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What I learned from running my startup while traveling for a year

For several years, my partner and I, living in Paris, talked about our common desire to lead a nomadic life, traveling from one city to another. When we started talking about it, we both had jobs (in customer service and IT development respectively) that could, theoretically, be done from anywhere. But when I co-founded my startup, this nomadic life project was a bit put aside.

Health crisis and changing perspectives

Long before the health crisis, Livestorm already had a small number of employees working remotely. But when the Paris office closed and remote work became a part of everyone’s life in March 2020, some employees were worried about working from home, never to return to the office. And yet, team productivity hasn’t changed. In fact, subscription requests for our solution spiked a few weeks after the pandemic hit. New customer opportunities increased tenfold. We recruited dozens of remote profiles and doubled the size of the company. Today, the teams are spread over 17 countries.

When the situation stabilized, my partner and I decided to go back to the drawing board with our nomadic life project. After all, if you are 100% telecommuting, what difference is there between being at the end of the street and staying in another country?

So we defined the priority criteria to make this change of life a success. First of all, the country we will choose should not be more than one or two time zones away from Paris, in order to facilitate communication with the employees. Second, the apartment we rent should have a reliable broadband Internet connection, two separate work spaces and a nearby space with reliable wifi: a café or coworking space, for example. Finally, the ability to easily return to Paris every four to six weeks, mainly to ease our colleagues’ anxiety about being away.

Organizing your departure

We first settled in Iceland for a month, where we rented an Airbnb with a beautiful view of the mountains. We kept the same hours as before and organized meetings by videoconference, exactly as we did in Paris. The only difference: our free time was dedicated to discovering the surroundings and living new experiences! This first trip went so well that we decided to repeat it for a year. So after a short stop in Paris, we left for Barcelona for a two-month stay, then on to Greece. The next stops will be Scotland and Norway.

We won’t consider ourselves on vacation because we both work at a relatively fast pace. We make the most of our free time, but remain fully focused on work. We mainly stay in rented accommodation on Airbnb. In each destination, we ask hosts about internet quality, with screenshots of speed tests. We also locate local coworking spaces in case there is a problem with the internet, so we can quickly relocate if necessary. We keep the same hours and routine as at home in Paris. Waking up at the same time, having our coffee at the same time and respecting the office hours.

The equipment is not negligible for a comfortable work environment. In the beginning, I used to travel with much more than I really needed. I now make do with a laptop, a folding stand, a mouse, a Bluetooth keyboard, and noise-canceling headphones. Initially, I had a mini router in case of emergency, but in the end, sharing the connection on my phone works just as well, and even that I didn’t use much.

Digital offers the possibility to be nomadic

In the technology sector, schedules are quite flexible. We often work with clients, colleagues and investors in different countries. Asynchronous communication has become the norm. Even before the pandemic, there were some employees and investors based in other countries that I had never met in person.

In the past year, when we were almost entirely remote, we doubled our staff and nearly doubled our revenue. We also completed a $30 million round of financing, all of which was done via email and video conferences.

As the pandemic receded, our Paris office reopened but in a different format. It is currently organized as a coworking space, with 30 seats (our total staff is over 150). Employees who want to can reserve a desk and come in whenever they want. We have increased the meeting space, with most people now coming to the office to work together. On the weeks I’m in Paris, I go there for meetings almost every day, but I can often be found working from a Paris apartment, which can be anywhere.


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