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Taylor Record
May 10, 2021

How to Scale a Startup with Remote Teams ft. Trustshoring

There's going to be a major shift in the way we think about remote hiring. Just ask Trustshoring.

We've become less office-dependent for years. But the process has been slow. Many of us could easily work for a week without our office, but not for an hour without a laptop and an internet connection. So why, up until now, has the idea of employees working remote been so daunting?

The reasons for this are mostly cultural. The conventional office is an institution (you can read our full article about this on Medium). For employers, the office has become a status symbol. A hub of collaboration. A recruiting tool. A way to enforce accountability and productivity. And sometimes even a perk. But the pandemic has pushed even the world's biggest companies to rethink what could happen if they let their employees work from home. If they can recruit from other zip codes and work across time zones. If they can position themselves to be a remote company and not just survive, but grow.

Trustshoring – betahaus member and a team who's long been connecting startup teams with developers in Eastern Europe – is an expert on the topic. As a remote-first team themselves, they've helped more than 250 tech brands grow with the support of remote tech, marketing, and operations teams. We sat down with their founder, Victor Purolnik, to ask more about the changing landscape, the challenges and opportunities they've seen in working with remote teams, and their advice on hiring remote workers to support your own startup's growth.

HEY VICTOR! TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT TRUSTSHORING AND WHY YOU’RE AN EXPERT ON SCALING WITH REMOTE TEAMS.

Trustshoring’s primary mission is to help founders who experienced a shortage of local talent and have to take control of their business growth by matching them with professional and skilled remote developers that fit their company culture. We specialize in supporting growing bootstrapped ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) companies to scale their business with tactical and strategic guidance.

I am a former developer and began developing websites at around the age of 11. While working as a freelance developer, I attended many different technical conferences, met great people, and was inspired by them to start a software house. I founded a Ukrainian development shop, and when I was running that business, I saw a lot of clients whom we couldn’t help because our offer was not something they needed. However, I started referring them on to others in my network of developers. This is how the idea of founding another company that will be specializing in matching clients with software developers who are the best fit for them came to me.

I want to allow my clients to build unique and effective software products with reliable and trusted software development partners that fit their company culture, create real progress, and help to boost their business growth. 

During the last ten years that I have spent in this industry, I developed a great understanding of how clients and remote providers can work together in a meaningful way and how to manage a team of remote tech teams. 

At Trustshoring, we helped many start-ups with scaling their business, product strategy, implementation, the team set up, and technical requirements to move faster and make a real impact on their business by outsourcing a tech team.


WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF THE CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES FOR WORKING WITH REMOTE DEVELOPERS?

Challenges:

1. All the things that are easier in-person: Onboarding / Brainstorming / Team Building - simple fix: meet up for those. Hence working mostly with Eastern Europe. There’s a lot of opportunities and talent within a 2h flight radius from Berlin. Berlin-Warsaw is as quick a flight as Berlin-Munich

2. Cultural differences: differences in customer understanding, work ethics, communication, leadership, “reading between the lines” and common understanding of things. Also, therefore Eastern Europe: culturally almost no difference.

3. Lacking control over the team: having a remote team forces people to put structure in place earlier, which has many upsides - like being able to scale. A basic set of tools like Slack, Jira, Github, and an enforced discipline of daily standups, keeping Jira up-to-date and doing code reviews does most of the trick.


Opportunities:

1. Make progress, fast: instead of hiring a local developer for months (or even a year), skilled remote developers can usually be found within 2-6 weeks. Being able to act and deliver faster than the competition is a key advantage.

2. Extend the runway and be flexible: there’s no such thing as cheap development anymore, but still, the differences in salaries still exist and have a positive impact on your runway or profitability. Besides, most remote contracts can be canceled much easier than local employment, giving founders the option to react to changing circumstances.

