Having been involved with 100s of tech projects of different scales, I wanted to share a little bit of how we got here so quickly, even during a global lockdown, and 4 things I believe we got right in the hope that it could help other remote founding teams.
TL;DR: This blog post covers the short story of how 2 technologists (based in Barcelona and Jersey City) managed to build Syncaroo for workspace professionals during a very bumpy 6 months for the sector, and the world.
Back in November 2019 (you know… back when we could still go outside?) I published a blog post and asked for feedback to validate the extent of a timesuck I’d witnessed across hundreds of coworking spaces during my work at included.co.
What I got was a lot of great feedback, suggestions and ideas from workspace operators and managers.
But I also got a message from a fellow technologist who’d also been playing with some ideas and hypotheses around this topic.
1. Making contact and sharing ideas in the open.
A few weeks later Robert Kropp and I landed up having a call to openly discuss our approaches and theories and brainstorm some possible solutions.
The beauty of communication these days, is that alot of it is asynchronous, meaning that we could catch up and coordinate calls without waiting around for responses. It also meant we could think things out inbetween responses. It also meant that geography wasn’t a hinderance.
Robert (a US citizen) was over in always-sunny Barcelona in Spain, whilst I (a South African Cypriot) was sitting in Jersey City, NJ. And no, the irony is not lost on us.
If I hadn’t blogged openly about what I was seeing, and Robert hadn’t reached out, or if we hadn’t shared more and more, we wouldn’t have cofounded a business that may change the way workspace specs, pricing and media are updates across the internet.
On the topic of sharing openly, we adopted a transparency-first approach to both workspace operators (for example what data Syncaroo would and wouldn’t sync) and with partner platforms around integrations and our plans.
Could bigger budgets, existing relationships and idle dev teams be seen as a threat? Ofcourse.
Did this risk pay off? So far, I’d say yes.
We’ve been able to have open and honest conversations with the leaders and decision-makers at many of the world’s top platforms; and those are still leading to more and more introductions and conversations. All whilst building powerful tech infrastructure to enable almost plug-and-play integrations for proptech platforms across the globe.
2. Having multiple vantage points of the same pain-point.
Whilst remote work is all the rage right now, it’s been an increasingly popular and efficient work style for many tech companies for a little while already.
Both Robert and I have some experience running or participating in remote teams for projects, so it was less of a hurdle than an opportunity to get and share observations from different parts of the world.
Apart from actual geographic locations, we also came to coworking, and the flexible workspace sector, from two different vantage points.
Before landing and settling for a while in Barcelona, Robert made an epic workspace tour that allowed him to work from 100+ coworking and flexible workspaces around the world. As the owner of a software development consulting business, who used a whole lot of workspaces as he travelled, he’d started picking up on the data inconsistencies across various booking/aggregator platforms.
Whilst I’d also visited a whole bunch of spaces across the world over the last 5 years, I mostly found myself getting neck-deep in the operational elements of how workspace were setup, managed, marketed and rewarded their members.
As a technologist, I also quickly became fascinated with the tech ecosystem that underpins the explosion of flexible workspace and the evolution of the space-as-a-service offerings.
It’s through these lenses that I began spotting how much time workspace operators and marketeers were spending on literally copy-pasting information from one site into another.
Having such different perspectives (both geographically and experientially) of the same issue, namely the inefficiencies around the freshness of workspace data, allowed us to rapidly iterate and implement and test wider plans and hypotheses.
3. Being mission-driven enables great resilience.
We both knew that this is a really difficult problem to solve, with many moving parts, companies, agendas, politics, personalities, and reputations to navigate – and that’s before you took a look at a line of code or API documentation.
As we started figuring out how to navigate those bumpy roads, the pandemic rolled across the globe.
In a 30 min meeting we had formulated a plan.
We’d adapted our goto market strategy, adjusted our messaging and planned a divergence in our development plan – allowing us to connect as many humans to workspaces in the chaotic reopening rush that would eventually come.
This was only possible because we knew what our mission was, to build tech that made it so effortless to keep potential customers and partners up to date, it feels a little like magic.
This meant we could rapidly shift a whole lot of things to focus on releasing what would create the most value, for the most people and spaces, whilst still solving complex technical challenges that would pave the way for what we’d need to build next.
4. Concentrating on making the biggest impact fastest.
In order for a company (of any kind) to make the most impact, the people within it need to create more momentum working together, than if they were just pushing alone.
The best way to do that was to decide on who does what. Arguably, this is easier when you’ve got some technical and some non-technical founders with opposite skillsets. But Robert and I, both come from technical backgrounds with web development experience.
During a few of our later initial calls (before we even decided whether we’d try do this thing together) we explored what our ‘roles’ and responsibilities would look like, and what they should look like to move as fast as possible.
We realized early on that – although we could both code, and both had a wide network in the coworking and related sectors, and could both string together (sometimes a few too many) words into a blog post or email campaign – there were definitely areas where one of us could make a bigger impact faster.
So we split the responsibilities based on that criteria, with catchups or calls to discuss critical decisions that affect any of the areas we were ‘leading’.
At present Robert leads the tech implementation and integrations of the core app building towards the algorithm and ecosystem we designed together, and I lead the storytelling, branding and partnerships strategy to achieve the launch and long-term growth plan we also cooperatively designed.
This allows each of us to focus on the day-to-day details of our respective ‘areas’, whilst always pushing for continued momentum and results.
In summary, and notes on the hard stuff.
We shared ideas openly, have different vantage points of the same issue, are driven by the same mission and could put ‘egos’ aside to focus on where we can each deliver the biggest impact.
Of course we also put our heads down, worked really hard, heard many many no’s, got stuck in airports and our respective apartments (luckily with our loved ones) amid the global lockdowns, and also had just as many shitty stressful days as we did great days.
We’ve definitely not raised a trillion dollars, taken over the world, or become superstar remote startup superheroes.
But in this short period of time, we did ship the first piece of the solution that many many many professionals in our sector still can’t believe doesn’t exist yet.
And that to me, is a story worth typing up and sharing.