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InVision has no physical headquarters and all 700 employees work remotely (businessinsider.com)
482 points by aviv on Oct 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 225 comments

Perhaps more interesting is that Elastic, the company behind Elasticsearch, just IPO'ed on NYSE, and they, too, have a fully distributed team of over 700 -- might even be trending toward 1000 by now. Zapier is another one at multi-hundred-person scale, and is a YC company. A couple other scaled-up ones on this model include Automattic (company behind Wordpress), DataStax (company behind Cassandra).

There is also Wikimedia, Canonical, and Mozilla -- perhaps those 3 are less interesting since they have a non-profit mission tied to the internet-as-community and FOSS.

It's worth mentioning that when I started my startup back in 2009 as a fully distributed team, VCs viewed that as a major -1 strike against the company. So much so that we chose not to mention it during initial pitches. We ended up finding Series A/B financing, and these days, those investors ask us to advise companies on how fully distributed teams work, so new portfolio companies can decide for themselves. They were early believers in the model, but they tell me they have noticed a major change in attitude among fellow VCs toward distributed teams. That is, they understand the tradeoffs (finally), and believe the model can scale.

We now have a fully distributed staff of 70, over 400 customers, and millions in revenue. So 1/10 InVision scale, but it works well (and nicely!) at this scale. These days we also have an NYC office, but we refer to it as "the Internet cafe", about 20 of our 70 people "so happen" to work out of there regularly, with everyone else in home offices or co-working spaces. Our NYC office is also used for team gatherings, client events/visits, and board meetings.

I wrote my initial views on the different scaling models for teams here in 2012:


Also wrote a little about how the fully distributed team needs to be complemented, from time to time, with f2f interaction. This was in 2016 after several years of experience scaling hiring and organizing team retreats -- "Fully Remote, But Here For Each Other":


GitLab being all remote has been a problem during fundraises. We mentioned it since we're transparent and inevitably investors will want to visit your office.

During our latest D round it was a smaller problem since later rounds are more based on financial metrics and comparables (GitHub, Atlassian, Jfrog). But I wouldn't say that it is no longer a problem with VCs, many still have scaling concerns.

As one of the best investors said that passed on us: we're in the pattern matching business and all remote doesn't match the pattern. It might very well work but we will invest only in a handful of businesses anyway, we might as well pick ones that are a complete match.

I guess/hope "remote only" objections will sound as ridiculous one day as Viaweb being questioned about their use of a "freeware OS"

Indeed, I hope that one day you have to defend why you're spending money on an office, hiring only the 1% of people that live or can move to a certain place, and waste two hours of their day with a commute.

That’s sad to hear given as I’m looking to raise funds but also hoping to build a distributed team given the abundance of worldwide talent.

Does this change your strategy somewhat in that it limits your access to capital which forces you to look at profitability sooner?

I think you can raise a comparable amount of funds for a distributed team, it will just be with fewer investors and at a lower valuation.

The valuation will be lower since an acquisition is less likely. Most acquirers of companies under $100m want the acquired employees to join their office. Since this is unlikely with a distributed team there will be a discount on the acquisition price of up to 50%.

There was an upside to this. Since distributed companies make for a less valuable acquisition target our investors are aligned with our plan to become a public company https://about.gitlab.com/strategy/#sequence-

For public companies being remote is less of an issue since financial metrics are much more important and in the case of an acquisition they would likely stay as a separate entity.

This will be a challenge for me as my investors already feel the company has the potential to be an acquisition target for one of the big guys and feels we should be building it that way. We’re also based in the U.K. and am not sure how many Saas platform tech companies become public.

You will have to get to a liquidity event, 99% of the time this is an acquisition or going public.

It is not very motivating for you and the team to build for an acquisition. If you want to go that route be careful how much you raise, every pounds has to paid back 3 to 10 times.

Which is why I have a slight headache. I’m really impressed and what you guys have done and am extremely interested in your journey so far.

Would you be able to spare me 10 mins for a quick chat? I’m a first time founder and really want to learn as much as I can so I don’t screw it all up.

> That’s sad to hear given as I’m looking to raise funds but also hoping to build a distributed team given the abundance of worldwide talent.

Are you looking for VC funding or angel funding?

If you have the ability to use foreign teams, you are probably better off taking angel funding and bootstrapping.

Remember, VC's want "up or out". "Cheap remote workers" isn't really relevant to that to a first approximation.

In fact, some VC's will look at it as a detriment. They wanted you to spend that couple million and succeed or go up in smoke. With cheap remote workers, you look at that couple million as 3+ years of runway for really solid organic growth.

"cheap remote workers" isn't quite the point, it's more access to talent that's not geographically next to you. I know it's not your main point but I just wanted to add this note. :) Most companies who do remote and are successful at it, don't pay a discount on employees. In fact in many cases the pay is very competitive with SF/NY standards.

Exactly why we want to do remote. I find our concept is hard to parse amongst the talent in our geographic area whereas I’ve found folks across the world who completely get it and would like to help.

At the moment, embedded myself into an incubator. Haven’t really found any angel investors who would be willing to give us some runway as I don’t think many here get what we do. But it is a good thought and something to consider if things don’t pan out.

Good "cheap workers" either remote or in office don't exist anymore, and it is normal to be like that. You have to change your thinking.

That’s disappointing to hear. Hopefully with the Elastic IPO and other public successes, the pattern matching algorithm will change. If you don’t mind the question, how many people is Gitlab now?

I'm sure the being all remote will become more common.

359 people now, see https://about.gitlab.com/team/

I'm curious how successful that investor is.

Very successful. He's had a number 2 spot on the Midas list of best investors in a year.

Yeah, having a way to rapidly say no to a lot of otherwise-interesting opportunities is probably valuable to him. And honestly -- getting a 'no' and a clear reason for it is awesome investor behavior compared to the norm. :)

Indeed I was grateful that he passed fast and with a clear explanation. We asked him again when we raised our D-round but that came together to fast to make it work.

In the one conversation I had with him he coined 'the emergent benefits' of a single application https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/product/single-application... and he said we should call it a Development Operating System (OS). What do other people think of calling it that?

So, full disclosure, I helped create and ran the developer tools group at a large, well-known tech company. This is a space I'm intimately familiar with.

The idea seems pretty straightforward to me and not particularly insightful. Calling it an OS is different from calling it a platform, but effectively it's the same thing. Perhaps more interesting are the implications of that analogy -- do you ship APIs and have a lot of third party people building on top of you like in the Github model or do you go more in the direction of Atlassian? I know that's a bit of a false dichotomy, Atlassian has APIs and Github is clearly trying to extend their toolchain, but in general you have one with a rich ecosystem and the other where you mostly ship what they provide.

For myself, I see GitLab trying to be more of a Github alternative than an Atlassian alternative. I don't know if that's your strategic intent, but that's how it comes across to me. In either case, I think the industry in this space is pretty unexciting in terms of the kinds of innovation that are happening right now. Google still has a toolchain that is a decade ahead of most of us, and I don't see anyone really tackling that head on.

In my view everyone has open APIs and the difference is:

1. GitHub focusses on a marketplace ecosystem (although I hear they will be adding CI soon)

2. Atlassian has a suite of applications that work well together and you can buy as a bundle

3. GitLab is a single application for the whole DevOps lifecycle, one codebase with everything from planning to monitoring, one UI, reliable upgrades, everyone on the same page

Okay, then to take the OS analogy:

    GitHub: Windows
    Atlassian: MacOS
    GitLab: ???
You could try on Linux for size, but I don't think it fits.

