The concept of digital nomads is an increasingly well-known phenomenon in tech-circles. Freelancers take their laptops across the world, and code their way into the Caribbean sunset, without worrying about a boss hanging over their shoulder or counting their vacation days.
Shadi Halloun and his team, have taken it to the next level. For about a year, they have been working on their startup called Etools, a B2B SaaS platform for finding the email addresses and sales leads behind web domains quickly and accurately. At the beginning of 2016 they officially launched their business, but what sets them apart from most startups is that none of their team-members work in the same country.
Co-founder and CEO Halloun lives in Barcelona, and the rest of his team operates from Cambodia, the Philippines and Slovenia.
“Luckily for us, our investors are open minded, and know that an office or desks are not crucial in creating a great company”, Halloun explains.
Etools’ was founded in Israel, which also is the home-country of Halloun and where their investors are based.
“Thinking back on when I worked in a big media company in Israel, I remember how we all just worked from our computers anyway. Even if I needed to ask someone a question, I sent them a message, I never walked to another department”, says Halloun.
Digital nomads are not just for small teams
When questioned about why they don’t just all work from Tel Aviv, where Halloun used to work, he answered quickly.
“We are a startup, and as an early stage company we need to save every penny. We are saving a lot on salaries, by not living in cities like Tel Aviv or London”.
He wanted to see Europe, and chose Barcelona because he heard that the startup ecosystem was growing fast. In a few days, he is going to Portugal and then to Ireland where he can work wherever he finds WiFi.
But having an distributed workforce is not only for the small lean startups. Automattic, the unicorn behind WordPress, Akismet and Jetpack has over 400 people, working from 37 different countries, only communicating online.
Even though Halloun and his co-workers enjoy the freedom of working distributed, he admits he sometimes misses the lunch breaks together and the camaraderie that naturally occurs when working together as a group.
“Maybe next year we’ll have Christmas dinner over Skype,” he jokes.
Do you want to be a digital nomad?
Even though Halloun is only in his mid-twenties, he already has many years of work experience behind him. This is his best advice to people who want to run a business consisting only of nomads:
- Always have weekenly meetings to get everybody on the right path, and make sure what’s being done that exact week.
- Find a good software to keep track of work. Halloun recomends Basecamp, but there are many different tools out there. When working in this way, different timezones and other distractions won’t knock your team off track.
- Find a good chat service. Etools use Skype, but there are many other such as Slack (Which Barcinno uses), Campfire, Redbooth, the list goes on, but good internal communication is key.
- Agree on having at least 75% mutual time working online. In this way, there is always someone to ask, or talk to if something unexpected comes up.
“It’s all about flexibility. We want to build the company in a way that enables us to recruit the right person, wherever he is, overnight”, says Halloun.
- Remember to read: 4YFN 2016 – Barcelona’s Biggest Startup Event Of The Year