Co-founders: Being remote
Our situation isn’t like the typical startup, or at least not as TechCrunch likes you to believe. We don’t have fancy offices, which is OK. All we need is a laptop, an internet connection and a good chair if possible. Neither do we work on Skouti 12 hours a day. We’re both in university and both maintain a healthy freelance business to pay our bills. Dana and I don’t even live near each other and consequently, only meet a few times a year.
So is all this a real problem when you’re moonlighting your project? Not separately, but together they do form quite a challenge for different reasons.
- Progress is slow. When you’re juggling so many things, you often neglect the thing that has the least immediate impact. In my case, this is often Skouti.
- Thinking long term is hard. Statistically, the chance that we get any substantial monetary reward out of this is pretty low. We would have had a great time, but that doesn’t pay the bills.
- Keeping up motivation is difficult. Especially when you’re not physically in the same space. We mostly remedied this by scheduling a weekly Skype call and talk about things on our mind. Not always purely professional, but also personal stuff that is going on, so we’re aware of each other’s schedule.
So how can all this be countered? Well, to be honest, it can’t. At least not for the full 100%. Over the past months we’ve found ways to minimize the problems above, but ideally we would have a central office space, where we can work on Skouti full-time.
Schedule hack days
Dana and I tend to take the day off and meet at a central coworking space and work on Skouti for the entire day. These are the most productive days you’ll ever have. You will be able to make decisions quickly and have the ease of just walking over to someone’s computer and see what he/she is talking about.
Alternatively you can schedule a few hours or half a day and work together on your project, over Skype or IM. While not as good as the physical hack days, you still get the warm fuzzy feeling of working together and you can easily ask for the other person’s input.
This may sound incredibly obvious, but when you only see your co-founder a few times a year and you’ve been busy working on other projects, there really are times when you drop the ball on this one (at least we did!). As I mentioned earlier, weekly Skype calls help immensely. Even if you’re not discussing your startup. Dana and I often share and comment on each other’s client work (unless we signed a NDA, of course).
We also email each other motivational articles. This can be something serious from the Economist, or the latest YouTube hype. It’s okay to talk about some multimillion dollar exist, even if you don’t plan on ever selling your company. Keep the dream alive. If you’re using a version control system to manage your code (which of course you do!), subscribe to the activity feed. You’ll quickly feel guilty when your buddy is working her/his ass off while you’re slacking.
Breaking the cycle
It’s highly unlikely that the schedules and current motivation of you and your co-founders line up. Yet it’s extremely important to make sure they do. Keep building that hype with your partners. Keep each other excited about your project (and other things!). That is when the magic happens.
I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in the last months and can’t wait to show our work to the world.