So either as an analogy it doesn't work, or this idea doesn't scale. :) BeOS is the only OS I've used that I both liked and that had a single design vision behind it. I think that this is most likely an artifact of it not being successful, though. If it had been widely adopted, it would have gone the way of MacOS or Windows.

For me, it’s an interesting thought. Would your audience understand what it means? Are you trying to position GitLab into something more than what it is today.

It would also be equally interesting to test what the term would mean to different people.

For me, I still find it difficult to wrap my head around the original concept of what an OS is. And Development Operating System would mean an OS that is in development. At least based on first impressions.

I am likely to try something similar with saying “DevOps for ML” or “CI for ML”. Will see how that goes.

Let me get it straight: You are increasing potential hires pool tenfolds, save a fortune by not playing the real-estate bubble game, effectively double your work day to almost 24 hours by spreading over timezones, and likely enjoy a 6-days work week - and VCs are worried about your ability to scale? This is just astonishing to hear.

You know how we think about all remote, we think it is a no-brainer. I want to leave some notes on your points:

1. "Increasing potential hires pool tenfold" => In the view of many VCs the most talented and experienced people will live in the bay area.

2. "effectively double your work day to almost 24 hours by spreading over timezones" => although it is great that our support and site reliability engineers don't have a night shift it is very hard to work across timezones, it makes most part of our company less effective and harder to coordinate, we have to push ourselves to work asynchronous (issues instead of chat)

3. "enjoy a 6-days work week" => we think the benefits of not having a commute belong to the team member, not the company

4. "VCs are worried about your ability to scale" => they are very worried about having the executive team on the same page, not very worried about individual contributors

> save a fortune by not playing the real-estate bubble game

I always thought that the real estate game was intentionally part of the deal. The idea would be for a group of VCs to pick a target location (say, San Francisco), buy up the local infrastructure (housing, office space, coffee shops, etc), and turn around and rent / sell to the startups that you just funded. This would pad the ROI, so even a company that crashes and burns after 5 years would still be profitable on the basis of the rents paid.

This cycle wouldn't come into play with a remote team. And in that lens, the onerous zoning laws of the bay area make perfect sense

> buy up the local infrastructure (housing, office space, coffee shops, etc), and turn around and rent / sell to the startups that you just funded. This would pad the ROI, so even a company that crashes and burns after 5 years would still be profitable on the basis of the rents paid.

You can never turn a profit on rent paid out of money you gave to someone, just like it's impossible to turn a profit on purchases your employees make from you with the wages you pay them. You're always better off just keeping the money.

It's someone else's money.

- VC raises money to invest

- VC or the individual partners buy the infrastructure (or already owns it through different channels)

- VC instructs companies it funds to use infrastructure it owns


Now, of course there's interest in successes in the fund, but even when a bet doesn't pan out the VC firm can profit

That does not "pad the ROI". It lowers the ROI of the fund. It may launder some money from the fund into a VC's personal pockets, but that's not the same thing.

A lot of people don't work well remotely. Me, for example. I found that out the hard way.

> likely enjoy a 6-days work week

Wait, what? Are remote workers expected to work Saturdays or something?

effectively double your work day to almost 24 hours by spreading over timezones, and likely enjoy a 6-days work week

My assumption is they mean that M-F covers 6 days if you have people in enough time zones, while still paying them for five days.

Maybe because of international date lines, one person's Saturday is another's Friday, so different days means someone is always working?

"weekdays" are not globally Mon-Fri.

re: " These days we also have an NYC office, but we refer to it as "the Internet cafe", about 20 of our 70 people "so happen" to work out of there regularly..."

It would be interesting to know:

- How many other distributed companies have a similar arrangement (i.e., a non-distributed "HQ")?

- Does this make employees more productive and/or satisfied?

- When on the journey does it make sense to transition from centralized to distributed?

- Are distributed orgs more (or less) likely to outsource commodity-esque (e.g., bookkeeping) services?

Our onboarding materials explicitly say, "NYC is not HQ". And it's not HQ. It is just an office we leased because we ended up with 10+ staff in NYC and they preferred an office to a co-working space, for security/privacy. (If you've ever lived in NYC, you know it can be challenging to have a home office at any reasonable cost, due to typical square footage of living spaces. That's part of the reason I left NYC.)

We are a Delaware C-Corp. Yes, we have our mail sent to NYC, but that's for the lawyers/accountants.

As for the NYC staff, they find that one "problem" with the office is that it has a "library atmosphere". I personally don't think that's problem, but I am the CTO and an engineer, so I prefer quiet & focus. Some people expect an office to have "energy" and ours is definitely lower on that scale. I try to remind people that "the web is our office and the front door to that office is your internet connection."

Are people happier in our NYC office than on our remote team? Hard to tell, but the NYC folks complain about commuting a whole lot, and often take the occasional work from home day to spare themselves of it. I never hear those complaints from the other staff. I guess one benefit of the NYC staff is that they can have happy hours and dinner/drink outings, which inspires some jealousy on the non-NYC team.

We make up for that by throwing annual and semi-annual team retreats. Our last two were in Upstate NY at a writer's retreat campsite (really fun getting to know everyone over campfires and s'mores) and the one before that was in Reykjavik, Iceland, where we rented out a whole hotel and got to know each other on city and countryside excursions during 23 hours of daylight!

Where on the startup journey does transition to distributed make sense? Well, for us, day one worked! We reversed the typical evolution. We were 100% office-free for a few years. Then, in 2012-2013 or so, we got an NYC office, after a frustrating experience with a sub-leased co-working space for the NY staff. But we refer to it as the NYC internet cafe, not HQ. I think that is healthy for teams like ours.

Are distributed teams more likely to outsource stuff? I dunno, probably. We outsource commodity accounting/legal/payroll/benefits services, but we have an in-house finance/collections team. We also outsource PR, cloud hosting (obviously), and we use a lot of SaaS services.

Thanks for the details.

Just to clarify, "HQ" was in quotes, in an air quote sorta way :)

Would be interested in seeing a write up on your services stack.

One such place I worked for had the non-distributed HQ and it housed the execs and some of the local team (being non-specific here on purpose).

I switched from working remotely to working locally, which involved a change of country, and I realised that I couldn't justify my own position after that.

As far as it goes with productivity and satisfaction, I thought the decision to go half-in on remote was a mistake.

My take away was that a startup does not necessarily have the maturity to maintain the balance between local and remote while also focus on making things happen. It was totally a setup that was so advantageous to the staff that the business itself suffered, as I saw it.

In those terms, you get a reprioritisation or a negligence and productivity suffers because you've just resigned to the reality that it's really hard to manage it all. Yet still, you feel entrenched so the best you feel you can do is to just... do nothing.

I would say that a small startup depends on fluid interaction between founders and the various 'makers' on board who help fulfil the vision. If you're 50/50 on how you facilitate that then you get a lot of mediocre when you could have had one solid thing and your foundation is built upon a compromise.

If I found myself in a leadership position in such a scenario again I would hope that I could stomach the firing act and invest in the culture that suited us best. But I don't think that's so easy to do with a small team.

Basecamp does it that way I think.

At Mozilla we do have offices. I don't know what the exact office vs home based worker breakdown is, but I think the majority work from home. It's certainly true on my team, which is spread across three countries and nine cities.


> There is also Wikimedia, Canonical, and Mozilla -- perhaps those 3 are less interesting since they have a non-profit mission tied to the internet-as-community and FOSS.

Canonical is a for-profit company. They're also not fully distributed, either; I have a friend who moved to the UK a couple of years ago to work out of Canonical's headquarters.

Canonical is incorporated for-profit but barely pays its bills after 14 years in business, and relied heavily on Mark Shuttleworth wealth and willingness to spend money on things he likes without turning a profit. (Shuttleworth sold his startup Thawte for about $0.5B in 1999 at age 26, and has less than that wealth now.)

