In one word, culture. To shed more light on this issue I wanted to share what is and continues to happen at a micro level at Tangelo (the company I run), as this is probably a signal that real collaboration beyond the corporate rooms is about to really happen. Keep in mind that making things happen take more time and effort than a few people going against the current but that is where everything starts.
Truth is, beyond the hype of instant collaboration, I’ve seen very few US companies trying to actually do collaborate as equals by making the world truly flat and that is going to cost us big in the future. Other cultures are as driven as ours but the thing is, they don’t need to be. They simply need to be more open on how they view technology breaking down cost barriers and many countries can easily be at the same level of the US in less time that it took us.
- It is no longer outsourcing, it must be a team of equals
- It is not longer a race for the cheapest labor, it is a race for the best talent — cost is a big factor but relatively secondary to talent
- Cultural affinity is key. Over the internet teams can work across the world at any company but cultural affinity is what will give yours the edge.
- Learn about your people beyond their resume — you will be surprise what wonderful things they can do that you had no idea about. You also can see if they are the type of worker you need. Some people are just good in paper.
- Location does not equal inspiration and inspiration does not equal performance. Dig deeper
- If you are in a technology hub (i.e. Silicon Valley) and your startup/business is not truly collaborating across borders then you are already behind
This week has gone by in a snap! This has been one of the best business trips I’ve ever taken. Met wonderful and talented people, ate the best steak ever and drank so much mate I am addicted now.
Traveling to a foreign land is always a challenge specially when you are putting together a team of people to support top of the line clients and to produce cutting edge experiences for them. That is what we are doing with Tangelo in Argentina.
Many people would confuse that with a twist on outsourcing. Tangelo is not an outsourcing company. We just do our work in Argentina. Early stage ideas are given shape in Argentina, not just implemented. Interfaces are created, polished and optimized here as well. The code, the graphic design, the software architecture and more – all done in Argentina. Our customers happen to be in the US but we are expanding that customer base.
We made Laprida Suites our headquarters for a week and the apartment is holding up as a meeting place quiet nicely. It is easy to access for most folks that live in the city and it has literally dozens of little cafes and parrillas with free wireless internet access almost everywhere. Just be sure to ask for the password and wireless ID. In Spanish that would be: Perdon, cual es el wireless y clave para el internet? The area (Recoleta) is quiet at night and very family oriented. Lots of babies and puppies everywhere! If you are staying a week and have to make calls for meetings, make sure you buy calling cards at the farmacity stores or in the many kiosks that you will find around Recoleta.
When I got to Buenos Aires, I already knew Leandro (my Argentinian partner) very well in a very new-age virtual kind of way. We’ve been working together for years without ever meeting face-to-face. In this new world of instant communication there’s really no need for constant face to face communication. Please note that I am not saying that face time is not important, sometimes is not as necessary as it was thought to be in the past.
We’ve been working night and day giving the final touches to the iPhone app that one of our clients will be launching and a few other projects such as web interfaces for social media applications, corporate redesigns for startups and more. MUCH more!
There’s an incredible talent pool in Argentina, not in volume of people but in depth of knowledge. If you know where to look and find a reliable partner, your company will be able to take advantage of world class coders, designers and web martekers.
Plus we’re skipping the classic web altogether and jumping into mobile, but that’s another post.
In Buenos Aires the days are long. The city is a slow-moving giant trying to get through the day in a dense South American heat. Today, a thin air of sadness covers the town as the country came to a halt because of a national holiday aptly named Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. It is held on March 24th, the anniversary of the coup d’état of 1976 that brought the military junta to power.
I got to Buenos Aires last Saturday to meet my counterparts of a technology and marketing company we are building together. By together I mean that we are a team of equals that belongs to a new culture that can only happen on the internet. We are a team held together by the power of instant communications that only the internet can afford us. But there’s something more important than technology itself and that is culture. Culture similarity can help you overcome the challenges that a lack of face-to-face contact can produce.
There’s no denying that running a business with a distributed workforce has its challenges. Long work days, lag in response times, weeks without seeing your family due to travel schedules and others. But if you look at it, these are the same issues that you would run into if you were with your team at the office. Thing is, location does not equal inspiration and inspiration does not equal performance. There’s a deeper inner drive that makes people perform and get through the long days and keep moving forward. That is, a love for what you do and a need to be better every new day.
