A new article from Forbes shines a spotlight on Max Rhodes and his ascendant tech company, Faire. This wide-ranging piece, written by tech founder and startup fundraising guru Alejandro Cremades, touches on the many reasons Rhodes was able to build a $500 million business in just 24 months.
In 2017, when Faire was founded, it decided to establish headquarters in both San Francisco and Waterloo. The decision to launch with two offices makes Faire a bit of an outlier, and uniquely positioned the company for growth. That said, as Cremades notes, the use of distributed teams is a modern business model that is gaining greater acceptance. For example, in Waterloo, we have technical offices for Google, Oracle, SAP, TD Bank and more (plus a number of innovation outposts for companies looking to tap into Waterloo’s talent and ecosystem on a smaller scale).
Why is creating a distributed team a good model for expansion? What are the best practices for establishing a distributed team?
Here are three key takeaways from Faire’s experience with business expansion through distributed teams:
1. Distributed or remote teams can help solve talent challenges
One section, in particular, caught our eye.
As the article notes, recruiting in San Francisco is almost laughably difficult, and the perks given to employees in Silicon Valley are in Cremades’ words, “wild.” The article talks about one developer whose company gives him three months off – every year! – to go moose hunting.
Faire chose to come to Waterloo because it knew that while competition for top talent is tough everywhere, there’s also lots of talent available if you know where to look. Rhodes looked to the University of Waterloo, which the New York Times once called “one of the world’s best technology schools,” to fill his talent pipeline. All of the company’s engineers are now based in Waterloo.
Creating a distributed team gives your company the opportunity to access talent pools that simply don’t exist in your current location. In some cases this is about cost, but for many companies direct access to world class talent producers – like the University of Waterloo – is just as important. The lesson? Find a place where you can recruit and set up shop.
Waterloo has such a strong talent advantage that we even wrote a guide – including programs you can recruit from, cost comparisons and company testimonials – that you can download for free. Or, just check out our blog post on the subject.
2. Creating a remote team requires a team leader
According to Rhodes, the number one thing that determines the success of a distributed team is the person your company chooses to lead the location.
This is a common refrain. In Waterloo, tech companies like Square and NCC Group have taken the same approach. When automotive giant Bosch decided to set up a security technology office in Waterloo under the name ESCRYPT Canada, it chose local tech community veteran David MacFarlane, who previously worked for BlackBerry.
“The company could have chosen someone from Germany to come and establish the office, but they recognized the immediate impact a local person could make by utilizing in-depth knowledge of the community ecosystem and build partnerships as required,” said MacFarlane, the General Manager of ESCRYPT Canada.
“My local network was invaluable for finding office space, establishing our legal entity, and hiring the first few people.”
3. Invest in technology that keeps your team connected
On a very practical level, Rhodes suggests making sure you invest in the technology and processes that keep your company connected.
Faire uses Google Hangouts, big TVs and cameras in every room to make sure interaction between locations is as natural as possible. The article reports that Faire’s weekly all-hands meeting feels like everyone is together in one place. Other Waterloo-based companies do this too, including augmented-reality glasses innovator North Inc.
Sometimes, travel is the only solution. Faire gets its product teams together at least every six weeks, and Rhodes comes to Waterloo every other month. In our webinar with Square, Waterloo lead Jesse Wilson described the same process – lots of digital interaction mixed with regular visits to the Silicon Valley office.
Waterloo’s convenient location – just 86km (53mi) from Toronto Pearson International Airport and its daily direct flights to San Francisco – makes this sort of team-building commute possible.
We can help your company find local talent (including potential local leaders), identify real estate options that suit your needs and streamline the landing process.