That's interesting. My mistake, then. I had cited it from memory of talking to some Canonical staff during my own interview processes, where it seemed to me that it was fully distributed and driven by a non-profit mission (namely: sustaining salaries for F/OSS contributors).

> less interesting since they have a non-profit mission tied to the internet-as-community and FOSS

Doesn’t this aspect make them even more interesting?

Oh, yes, in many ways, yes!

What I meant by that: these three examples might feel, to VCs and founders, like anomalies rather than examples of an alternative scaling model for high-growth software/tech enterprises operating on a startup-to-IPO trajectory. Elastic, Automattic, InVision, Zapier, by contrast, are "traditional high-growth startups" in every respect, but where the founders simply chose fully distributed as the scaling/hiring model.

Most non profit communities and FOSS are mostly have no headquarter so maybe that's why.

Sounds like the perfect working model but how do you handle the multitude of labour laws, payroll, taxation etc?

You pay someone like Trinet [1]. You wire them funds, they distribute to employees in all 50 states and handle payroll, taxation, etc. They act as the employer as record, show up on employee W2s, etc. There are other companies out there that perform the same service, but Trinet is the company I'm familiar with having worked at a fully remote startup.

If you have international employers, there's more complexity besides wiring them funds; you have to ensure you're not violating local labor law as it relates to employee vs contractor classification. Talk to an attorney!

[1] https://www.trinet.com/

Thanks for sharing this. Very timely as it’s currently going through my mind.

Did you guys first start with the founders distributed as well?

Going to be interviewing some guys who aren’t in the country I’m based in but from a skills and vision perspective, looks to be a good match.

My cofounder and I worked together from cafes on nights and weekends, but also did a whole lot of remote collaboration, in our first couple of years. We did a 3-month summer accelerator where we were f2f every day early on, as well. But when that was over, we switched back to mostly remote collaboration. For the bulk of our first 2 years of operation (which was really a bootstrapping period), we worked mostly over the web. This despite the fact we were both in/around NYC. But, he was based in Manhattan at the time and I was in Astoria, Queens, so we'd save ourselves the trouble of meeting up f2f, though occasionally would co-work together.

I think what you'll find is that in the founding period, f2f can help a whole lot, and, of course, if you are pitching for fundraising or enterprise clients, you almost always need to do some f2f visiting with people. So, don't be religious about it. But for "the work itself" (e.g. code, design, writing) there is no need to be colocated.

Thanks. What’s shaping up to be is that my technical co-founder could be remote while I’ll be dealing with the F2F interactions. While I feel somewhat comfortable having a remote co-founder, I worry if it will come back to bite me.

Also, for your remote employees outside of the US, how do you structure your payroll, determine compensation and pay them? Seems like it would be quite an extensive HR payroll setup, which might not sit well with investors or potential acquirers?

I think remote works well when the company caters to remote employees as a main priority (maybe through adoption of remote friendly processes). I've worked in teams where i was the only remote employee and everyone else was in the office, suffice to say that i missed out on a lot of important information.

If one employee is remote, the entire company must act as if all employees are remote. Otherwise, this will happen. It's happened to me as well.

I'm in that situation now. Well kind of. I am in the only team member not colocated with the rest of the team.

At the start it was really hard. They would all be in a room together and I could barely even hear them over the phone, much less speak up and say something over their rapid fire conversations. It's gotten better since I've brought these concerns up I'm only on week 4.

We've setup twice a week cisco telepresence meetings and the plan is I fly out every few months for a week.

I'm not too keen on this long term but at least the team is really experienced so I stand to learn a lot. I hope I can take what I learn to my own team soon.

At a lot of companies, teleconferencing systems are astonishingly bad. Like, “why did they even consider buying this” bad. Often the first 10 minutes of a meeting will be spent figuring out how to use the conf system or rebooting it because it’s not working. Then figuring out which cable to plug into in order to project remotely. Then asking if everyone is here. Then telling Karen to mute her microphone because she’s apparently in a hurricane. Then Roger is 30 minutes late because he had the wrong dial-in code...

Teleconferencing systems with a 'communal' screen and camera do not make much sense to me nowadays.

Most employees have at least 2 devices with built-in cameras and a screen that can be utilized for videoconferencing.

Give everybody a headset. Done.

we do that on many days, but the audio quality is so much better on the "mainframe" cisco setup.

Bizarre, do you have some really cheapo headsets or something? (Or let me guess...using your iPhone earpods?) In my role I've tested a lot of pricey speakerphone systems, and we find headset audio quality to be far superior in every circumstance.

no, the issue is that part of the team ends up in one conference room with 1 shitty conference phone. people don't speak up loud enough, don't speak into the mic, etc.. look up cisco ix5000 which is what I'm talking about. it's a whole 'nother beast.

yeah when everyone is on a headset it's fine as long as people mute themselves but when it's a few people on a headset and most in a conference room it's terrible.

No thanks! That adds chatter to the open office.

Only karen is incapable of either hearing or understanding the word ‘MUTE’ so everyone rolls their eyes while they try to yell over the hurricane and clack, clack, clack of her keyboard.

Then she’s finally muted, and someone else unmutes and takes over the disturbance.

It’s unimaginable to me...

Yeah the conference rooms sound terrible from an audio stand point but we have these rooms with these huge cisco telepresence things. the audio is incredible. the video is good and helps because I can see body language.

I've done this for a few years, flying in about once a month.

It's feasible and I would do it again, but the problems you are facing now won't really change much, you'll always be a bit out of the loop (e.g. you will miss that common joke that came out at lunch). I've also been on the other side and noticed the same issue.

How much this impacts you, is a very personal thing.

yeah it's still going to be a problem. fortunately I don't care all that much. my HR manager is here locally and there are other teams working on same project around me so I have a spot to jump to eventually. This team is way better than the local ones so I take what I can get :)

700 employees? That sounds like an awful lot for a product like InVision.

Bohemian Coding, the company behind Sketch, employs a few dozen people.

Also, I don't think the web is ready for UI/UX design tools. The ones I've tried feel really slow on my 5K iMac. Maybe in 5-10 years when web assembly is polished and related tool chains...

Guessing they're mostly sales/service related employees. When you get on their enterprise plan the service is fairly personal.

Invision also has a wider breadth of tools than what Sketch does (though Sketch does what they do in a much deeper way).

Sketch doesn't do personalized enterprise-level service plans (or Basecamp, for a similar example)... so they can be a lot leaner.

Still, do you think enterprise custom plans add enough value to pay for, let's say, 500 employees?

I don't know, it still sounds like a lot of people to sustain.

Edit: apparently InVision's revenue is about 10M, so yeah, still running on VC fuel.

I've been involved in the invision enterprise purchase process.

1) They're very high touch. Rep-with-a-name, etc. So they definitely employ staff for this.

2) The markup compared to regular invision is huge.

Their tiers go from "we're very small" (5 people on a team) to "pay us for enterprise" way too soon IMO. There exists a design team size (<25-50?) where the cost:workflow tradeoff makes continuing to share logins for a non-enterprise account the smart thing to do.

The teams that tire of, or never play, the shared accounts game bring in a lot of revenue. Big seat costs for very nearly the same thing.

Do you feel the same way about Figma? I haven’t tried it on a 5K monitor, but I’ve heard good things.

Friends of mine who switched to Figma from Sketch say regular actions are much snappier than Sketch like panning and zooming around huge artboards. I really need to give it a try as well

The most recent version of Sketch (52) seems to resolve a lot of the general slowness around large files. It's Metal-accelerated now.


I get spam emails at work from some sales person at InVision several times a week. Perhaps many of those folks are in sales?

