Key learnings for going Remote from Running Remote 2019 – day one


Running Remote is the world’s biggest remote work conference – with industry leaders sharing tips and advice in Nusa Dua, Bali. Here are day one’s takeaways for anyone who is trying to build and scale a remote team.

Remote work can transform lives

Today we were reminded of the power of remote work to transform lives. Fahim may be physically disabled and live in a developing country, but he has trained himself to become a graphic designer and earned enough money to buy land for his family to build a home.

Trust is crucial for managing a remote engineering team

As AngelList’s Head of Remote and the former CTO for Product Hunt (a distributed team), Andreas Klinger knows a thing or two about managing remote engineering teams.

He believes that remote work is a logical evolution of digital knowledge work. In his opinion, everyone already works remotely to some degree – and he describes large companies like Google as ‘remote teams in denial’.

Trust is at the core of remote work challenges, Andreas argued. You might worry that a team member’s playing Fortnite instead of writing code. You could find yourself questioning whether you trust their decisions. Or, perhaps you simply don’t trust that they’re motivated or excited.

But managers in remote teams have to systemize trust, through:

  • Processes
  • Explicit and transparent communication
  • Sharing authority
  • Decentralizing decisions
  • Understand individual differences, like culture
  • Intentionally meeting each other

Ultimately, a manager who struggles to trust their remote team members to work diligently should take responsibility and consider how they can improve their team’s processes, mentoring, and hiring.

Remote workers should consider flag theory and protect their data

Edmund J Lowell founded FlagTheory.com to help business owners and corporations choose the best set of legal jurisdictions for their residency, company formation, banking, and lifestyle.

He explained a range of strategies for getting a second passport – including ancestry, making a donation to a government, or investing in a local business.

He recommended that remote workers should find a location for tax residency where they’re happy spending the minimum days required each year (183 in many jurisdictions) to minimize the risk of countries where they’ve previously been resident chasing them for income tax.

Edmund recommended using encryption tools to protect personal data and only using public WiFi via a VPN, to stop hackers from accessing personal data – especially in airports.

Recommended encryption tools:

  • Email – ProtonMail
  • Chat – Signal
  • End to End File Sharing – Resilio
  • Cloud Storage – SpiderOak

Remote businesses can scale by respecting employees and local customs

Hiring remote workers around the world might seem daunting in terms of admin and legislation. But Tim Burgess and Duncan Macintosh offered helpful advice – based on their own experiences scaling ShieldGeo and managing hundreds of employees in over 60 countries. 

Tim and Duncan believe that employing workers might cost more upfront than hiring them as contractors, but it heavily reduces the burden on each worker and makes them feel part of a team – so they’ll be more engaged and productive. Typically, it’s also better from a compliance perspective.

Pay should be based on the local cost of living and respect regional customs – like 13th-month pay – they argued. Both strongly believe in the positive ROI of employee benefits, like healthcare and a wellbeing allowance – which their employees can claim against any activity that could reasonably be argued as improving their wellbeing.

But their research showed that flexible work is the most important benefit of all. Allowing employees to work in a space that suits them; and to start work, finish work, and take breaks at times that enable them to both enjoy their lifestyle and perform their work duties results in happier and more engaged employees.

Fast-growing companies like Shopify can pick the perfect city for a remote hub

Shopify is a multi-billion dollar company with a distributed global support team. But deciding to use remote workers wasn’t an obvious decision in the company’s early days. Marcie Murray, Director of Support, explained their journey.

Shopify grew rapidly and struggled to find desk space for their workers. A fire alarm that ended every support call in the office was the final straw and Shopify decided to ‘go remote’ – setting up customer support hubs in cities around the globe for remote workers to report to.

What does Shopify look for in a city?

  • Entrepreneurial spirit and a strong culture of art and innovation
  • A liveable city with many people living in the downtown area
  • Strong state investment in innovation
  • Language and cultural diversity
  • Liveable, walkable, and affordable
  • Potential to become the best employer in that city

Shopify launched support in 16 languages in less than a year as a result of their new strategy.

Remote teams can get VC investment, but how many need it?

VC investors Anthony ‘Pomp’ Pompliano and Marvin Liao were grilled by Mixergy’s Andrew Warner on what remote companies should consider if they’re seeking VC investment.

Five years ago a San Francisco-based VC investing in a company would typically demand they move their entire operation to the city. But today, they’re likely to let developers work from wherever they’re already based – although sales might still need to relocate.

Both investors agreed that instead of trying to get funding quickly, founders should wait as long as possible before raising capital; and focus on building a fantastic product for a small audience – then go out and try to win more customers.

Pomp explained, ‘You have to crawl; before you walk; before you run. Find the hundred people that will beat down the door if you take your product away from them. Don’t worry about thousands of users. Find those hundred people, build the product – then find more of them’.

He also pointed to the similarities between decentralized cryptocurrencies and decentralized remote teams – especially those building a product with potential value as an incentive, rather than in exchange for a salary.

‘Remote work is a fringe activity. And what starts at the fringe eventually becomes adopted.’

Anthony ‘Pomp’ Pompliano

Blockchain technology could change remote work altogether

Elon Musk’s exciting hyperloop concept promises to transport humans inside vacuum tubes at more than 1,000km/h. He ran a competition for teams to submit prototypes and – astonishingly – a team of part-time remote workers emerged as one of the frontrunners.

rLoop is named after a Reddit subgroup for engineers. They competed against teams with millions of dollars in funding and, from a field of over 1,000 entries, emerged as one of 12 entries selected for physical production – leading to a string of innovation awards.

Today, rLoop includes over 1,300 engineers from 59 countries who use a blockchain-based token system to reward members based on their ‘reputation value’ and activity.

Ilyas Vali – co-founder of rLoop – believes this blockchain-based approach represents the future of work. Individuals will select a ‘pixel’ (a piece of work) and their efforts will be stored on an immutable decentralized ledger. Future rewards could be based on the real-world performance outcome and economic value of their work.