork. To be frank, I haven’t done that much research on what we need to do to scale the team, but I suppose it’s the same intensity of growing pains whether you’re scaling a remote company or a regular company.
That said, many of my startup friends have remote companies. I can always reach out to them for advice. In fact, my friend Nick (Co-Founder of Shogun) put together a guide for running remote teams. YC has a guide on it. Gary Tan has a remote work masterclass. So there’s a lot of interest and information out there.
If you want to connect to share experiences and advice as a founder, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to connect and hear from you. I also created a social group for nomads and remote workers called Campfire. The goal of Campfire is to help one another with our life and business goals. It would be amazing to have you join us.
About The Author
Taige Zhang is the founder of Fairytrail, a virtual dating and travel company for remote workers. Previously, he worked at Apple, Rocket Internet, Shipt, and Walmart Labs. He enjoys growing grapes, sailing, and cycling; and living around the world.