Ready? Have you tried out Webflow?

Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't Webflow a substitute for coding HTML and CSS more than a UX/UI design tool?

Edit: Also their pricing is just ridiculous. Static hosting is almost free these days, and they charge about $30 per user per month for unlimited projects.

UXPin (based in both SV and Poland) does just fine for our organization. Been using it for a year and a half with only fairly minor issues now and then. And it has Sketch integration.

Have you tried Marvelapp?[1]. It's a bit clunky at times but generally pretty fast.

1. https://marvelapp.com/

they are close to releasing desktop based application.

While this is no doubt great I don't really believe a statement "But most importantly, Frein said, it helps InVision build a better product". Under what metric? I don't believe that people who are forced to cooperate with video and screen sharing options can deliver a better product than these, who can walk up to a colleague and ask them in person or use a whiteboard to explain their problem. In the end, remote workers are logically forced to spent much more time in meetings that their "in-office" counterparts.

EDIT: You're very much all correct, but I still don't believe that I would be effective without any personal contact. Guess the experience is personal!

I've remote worked for decades, and that isn't my experience.

Video/screensharing meetings are far more productive in my experience, but only if everybody is using the tool. Its frustrating to hold an in-person meeting at the office, and try to add remote folks. The local ones shut out the 'voice on the phone' and start drawing on boards and paper and it breaks down.

I spent 10 years in a company that had all meetings online, even if you were in the office. It was very productive, with all the automation tools at everyone's disposal at every meeting.

Also with our tool, it took an average of 30 seconds to get a meeting started. Vs the 15-minutes-late average starting time of in-person meetings

I agree. The core tools that allow full remote teams to even function can make a remote team more productive than the average team. Things like: documenting everything religiously, ditching physical location-specific security VPNs, recording everything, letting employees observe every meeting, cloud tools, etc.

For centralized teams, it's difficult to get to this point because it requires willpower and discipline to not take the "easy way out" and just talk about it in-person. Remote teams have an advantage here because there is no easy way out.

But, that comes with obvious drawbacks; it's not easy.

You're right that the worst case scenario is "semi-remote", even if that just means two centralized offices trying to collaborate.

One of the ideas I am warming up to is centralizing (say 75% of) hiring around specific cities, and paying for specific coworking space membership in those cities. You can remain a remote company, but employees have the freedom to organize days when they want to work together in those pre-selected locations.

"Also with our tool, it took an average of 30 seconds to get a meeting started."

You must have better phone-meeting tools than my company does.

Right; didn't use a phone-meeting tool which sucks. We used Sococo's TeamSpace, because we were a startup and that's what we were creating (dogfooding our own product).

When I left it was an app that was always-on, keeping all folks logged into the same 'map' network-connected. We could click in and out of one-on-one meetings, standups and bullpens, or whole-company meetings with audio/video setup times in 100ms or so (depending on how far away folks were and the speed of light).

You wanted to talk to Bob, you click into Bob's 'office' and say "hey Bob!" and he says "Hi, what's up?"

It was wonderful. Our media node supported up to 100 participants; there was no friction to conversations, meetings, standups etc. I knew who was active (could see them talking/meeting on the map) and who wanted privacy (had their office door closed). It included chat with unlimited history, persistent document sharing and on and on. It took <10% cpu time even in big meetings, <1% when not in a conversation.

I just looked up TeamSpace, this is actually a super solid concept. This kind of tool actually makes me think the casual-conversation problem of remote work could actually be solved.

That's so funny.

I wanted to build exactly this product half a year ago, didn't know it existed.

I am glad to see it exists. But they really have to work on their design.

Edit: Maybe the skeumorphism isn't so bad actually at explaining the concept to outsiders.

> You wanted to talk to Bob, you click into Bob's 'office' and say "hey Bob!" and he says "Hi, what's up?"

I wouldn’t like it if people distracted me like that. Part of what I like about working remotely is that it forces asynchronous communication on people. Send me a message on slack and I can ignore it if I’m deep in thought. If you need to talk to me over voice chat, send me a message on slack asking me to join you in voice chat.

From the next paragraph:

> I knew who was active... and who wanted privacy (had their office door closed)

But that's also what makes remote working less effective in many cases.

Hey, may I ask why you decided to leave the company eventually? My email is mail@konstantinschubert.com

Sure! New financing meant the old leadership was out and a new group. They were all open-source and WebRTC. First meeting they were "Hey we can use open source and save a lot of effort!" and I instantly replied "We didn't write it ourselves because we weren't 'smart enough' to use open source. We did it because we needed performance guarantees. If we switch to open source, you'll have to tell us what we can give up".

Silence from them. Then a managed exit for me!

That's a bit sad. I wish the company all the best luck. The world needs their product. But just from looking at their website, I am worried about the quality of execution.

Unfortunately my company uses a product that we got in an acquisition that is not very good. (It's actually end-of-life right now but the new product isn't much better.)

There are good meeting solutions that make meeting remotely a lot easier. I happen to work on Webex Teams (full disclosure) but we dogfood our solution and having video meetings call participants in when it starts makes us jump into the meet without the old "wait till quorum is here, can you hear me, etc". Best, that happens by just adding @spark or @webex in the location of the calendar tool (Mail.app, Outlook…).

Phone is good as a backup to poor internet connection but HD video with good audio is so much better.

I think the point was that they're using their PCs, not phones, and that the meeting is PC-native, e.g. the meeting is conducted on the PC, as opposed to having an in-person meeting where someone is on the phone looking at the same thing on a PC.

> start drawing on boards and paper

Sounds like important brainstorming activities. How do you deal with this when you're remote?

For me, Wacom tablets or tablet-with-stylus kinds of devices.

Now it's not only a whiteboard, but I can take screenshots, collaborate with countless others, undo, search, zoom and pan infinitely, etc...

And they can be had for around $100 or less.

Plenty of real-time whiteboarding tools. Something simple like a shared google doc works well for 90% of it.

Which collaborative whiteboard solutions do you like?

We use https://www.notion.so/ for notes, tasks, wiki and project management. Google Docs for quick stuff or formal writeups.

Occasionally we'll use OneNote online or https://awwapp.com/ which has more freeform drawing if we need it, but otherwise it's usually just typing stuff out in lists.

This is all on peoples computers, no fancy video-conferencing setups. Those are almost always a waste of money and never work well.

Hrm. None of these really seem like whiteboarding though.

I'm not sure what you mean then, what is whiteboarding exactly?

Using whiteboard and notepad features of the collaboration tool. Which are legible and visible to everyone all the time, not just if you're looking over somebody's shoulder

I suppose you could point a webcam at the whiteboard, although there are a lot of options out there for online collaboration. We use MS stuff at work and multiple people can live-edit Word, One Note, etc. docs for example.

I wrote a full comment and then deleted it because our blog talks a lot about this. At the risk of being downvoted for pushing my employer's blog, I'll leave you with a blog post:


Notable bits:

> People get more done when they have autonomy

> the office is filled with distractions. This is especially true for those who are in an open-office space, where they are 15 percent less productive, have more trouble concentrating, and are not too pleased with their sound privacy.

> People are often surprised to learn that remote workers are actually more engaged than in-office counterparts. [0]

> Perhaps the greatest benefit of remote work is that it makes the way for sustainable happiness — giving people the chance to pursue their passions both in work and in life

And this is not said in the article, but happy people produce better work.

Also, there are more sources in the blog post.

We've written a lot about it, if you want to read more: https://blog.aha.io/?s=remote

[0] https://hbr.org/2012/08/are-you-taking-your-people-for

I don't agree that your points can be taken universally. I have employed several people who have performed very poorly with autonomy because they didn't have the motivation to own the things they were working on.