It’s been one of those long days that are becoming the norm for us now. But the results are great and getting better. We have an extended team of talented developers, designers and writers that now is over 10 people. We began with only 2 about 7 months ago. We are happy to be working together face-to-face at least for this week but truly looking forward to retake our remote lifestyle of meetings over IM and skype and with the family around us.
Good night from Buenos Aires.
Thanks to @bochenn @juancruzmpq and @hernanbruno for all your hard work. We are moving forward fast and it’s exciting!
Belief, lots of work and sweat lots of sweat equity. That is what it takes to create and maintain a community that focuses around the simple notion of being latino. That is what Lance Rios has been able to create. An active and vibrant community of folks that share the love of being latino.
The success and sheer growth of the being latino community within facebook has been quiet healthy. Now it boosts over $25K members of which many of them are active users. Topics of discussion range from politics, to entertainment and technology.
Purist by GapingVoid
Why some startups succeed and others fail? Most importantly, how do you define success and failure and can you possibly be successful by challenging the status quo of innovation and startup value creation? Those are questions that I attempt to answer with a few things I’ve experienced through my own experience building a technology and marketing company from scratch. It all boils down to this: make sure your partners have skin in the game.
Success and failure. Two distinct outcomes and it is just as hard to do both right.
How do you define a success or a failure really depends on how high your bar is set and what are you willing to do, feel and explore in the quest to making your business work.
Find your drive and make sure it can support you through thick and thin
For some that drive to make it happen is the dream of seeing their vision implemented and alive in the form of a product. For others is the sheer need to prove that they can make money from the very beginning of the startup. For others is a way of life. But why would you want such a tough life? Why risk it when you have the opportunity of stability and a paycheck every two weeks with a comfortable office overseeing the bay? The answer for me is simple. The option of being a mid-career manager scares the shit out of me. Plus I need the challenge of diving into the unknown and coming out the other side with the experience of having figured it out. And potentially the upside that it represents. That seems rather incomprehensible for some but for me it is the natural next step.
The opportunity to be the best in the world
A startup represents the need and opportunity to create something unique. Something that no one else in the world can do it quiet your way. The opportunity to be the best in the world at one thing.
Seeking the coveted upside of sweat equity
In the grand scheme of things, people will remember your company by a great liquidity event. Going public big time or being acquired makes people remember the success or failure of a company. It doesn’t matter if you created Friendster, the first social networking ever, if you don’t transform that into tangible value, then your company might not matter.
Let me know what your thoughts are — I would love to hear your thoughts and experience.
The Latino population has been consistently underrepresented in areas of the economy that have a high return on investment. Representation in startups is one of those fields. But now, thanks to a better educated and more proactive generation, we are witnessing the flourishing of entrepreneurs that are either starting their own businesses or companies targeting exclusively the latino market. This is really good news for the economy.
This space is devoted to highlighting those latino/a entrepreneurs that are risk takers and that are leading the way. This post explores a startup that is lead by Julio Varela (@julito77) and that has found that the path you take often defines the services your company provides and that it is often better to learn as you go and be flexible with your business objectives. Have one mission in mind but don’t forget what you learn along the way.
v5 has been in business for over a year now, and it started with one charge: to promote the career of Fernando Varela an up and coming singer. V5 started by making sure they had a great product that can be promoted and that they believed in.
In the case of V5 they believe that Fernando Varela’s music can be a strong differentiator and can make the company a smashing success. V5 made the strategic decision to use social media to get people to buy Fernando’s CD or to go buy his music in iTunes.
V5 made some decisions to create relationships first online and then discuss their businesses with people offline. That is a tired and true business principle that has been the success of many companies for decades. So they “worked it,” and presented themselves as a family supporting Fernando and spreading the world about his music.
In the meantime, their desire to connect with people opened new business opportunies for them. Not only because their new friends started promoting Fernando as well but because V5 became knowledgeable in how to leverage major social media tools to increase their brand.
As a result, V5 is now approached by major companies and brands to help them craft online strategies.
So how do you become something? As Julio says, just start sharing and helping people, without set expectations. You would be surprised what will happen.