3. Work with amazing people: deciding to work with remote or outsourced developers, especially in Eastern Europe, has nothing to do with working with an incapable project manager who just relays information to unknown team members without English skills. Today, working with remote developers means hiring extremely bright, talented, and experienced people who are eager to prove their worth, and appreciate the opportunities to work for a foreign company.

WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE THAT YOU’D GIVE TO A NON-TECHNICAL FOUNDER ABOUT HIRING REMOTE TECH TEAMS? QUESTIONS TO ASK, THINGS TO LOOK FOR?

One of the biggest challenges non-technical founders are facing when working with remote developers, and developers in general, is working with estimations - why are they so tricky? 


The problem with software development is that it’s called the wrong way. There’s a reason it’s often called R&D - research and development. The research part is what explains the estimation problem.


When creating a new vaccine for a deadly virus, researchers also aren’t able to provide concrete timelines.


Software development oftentimes is very similar. There are lots of moving parts, especially when working with new technologies, unknown or unstable third-party software, integrations, or non-standard functionality.


Instead of trying to come up with better estimations, non-technical founders should try to understand the risks of their concrete project better. We created a guide on how to get better estimations with web developers using an estimation framework.


WHAT STAGE SHOULD A STARTUP BE IN BEFORE THEY SEEK OUTSIDE HELP?

A startup can seek outside help at any stage, but the kind of help that actually makes meaningful progress can look very differently from startup to startup and from stage to stage.


The perfect setup depends on many factors. In-house tech- and product skills, available prototypes, type of software, funding and team setup, current roadmap, business goals and product goals, as well as any other constraints or resources.


We have seen many successful models and approaches for various startups, and share them and create custom strategies individually for founders who speak to us, completely free, as part of our office hour at betahaus.

Hey members! Want a consultation on how to take your team remote? Book an Office Hour with Trustshoring.


WHY DO YOU WORK WITH DEVELOPERS IN EASTERN EUROPE? ANY OTHER REGIONS ON YOUR RADAR FOR REMOTE TECH TALENT?

Mostly because of the geographical and cultural closeness to Central / Western Europe - culturally, also the US and Canada. Working with developers from Eastern Europe is the most effective way for European startups to work remotely, as it allows for easy communication and frequent visits.


If looking outside of Eastern Europe, today, I would not put any restrictions on the location. There is so much talent out there, and most people in the tech space have a fairly common, globalized understanding of how working together should look like.


The most important factors for a region to consider are:


  • How can this person work for me? Not all countries allow self-employment on a full-time basis, which comes with big legal issues and liabilities.
  • How can I make money transfers? Some countries are easier and cheaper to send money to than others.
  • Timezone: how much overlap do I have in terms of working hours? A minimum of 2 is advisable.


We’ve been monitoring the situation around the globe for many years now and I can point you in the right direction.


IDEAS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF REMOTE WORK & COLLABORATION?

For a long time, remote work was mainly considered as a way to save money. It started with large companies establishing overseas offices and hiring hundreds or thousands of call center agents, engineers, and analysts. More and more service providers who targeted businesses that couldn't open their own local branches, gave birth to a booming outsourcing industry.


Around 2010, SMBs also realized they could benefit from outsourcing and instead of doing everything in-house, they started delegating some tasks to freelancers in other countries. It resulted with the appearance of freelance platforms like Upwork, that made outsourcing easier, safer and accessible for everyone.


The current transformation of remote work and its future is highly influenced by the COVID pandemic and we all know already that work will never be the same.


Remote work is currently considered more as an opportunity to access a global pool of skilled talent, and establish a modern work culture rather than just saving money. This new work culture is based on deep work from any location, at any time, and mission- and vision-oriented management.


Companies that are not ready to transform and adopt this new work culture will find it more difficult to find and hire this new generation of employees, while companies that embrace these ideas and values will be very attractive to the industry top talents.



Thanks to Victor for sitting down with us and chatting about working with remote teams! If you have any questions, you can schedule an appointment through their website or at their How to Launch & Scale with Remote Developers Office Hour.

Want more Office Hours and Community Events? Explore the full calendar.