Other people working remotely suffer terribly with emotional problems if they don't have enough contact time with real people. Again, some thrive and enjoy the freedom and lack of commute but plenty of people have ditched remote working.

In terms of distractions, some people don't like "distractions" but plenty of companies rely on what might be seen as noise to cause chance encouters, overhearing of conversations and the banter and energy that is much easier to generate in an office.

In terms of work/life balance, remote working sounds great but plenty of people work in offices and still have work life balance. Some of those people's "life" is their co-workers and the time in the pub after work is their social life (not mine but don't judge).

If you are having “chance encounters” continuously for 8 hours every day (in most open office, there is always a conversation somewhere in earshot), you aren’t doing any work. Most engineers recognize this, and drown them out with headphones.

I agree that these are not universal truths. But I also think that remote workers tend to be self selecting. Those who are successful remote workers do have "the motivation to own the things they're working on" and that fact builds a very strong team.

> terms of distractions, some people don't like "distractions" but plenty of companies rely on what might be seen as noise to cause chance encouters, overhearing of conversations and the banter and energy that is much easier to generate in an office.

I greatly prefer using a corporate message service (Google Hangouts Chat, Slack, etc.) for corporate conversations and banter because the conversations are not ephemeral, and you can catch up on things that are happening. Now, obviously, people can have private conversations too, but I think everyone being able to see the public conversations promotes cohesion and alignment.

my problem is:

my home is filled with distractions.

thus if I work remotely I need to go get an office to be as productive as I might be at my best in an non-remote office.

Being remote helps InVision build better products because it forces us to use our own tools.

You mentioned that it's much easier for people to grab a colleague in person and show them something on a whiteboard versus having a virtual meeting - and use this to conclude that it's easier to build products in person versus remotely. Perhaps this is true, and perhaps it isn't true; but as a virtual company InVision is forced to find product solutions to these problems, which leads to innovation. That's how being a remote company helps us build better products.

To continue with the whiteboarding example: We created a tool called Freehand that allows you to have virtual whiteboarding sessions that are more flexible than physical whiteboards. Multiple people can whiteboard at the same time, which is harder in person. You can add comments to the whiteboard, create shapes, use colors, and more. Freehands are saved, so you can look back on them later more easily than a physical whiteboard. I think it's more powerful than an actual physical whiteboard and have seen non-remote companies adapt it. You can try it out yourself at: https://freehand.invisionapp.com/

Obviously, not everything about our product is perfect today, but I hope this explains how being remote leads to product innovation.

Disclosure: Obviously, I work at InVision.

It's subjective but I believe it. If remote work is set up well then there is much less emphasis on meetings and much more focus on good written communication. With remote teams distributed across timezones with their own work schedules, async communication is key and systems get developed to allow that. When it's part of daily work to ensure everything is designed and specced properly, communicated well, and there's mechanisms in place to keep the team in sync then it's much easier for management/product to also stay on top of what's happening without endless meetings.

> much more focus on good written communication

IMO, this is such an underrated benefit of remote work. Pushing people towards chat tools, email, and digital drawing tools automatically documents everything. No more wondering what did Joe say in the meeting 3 weeks ago, now I just search my email and/or chat.

Next on my list to look for is a video chat plugin that will transcribe the entire meeting and email everyone afterwards.

I have worked both remotely and in-office. In-office is good for collaborating on how to architect code, in the early days of a product. But as the organization matures, you have an established architecture, style, etc., and are adding or tweaking features. When you get to that point, remote work is excellent. You are able to slice off work to people who can sit in their corners and execute on those smaller pieces of the vision. They are not interrupted by others, they can both focus and relax as works best for them. It works. (And, FWIW, when we did major architecture work, we did fly into a shared location for a few days to hash things out together.)

That being said, people are all different - specific people may work better in one environment or the other. You may just personally fit in well in an office.

Why can't that case be handled by Slack + a collaborative drawing application?

Sure, with Slack you have the option of being ignored/receiver not noticing the message, but a remote-only company should have methods to discourage that. For example, people could set 'office hours' where they agree to be butt-in-chair for some chunk of time every day and actively monitoring Slack.

Their product is a computer-based design collaboration tool. It's hard to work remotely, but that's the exact challenge they are trying to confront.


Going on about downvotes is against the site guidelines, so please don't. Just give a corrective upvote and move on.



I didn't downvote, but I almost responded with my own personal experience to the line "In the end, remote workers are logically forced to attend more meetings" (paraphrased), at least until I saw the edit.

That line couldn't be more wrong based on my own experience. Perhaps the downvote was because it read like an assertion of an obvious fact when it was just a guess?

Don’t sweat downvotes. It’s unpredictable. Anything you say can and will be downvoted on HN. They’re just internet points!

Thank you for support eqanist! My comment might not have sounded to others like you're describing. I have added an EDIT.

This is a little light on details - but it's good to see some more "happy words" on remote success stories. I've been remote for a couple of years and would like to stay that way. Puff pieces like this do help.

What I've noticed:

- When people write things down, communication is improved. - Ad-hoc communication is far easier with tools like Slack.

My current company is about 1000 employees now. Communication is actually better then my last couple of companies, and I think it's mostly because we have fewer "gatekeepers" of information.

I underestimated how high the competition is for remote work. All my attempts failed so far despite having well customized application materials. I didn't submit to hundreds maybe around 20. Most of the time I never even reached a technical test at these companies which I thought would be the hardest part.

I've managed to get a remote gig at some point, and i'm sure i can go 100% remote at my present employer. Seems to be the best way like someone above mentioned is to get a non remote job, prove yourself to be a valuable asset and then negotiate remote, never failed in my case.

Everyone is different but having actually worked for this company is the reason I won't ever work remotely ever again.

How come?

High turnover, low loyalty, low pay. There's plenty of guys and gals there that are great there and not everyone was treated badly but I don't think it is the majority.

I think the way to get a remote job is to start with a non-remote job and slowly convert it to remote. Haven't pulled it off successfully yet but it seems like a much easier path, so long as you're willing to put in the time.

I want to warn against this.

My biggest "issue" with remote working is always when there are differing amounts of remote work within teams.

When you have half the engineers in office, and half remote, the 2 sides end up with communication issues. In-office meetings where a few are remoted in are awful unless the company spends the money on a real remote-conference setup, having co-workers that don't like to pick up the phone and call the remote guy ends up keeping remote workers away from the problems.

I will never work at a remote company that isn't actively working on maintaining a remote workforce. Because even though I absolutely love remote work, it's not easy, even for those that are heavily invested in it.

This is absolutely true.

I lead a dev remote team and I have to actively communicate with people on the office to know about things going on. There is a shitstorm happening and we don't know about it until they need something from us.

I've done it a few times. This works better since you get a lot of the relationships, culture and company knowledge established before you spend less time in the office and if you do it slowly you all learn and fix what needs to be put in place to make it work well.

It doesn't work in all companies, but you can often work this out in advance. A good sign is obviously if some people already work remotely, but I have found where this works best is if the company already has teams spanning multiple locations and time zones and have the management structure and communication tools developed to do that properly.

You're not competing with your locality but with an entire country, or more. You need to stand out somehow.

This. I'm from Argentina, what worked for me was to start a blog about the problems I was solving back then for my current job, worked in opensource stuff, responded questions for an opensource tool in a forum (there was no stackoverflow back then) and somehow built a "personal brand" for some niche technologies. It all happened like 10 years ago in the span of 3 months. I got my first remote job offer for an small software firm in Europe because they read a blogpost I wrote about solving a problem they had. I've worked since then for 3 different companies from Europe and the US.