When you wake up in the morning, you look around and you instinctively know that you have a roof over your head, a toothbrush, soap and clean clothes to wear. You are likely to have a mirror in your bathroom so that you can put yourself together before facing the world. Before you go deep into the daily struggle of keeping up with the rat race, you’ve had the chance to boot up your laptop, take a shower and drink a strong cup of exotic coffee or stop by Starbucks or Peet’s for a non-fat latte. That is the morning routine at its finest.
A friend of mine moved away from the Silicon Valley and now expresses such joy that he is no longer part of the this culture of over achievement, long hours and little personal life. He is happier now he says. Many people leave the Valley in the midst of hard hitting economic recessions in search for a life that fits them better. They too drink brewed coffee every morning. They too sleep comfortably at night.
One of those mornings, we were getting ready for the day. My wife was feeding the babies downstairs. Isaac had an appointment with the doctor. Ethan was being himself and eating strawberries or bread, I don’t remember exactly. I was drinking coffee and was trying to match my jeans the proper shoes and shirt.
But that day something happened that changed our world. It hit hard. Tito had died in Colorado. Tito was (and will always be) dear to my wife because she was his adviser in high school. Please visit Tito’s website for more information. The next day I found out that one of my team members in Argentina had passed away as well. Hard weekend to get through. My wife sprung into action, albeit with a broken heart and an unbearable sadness.
Tito’s dreams where tied to the true meaning of the American dream. He was going to be the first to graduate from college in his family. He was an inspiration not only to his friends and family but for the community at large. Furthermore, Tito’s dreams where tied to the hidden community of the Valley. Those folks that are not starting high tech companies but are cleaning them at night. Those folks that regardless of the amount of money they make, they need to give away a great percentage of it to their families so that they can have food in their tables the next morning. They are philanthropists by necessity.
This got me thinking more in depth about how to have a bigger impact in other people’s life’s. What it means for me and how would I do it. So many people want to wait until they are wealthy enough to become philanthropists. However, if you are not used to giving and sharing, by the time you are indeed wealthy enough, your values might change drastically to the point that other people would matter less than your money. In the meantime all the real philanthropists, those who selflessly give their time (and in a lot of cases the little money they make) are picking up the slack. The teachers, the nurses, the immigrant workers. Those who’s work is to give and to provide shelter for the needy. Those that never give with strings attached.
I don’t want to wait to be able to help and you shouldn’t either. Give all the time and give a lot. That is the only way you will have no regrets when you sleep at night. Well, at least not that many.
We are social by nature. We need to interact with other people face to face and have that impromptu conversation on the spot and real-time. Up until now, the internet has not been able to give us this level of human interaction. With tools like Twitter and Facebook at our finder tips, we are able to replicate somewhat that craving for human interaction.
The application of real time is not new as you can gather from financial applications that provide traders with real time financial data so that they can make timely decisions. Note I said timely not wise. But what’s different now is that we all can access real time data that we care about mostly in real time. I am now able to keep in touch with my family in Spain, Ecuador and New York by emailing pictures, quotes, audio and video to my Tumblr account. I know that my family is subscrived to this channel so they will get a summary of the posts at the end of the day. I can stay in close contact with my brother who runs an adventure travel company in Ecuador and we can collaborate and work together. Hell, we can even fight like brothers do. All real time and all virtual.
But real time goes beyond the social aspect of it and that’s where the main opportunity lies. For instance, little things that we take for granted like being able to share images in real time via social networks and old school email continue to be a mystery for medical institutions.
Take my last experience with PAMF in Palo Alto for instance. We called the doctor because we were worried about Isaac, one of our 18 month old twins. We waited for a call back for about 90 minutes. Thank god it was not a life or death situation. When the doctor got on the phone she asked a bunch of questions but the main thing that made no sense was that after asking a great deal of information, her conclusion was that she couldn’t really diagnose the issue without seeing a picture of it.
We had a picture. Actually we had about five different ones ready to be emailed directly from our iPhones. So our response was that in fact had an image we can share. We asked for her email address and her answer was puzzling. She said “Oh no, we can’t receive images via email. Our system does not accept images”.
If this was a more worrisome situation we would have had to spend hours waiting to be seen at the urgent care center. All because PAMF has an email system that does not allow images.