I wasn't looking for a remote job to be honest, but it happened. I honestly didn't know I could work for a company remotely back then, I was very young and had not idea about the paperwork, transactions, etc.

There are a lot of players in this, some are just looking for cheap labor, but there are also companies that understand that talent is everywhere and they are looking for that.

Certainly more than an entire country.

Yet, you can receive offers from the whole world.

How is this any different than a job at Big Tech in SF or NYC?

Because there, you're _only_ competing with local SF/NYC applicants, within like 1h drive radius or whatever.

Everyone I know who lives in SF moved there when they got offered a job there.

SF and NYC attract the top talent from around the world.

Not all of it, just the top talent that doesn't mind the living conditions in SF and NYC

Exactly, not all talent is prepared to up and move country. Age and family all factor into it.

Why is remote such highly requested? I work remote but, not cause I HAVE to. My team is just all fully remote.

Honestly, saving 1-4 hours of commute every single day equates to an absurd amount of extra time.

People underestimate how long commuting takes away from your day. Just the time you take getting ready, waking up early to get breakfast first or even getting out to eat lunch. Normally people don't add those times to the commute total and count only the actual car/bus/metro time.

No matter small those are, they add up and you don't ever get that back. Even if you only take 1 hour a day commuting (rare in my experience) you will get at least 5 hours extra in a week that you can use to... live.

Be it learning time, family time or even just relaxing time, it's 5 hours that seemingly come from out of thin air.

Your experience is atypical. The median commute time in the United States is 25.4 minutes each way. The HN zeitgeist's insistence on living in major cities and taking public transit has a drastic cost in terms of commute time as well as money, one that most Americans do not pay.

The US is only one country in the world. I imagine this median goes up if we include more countries.

Regardless, my point stands. with that median we'd have 50 minutes every day which would total to ~4h/week literally wasted moving around.

I want to be able to move whenever I want. Especially as my partner might change cities a few times in the next years.

On day-to-day basis I enjoy good coffee, self-made and more healthy food and the possibility to have a quick nap when really needed. I can also take a big break and stretch the workday a bit if I stay available and feel like it.

edit: oh and I forgot: silence or good speakers.

Working on great products, great money (compared to local offers) while I don't have to restart my life in a new country.

Personally, I've done remote and decided after a while i didn't enjoy full time remote. The advantages? Getting to choose where i live, freedom in working my own schedule as long as deadlines are met, working in my boxers ?

I don't do UI design so I never heard of InVision before. I googled around and Crunchbase says they've gotten $235 million in funding[1]. A youtube channel shows some demos[2].

Is InVision considered the best of the design tools compared to competitors?

[1] https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/invisionapp#section-...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCndfHdRdEiGOyCOgxQ4W9YQ

They used to be, they filled an unmet need in the design tools space (clickable prototypes) for years. Lately tools for interface design (Figma, Framer X, Quartz Composer, Origami, etc) have Invision’s main feature baked into their software (where the work is being created) so there‘s less need for designers to use it. Invision intended to get into the creation tools market, but suffered a poorly-managed rollout of their application, and has been floundering since.

They also had a fairly drastic price increase that made our company scale licenses back to only designers, which has reduced the collaborative aspect it once had.

Even UI developers often get exposed to Invision, especially if mobile is involved - it’s a very useful tool.

I'm not working on much front-end these days, but as of 2/3 years ago InVision was the best option I was aware of.

They're pretty big and got into the design tools game early on

Found it interesting, and likely a very good idea, that they have set ‘office hours’ which are the same for everyone globally. That might be very inconvenient if you’re in a locale where you wind up working nights, but it does give a level of predictability and ensures that everyone is available at a given time.

Clearly unworkable if you're on the other side of the globe though, unless you're willing to live at completely different hours as the rest of the society you're part of.

I suppose if that ever becomes an issue they could settle on two or three time zones to try and accommodate almost everyone. It can be inconvenient but it can also sometimes be efficient for tasks that lend themselves to working in "shifts". Like you develop your software, you send a version for testing, you go home, you return next morning and people on the other side of the globe have had time to test it and give some feedback.

Of course it can also easily lead to a huge waste of time if you're stuck and you need some feedback from people who won't be available until late in the afternoon in your timezone. It definitely requires very good logistics and planning.

Is it really unworkable though? Shift work has always been common in factories. Outsourced call centers in Asia sometimes work during US daytime hours.

For most professionals? Yes.

Now, if we're talking early morning and late night conference calls--even on a semi-regular basis, that's one thing. That's pretty common for a lot of co-workers I know. But day-to-day office hours that are in the middle of the night? Not so much.

It's relatively straightforward to schedule some overlap between the Americas and most of Europe. But there's no way to also do APAC in a way that isn't really painful for someone.

I call these companies not "really" remote.

If you can't hire someone from Japan, your company is probably not 100% remote.

It's very easy to take things normally done in an office and move them to a hangout (or w/e tool you use) but still rely on all the office constraints. A lot of companies still expect everyone to be 100% responsive at all times, add live video feeds to ensure everyone is "working", have the same working hours (as this one) and all the company's processes are tied up to specific hours and people being online.

I'm not saying this can't work. It clearly does. But I don't think it's optimal and doesn't take full advantage of actually being a fully remote company.

As a side note: not all companies can do that. But specially in our field I believe it's doable and personally seen it work before.

I had an idea for a business idea that never got off the ground. However, before it flamed out, I wanted to hire some overseas people that I personally knew to help. However, I got conflicting advice about how to actually pay them. I wanted to do it the legit/legal way, so they would have taxable income and pay their withholding. I got advice from just pay them with PayPal to bank-to-bank-transfers to forming a back office in the foreign country.

I strongly suspect these distributed teams are taking shortcuts.

With contingent employees in the U.S., you can just 1099 them at the end of the year; W2 employees will require reporting and withholding depending on the state they live in. But what about foreign employees? I'd love to hear from anyone who has done this.

How would this actually work in practice? Do bank to bank transfers, or are all of the workers simply contingent employees that invoice and paid in USD or local currency? I suspect they are avoiding paying payroll taxes and not reporting to the foreign taxing authorities.

Never mind. I found the answer. The prevailing advice now is: call them valued employees, but pay them as contingent/contract workers. Some companies have "perks" that include reimbursement for accounting/tax preparation in the "employee's" host country -- they deal with the income reporting, health care, and tax issues.

I wonder if there are startups working on this space, helping setup remote companies. People seem to use a basket of various tools, none of which was explicitly made for remote work. My ideal setup would be a virtual space, like a game, where employees can virtually interact. Most communication is written, complemented by voice chat when needed. It gives an understanding that "there are other people out there" and not everyone working alone. It would also enable all kinds of functions that happen on the sidelines of "traditiona" office work. My biased opinion is that remote work is the natural way, and forcing people to go through traffic etc just to "talk" to screens all day is the absurd way. I believe business needs a revolutionary disruption to that direction, and we are now technically in a position where this can happen.

Someone above mentioned this: https://www.sococo.com/ which is video conferencing that gives a map of where everyone "is" in a virtual office and makes getting on chats lower-touch. Seems to solve part of that puzzle.

right , this is a good start. Not sure why this kind of gamification is not used more often. It creates a certain sense of being together more than simple email/slack, plus it can be more fun than just looking at pixellated webcams during meetings.

Isn't this essentially Discord? I mean it's not a game but it's a space you login where communication is largely text with voice and video when needed.

The average age of developers is increasing. A generation is leaving SF to start families in other cities. Fewer people want to come to SF due to costs and low quality of living, and startups are no longer expected to be in the Bay. Coding schools are graduating new developers all over the country (and the world). The future is remote.

I have a contrarian viewpoint: I think employment doesn't work with remote work at scale. People want independence and flexibility. A 9-5 workday isn't great for at-home knowledge work, and people want exposure to a variety of projects. I think the future is contract-based. That's what I'm building with Moonlight [1]: a distributed, contractor workforce.

"Contract engineer" has negative connotations in most companies. But, if you can have a multi-month, ~40 hr/week relationship with a contractor, it's easy to get hard work done. Developers work on their terms. Companies get access to amazing people. Hiring takes days, not months. There's no bullshit of traditional employment - like open offices, limits on vacation, or dress codes. The hardest part of becoming a freelancer is the scarcity mindset - building a network, finding jobs, collecting invoices, and lining up your next job. We're solving that by basically becoming a talent agent. To make a freelance lifestyle sustainable, we need to solve other parts of this model - such as community and career advancement. But, we're working on it!

It sounds aspirational. But, over half of Moonlight projects continue indefinitely. When companies like working with somebody, they don't stop.

[1] https://www.moonlightwork.com

> That's what I'm building with Moonlight [1]: a distributed, contractor workforce.

Look, Snow Crash is not a utopia.

Thanks but no thanks. Contract work overwhelming benefits the employer.

Also, spam.

Please be respectful.

It's not spam for an HN user to link to their work in a relevant context. If he were doing it in lots of threads it would be a different story, but that's not the case here.

How do employment / legal contracts work with employees in this case? Are they just anchored to the legal system where the company is registered? Do employees need visas to work for the company remotely and so on?

If it is a US-based company, for US-based hires, your best option is to use a good PEO (note: all PEOs suck, but some suck less than others), which will have presence in all US states and thus be able to handle benefits, payroll, and local employment laws. For international staff, you need to hire a lawyer.

I really wish there were more case studies available out there to show whether the "always remote" startup approach can work.

Having to be in the same room for many years at the very beginning of building a high-growth venture-backed startup is considered a law of the universe at this point, and it would be interesting to know how much not following it actually hurts you.

Does this only work for people who really have their shit together and maybe have started / sold successful businesses before?

It looks like InVision is stuck between Sketch and Affinity Designer from the low-end, to Adobe at the high end.

They'll be squeezed from both ends of the market, hard. Seeing how they already have 700 employees, I don't see any break-through technology coming from them, so they're stuck in a highly competitive, stingy market, with VCs, wanting billion dollar returns on investment.

Yikes - unless their entire strategy is one of 500px - to get acquired, by Adobe in this case.

Remote team or not, their product is super slow.

Really heavyweight for the browser, and definitely not optimized for Firefox.

> "After all, when you walk down the aisles of a standard company these days, people are on YouTube, social media," he said. "The modern knowledge worker, the technical worker, is going to focus on what engages them."

If you are not working, it doesn't matter where you are.

Nice to see such a transition. Give more opportunities for developers by removing the geographical constraint. And on a more personal note, the part I hate the most from my job is the commute and it feels so much better when I get the opportunity to work from home.

any good tips/reference/book/whatever that explains/teach how to manage a distributed team? maybe something learned during the time. i've read the gitlab handbook so far, sounds good, but I would love to have something for the owner of a remote company on how to manage people and work (and how to find the right people)

DeviantArt's development team is 100% remote, iirc I dunno about the rest of the company.

This redirects to a 404 on a .pl domain. WTF, BI?

Nice to know this fact.

I moved from the software sales industry to waiting tables in a rural area. I have a 10 minute commute by car or moped, I breathe fresh air, and I make enough money to support myself.

My colleagues are my friends and my boss has never once slighted me on anything.

There is something to be said about the perks of working remotely, but for once it is nice to work in a supportive, engaging environment that is close to my house.

I work in the software industry, have a 10 minute commute, breathe fresh air, make enough money to support myself, my colleagues are my friends, and my boss has never once slighted me. A shit job is a shit job, but you don't have to leave software to find a job that isn't shit.

> you don't have to leave software to find a job that isn't shit.

What you say sounds plausible, but it runs counter to my anecdotal experience.

I've been doing software for over a decade and none of my jobs have been shit. Perhaps I've just vetted potential employers prudently enough (For example I've said in interviews I consider crunches to be a management failure - you need to say it with true compassion though and not sound like arrogant asshole)

I totally agree with this, but where do you live where this exists?

I think there are more 35k a year jobs waiting tables in a beach town than there are 150k a year programming jobs in Santa Monica?

Sure there are. But if you compare available jobs the situation might be different.

Here (EU) it is much easier to find a non-sucking job as a developer as opposed to being a waiter. The people who are trying to find developers have finally figured out that it pays to be nice, if for no other reason, because people talk. If you screw your workers over, you have trouble getting new hires. And it really doesn't cost you much, if anything, to make good working conditions.

EDIT: sorry, software sales is different... probably the same here. :(

On the other hand a job you enjoy and that pays enough for you isn't shit, is it?

He was in software sales FYI

And, while I haven't worked in that department so I can't really say for certain that the team leads don't slight the people they're managing, it's a small enough company that the culture is pretty consistent.

Except sales cultures are typically _very_ different from the rest of a company.

How much of a hit did you take on salary, and how much did your cost of living decrease? Would you do it again? I've thought about leaving my career to do something that wouldn't require a commute, and would allow me to live in a very remote area, but I'm not brave enough to take the plunge

Thank you so much for your questions.

My high year in sales was 110k W2, 70k post tax, and 35k post expenses like food rent and car.

My low year was 45k, aka just plain old base salary, and after taxes and expenses I broke even. I was living in a pretty expensive part of Boston. I'm sure I could have found a really nasty bedroom for like $650 if I wanted to haha.

Right now as a waiter I'm making about $600 a week pre tax. I just came off of a $400 weekend working only 16 hours!

My rent here is $650 in a very very nice new apartment and I'm 15 mins from the beach, forest, and farms.

I absolutely would do it all over again. I thank my girlfriend every day for basically forcing us to move out here to Eastern Long Island NY for her medical job, because I never would have had the courage to make this move myself. And, I thought it would be really hard to find a job in software out here, so I just applied to literally anything and the restaurant I work at now was the first offer I received. I plunged headfirst and got lucky! Other restaurants are less of a family than we are.

Life isn't perfect and you need a few thousand in savings to get this all started without going insolvent, but so far I'm loving my new location and new industry.

If you do go for it, maintain contacts elsewhere just in case! :)

Just to run the numbers for everyone, this is $31,200 assuming no vacation all year. So making less money gross as a waiter than you're able to put into a savings account (after taxes and all expenses) as a software developer. I don't think that will be surprising information for anyone here.

I've waited tables before and I'd rather be a software developer for half the median software developer salary than a waiter for 3x the median waiter salary.

Life is what you make of it. If he feels happy doing job X at 31200, then so be it. No need to look down on it. In fact be happy for him, there's already too much suffering in the world, so someone finding something they enjoy is a blessing.

Also he was in software SALES not dev, so not an accurate comparison.

I agree with your advice (no need to look down, etc). OP however came off as condescending (at least to me) when he said stuff like "breathe fresh air", "stuck in subway for 2 hours", etc in responses, making everything a zero sum game.

The way I see it, he moved to wherever because his girlfriend forced him to, and then lucked into find a good job that they enjoy.

>OP however came off as condescending (at least to me) when he said stuff like "breathe fresh air", "stuck in subway for 2 hours", etc in responses, making everything a zero sum game.