In a case like this, the real time web would have been so so helpful, but the current system of fear around medicine keeps those institutions in the dark ages of computing. Real time is appealing to us because it allows us to mimic a face to face interaction and enrich a phone call or connect with friends and colleagues with a mobile device. It allows us to put a bit of our human nature back into the internet.
Image by tanzer-art
Outsourcing. Many tasks related to a small business can be easily outsourced but what happens when your business depends on a reliable and creative remote workforce?
Things that go beyond the established back-office tasks. When you rely 100% on a remote team, like we do at Tangelo Consulting for software and web development, then you need to make sure that your team is a high performing team. Here are some guidelines that you meet in order to get your team to the next level and to ensure that your team is indeed high performing and highly reliable.
The set below is a starting point of some of the most important things that I’ve learned while doing this to build my own company while working for others and that we continue to use as a core of our values as a company.
- The first person is key. Search for a partner not an employee
- Establish a strong relationship. (Read more about my previous experiences outsourcing with India and Argentina)
- Set specific goals and time lines
- Hold people accountable for outcomes and missed targets and reward them for accomplishments and creative solutions
- Setup Agile Management Procedures (See Creative Technologist Article)
- Standardize a communication technology
- Build an open culture and foster critical thinking and innovation
- Bridge the culture gap by offering a long term view of the opportunities ahead
While there will be a thousand things (Paul Graham) that you will have to worry about while you run your own company with the support of a remote team, my advise is to take care of the basics from the very beginning. That way you will save money and will have a strong foundation to build upon for the good times and the trust and confidence you need to sail through the bad ones.
There are some basics that you need to cover to give stronger credibility to your small business. A business phone, email, fax, invoicing system and legal contracts. This can add up quickly but below I am offering some tips on how to do it all under $50 per month.
Here are five websites that can help you get organized and help you give your company a more professional look without breaking the bank. Mobile is one of the key factors to consider in these days of real-time customer service and 24/7 support and most of the websites mentioned below have that option.
- Ease of use: Easy
- Cost: Low ($10 per month)
- Mobile: Yes
Setup a virtual voice mail service for under $10 per month. Don’t have a fax machine to receive faxes? Really who sends faxes any more, but every once in a while you have the need to receive something via fax. RingCentral gives you a fax number for under $6 per month. All faxes are turned into PDFs so that you can look at them easily in your laptop, desktop, iPhone or blackberry.
2. Google for your domain
- Ease of use: Way Easy
- Cost: Free
- Mobile: Yes
I believe that once you are running your own company or freelance business you should by default change your email to use your company’s domain name. There’s no bigger turn off than to receive a business email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Google Apps makes this extremely easy to do. All you need is to buy a domain name and change some settings in the Google Apps interface. Finding the information for the DNS settings is a little cumbersome but I took the time to link it here in case you need it.
- Ease of use: Way Easy
- Cost: Medium ($24 per month starter package)
- Mobile: Yes for iPhone
Basecamp is the ultimate “do less with more” project management tool. You can setup to-do lists, milestones and share this with your team very easily. If you have been used to heavy corporate project management packages, it takes a couple of days hours to get used to it. If you are managing different portions of a huge project for several clients, then basecamp might fall short due to the lack of some basic features such as deadlines for the to-do items. Overall is a very good starter project management tool.
- Ease of use: Moderate (Easy for accounting software)
- Cost: Medium (FREE for 3 clients. $19 per month starter package)
- Mobile: Yes for iPhone but App is not fully developed
Make your invoices and estimates look sharp. Provide your clients with online payment. Track expenses, time and integrate with basecamp. The integration is a little jerky but it works OK as long as you have some time to edit the invoice by hand before sending it to the client. FreshBooks is simple and has enough features that can help you keep the financial pulse of your growing business
- Ease of use: Moderate
- Cost: Free for many documents ($19.95 per month afterwards)
- Mobile: No
Rocket Lawyer can save you a lot of money and time for basic legal contracts. There are a lot of free legal forms in there as well. There is no mobile component which is not really needed. If you want you can take advantage of the e-signature service. However, it really depends on your client base and market. Many people don’t feel comfortable signing a legal contract online yet.