I don't think he was being condescending. I'm at a point where I would absolutely value fresh air, not having to commute more than 15-30 minutes a day, being able to live in a rural area where I can have privacy and space, and other benefits like that far more than the financial benefits. When I started my career I wanted to move up the ladder as quickly as possible so I can earn as much as possible, but I've realized that I really don't care about the money nearly as much as I thought. I don't make a ton, but I already earn more than I spend and am able to splurge on things frequently. If I had to opportunity to move somewhere like that with my girlfriend I absolutely would

I think the point was you can get all of that and still make money at it. I live on the edge of a mid-size metro (Portland, Oregon) making north of 140K with excellent work-life balance, while living next to farmland in a little quiet neighborhood with a nice big yard, the school my kids go to is a hundred yards away, etc. So I don't see why you'd need to give up the job you enjoy just to get the things OP wants. You may need to live somewhere other than NYC or the bay area, but there are lots of places in the country where you can achieve these goals without having to live especially frugally. I don't care all that much about the money at this point but being able to sock away a bunch makes it less stressful to contemplate the future, college educations coming up in the future, etc.

Well, this thread is about working remotely. Why not go remote and live where you want? I get to enjoy rural living, thriving farmers markets, clean ocean and air, relaxed social environment - all from my home in Hawai'i.

I think it may have just been you taking it as condescending. Personally I'm jealous. That sounds great, San Diego isn't known for clean air or short commutes.

I didn't think anything in my comment was condescending or "looking down" on the profession or him. Just stating that this is an astronomical difference in earnings potential and savings rate. And is $110k as a software sales rep and $110k as a software developer any different really? The important part is going from banking $35k in savings to earning $31k or less.

Some points in response to this:

I keep nearly all of my gross because of the standard deduction and the nature of cash tips.

My rent is $650 a month whereas most people in the bay or in Boston are paying $2200 for equivalent quality.

I dont spend 2 hours stuck in traffic or a hot subway every day-- most days I ride my moped which gets 90mpg and uses a hilariously cheap blend of oil and fuel from the hardware store.

And, what is most important to me, and this is subjective, is that I actually feel stable and welcome at this employer. I was laid off from the job where I was making 110k gross and banking 30k.

So, why not take a job where I'm grossing in the 30s and banking 15k?

>I keep nearly all of my gross because of the standard deduction and the nature of cash tips.

Instead of the "nature of cash tips", it would be more accurate to state "the nature of people to evade taxes (or do other bad things as defined by society) when chances of being caught are sufficiently low".

Also why I always use credit card and tip with credit card.

Always amazing that the people outraged over tax fraud from someone making $100k. a year have no problem with tax fraud from someone making $30k. They're the same thing. If you get $N in tips and declare <$N in tips, you're committing tax fraud. Normalized, sure, but not any less illegal.

And for what it's worth I don't think tipping on the card changes anything. When I waited tables we never got any report or anything from the credit card sales.

The law, in its majestic equality, may consider them both equally objectionable.

My morality, which is what informs my outrage (or lack thereof), does not.

Minimum wage laws for tipped employees (in the US) is also why I always tip with cash.

Minimum wage laws state that the employer needs to compensate the employee if their tips are not sufficient to meet minimum wage.

It's not my job as a consumer to ensure this happens. The only reason to tip in the first place is because servers' have a lower minimum wage. As a voter, I would support a politician who would get rid of this reduced minimum wage and make it so people weren't guilted into compensating people. It should always be an employer's job to calculate appropriate prices for products in order meet their payroll.

I'd like to see stats on how often they actually do pay them more if the tips aren't enough. They'd have to report them, among other things. The whole pay them less cause tips are going to make it up and be better has always struck me as a stupid system, too easily abused. We should just pay them the wage they should get, and get rid of tips.

They probably don’t, more often than not. But me paying tips in cash so the server can evade taxes isn’t going to help solve the root problem, and in fact, only makes it worse.

Obviously this varies widely based on the restaurant, but I worked at a small diner in the middle of nowhere ca 2006-2008 and averaged about $13-14/hr after tips.

The person stocking shelves at your local grocery store is in a much worse financial position than just about any waiter, despite the ~$3 minimum wage.

15k is not nearly all of 31k, sure you're saving 50% instead of 30% due to the cost of living but you're still only saving half as much in real dollars which is going to have a huge impact on retirement. I get where you're coming from as far as the differences in cost and commute, but the fact that you're committing tax fraud by not declaring all of your tips doesn't necessarily make it a good long-term financial decision.

I think the point is that to frame it as either feeling shitty at a high-paying job or feeling good at a low-paying job is a false dichotomy.

Because you could be making $100k and banking $50k. Every hour you work is an hour you'll never get back.

But, as you said, you feel welcomed by your employer and feel the job is stable. If this is what you prioritize, that's your decision.

>Because you could be making $100k and banking $50k.

But is it really worth it if you have to live in an area you don't want to live, spend time commuting that you'd rather work on something else, etc. that could potentially affect one's stress/anxiety and even cause health issues? I'm aware that there are people with jobs making 6+ figures that are also very happy with their jobs, but I also don't think it's fair to frame his situation as a negative simply because he could be making more.

> But is it really worth it if you have to live in an area you don't want to live, spend time commuting that you'd rather work on something else, etc. that could potentially affect one's stress/anxiety and even cause health issues?

Of course not. I'd encourage a passive job search of remote roles. One should always be looking for their next job. One should always be padding their emergency fund, so they have 6-12 months of reserves. The better your financial position, the more power you have over your own destiny.

> So making less money gross as a waiter than you're able to put into a savings account (after taxes and all expenses) as a software developer.

The OP worked in sales

The fact that you're in Eastern Long Island along with talking about the $400 weekend makes me think you're near the Hamptons. What are you going to do once the summer crowd winds down and it's only the locals frequenting your restaurant?

Not the Hamptons :) I would probably be doing $1000 weekends if I was on Dune Rd lol!

The town specifically is Head of the Harbor. We've got a year round retiree crowd that comes out even on Mondays and Wednesdays to hear an 85 year old woman sing Sinatra ahha

Good for you, Cant put a price on reduced stress and happiness. I quit a developer job because of the massive stress and travel involved and took a 50% pay cut. I left software completely for 4 years. I was much happier.

I am back in software now making 50% more than the prior software job I quit but I work from home and enjoy the industry. Sometimes a break for a few years is just what the doctor ordered.

There are so many places that pay well but are pleasant to work at. Especially in software development. If someone is unhappy they should pick up and leave, the market is good and the choices plentiful right now.

absolutely, market is great right now, plenty of well paying choices out there.

Can I suggest that experience is a bit atypical? Eastern Long Island is rural, but it is also very very much old money.

It's definitely old money, yes. I don't think someone could replicate this in Kansas at the Cracker Barrel

I am all for the remote trend. I think InVision is doing a really good thing here and it looks like a lot of other companies are following suit.

I hope it influences people to migrate from major tech hubs and help boost the economy in rural areas. I am from the rust belt area and it's been pretty unaffected by all of the tech growth. Most of the locals are still hoping for natural gas or coal to start booming again. I hope somehow remote work could help revitalize the area, although I'm not sure it's enough.

The rust belt would just get undercut by programmers living in vastly cheaper locations around globe.

Maybe. But time zones are difficult for remote teamwork, and crossing borders also have legal, language, culture and tax issues. Many remote positions on job boards are “US only”. Perhaps for these reasons.

Not if programmers demanded the same salary universally, regardless of cost of living expenses- that's a big if though.

There is some salary adjustment made for geographic location.

My goal right now is to do just that. Get a remote job and move away from the high CoL area I am in. I personally like living in more rural areas. My spouse, not so much, but she may end up with a great job at a university in a small-town.

I really think as a knowledge worker there is no point to being limited to where you live for employment.

But remote companies seem to be very picky about who they hire. I have not had much luck. Local places won't stop spamming me though.

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