“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
- Mark Twain
Last year I took two months to travel during two seemingly “critical” stages in startup creation.
Startup #1: My Local Mountain
My Location: Backpacking through Thailand
In November of 2008, I went backpacking through Thailand. During the same period, I was also responsible for the launch of a Startup company; My Local Mountain.
A first of its kind Facebook application, My Local Mountain was to connect skiers and snowboarders to each other based on their local ski areas. With winter quickly approaching, November was THE month to launch our application and get our first users.
Being somewhat of a “travel addict”, canceling my trek through Thailand was not going to be easy. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I began devising a plan to have my cake and eat it too.
Using Elance, I was able to find a “virtual assistant” who could help me with critical marketing and data entry tasks. I chose my virtual assistant, Navin, based on his track record and positive feedback from former clients.
While I was gone, Navin, sent direct marketing messages to relevant people online, with the intention of spreading the word about our new application. He was also able to enter the data for the last of the ski resorts needed for our “map of resorts” section, so that we had every ski resort in the world in our database.
Every once and a while I would check in from Internet cafes to make sure everything was going smoothly. Elance made it easy for me to communicate with Navin through our “workroom”. I could manage and fund projects within minutes.
When I returned from Thailand, My Local Mountain had 2,135 total users. This was 1,000 more users than we’d hoped to have at that point! And that’s not all, once we stopped sending direct messages, the application was growing organically (on its own) at about 25 users per day. We had gone “VIRAL”!
Startup #2: AvidLip
My Location: Exploring Panama
Two months later, I found myself in a similar situation. I was busy aggressively developing video technology for AvidLip, my automated sports videography Startup, when I got an opportunity to explore Panama.
At the time, I was managing two teams – a group of web developers and a group of machine vision specialists – and we communicated nearly every day. There was “no way” I could take a month off to visit Panama.
But in February of 2009, I tried it anyway. Two things made this possible:
First, I empowered each group to make decisions on their own. I laid down basic guidelines and my expectations for a finished product. Then, instead of coming to me for answers, I encouraged the two teams to communicate directly with each other. I was CC’d on each email correspondence and could step in at any time.
Second, I bought an online phone number with Skype. I then had all my U.S. based calls related to this project forwarded to a cell phone I purchased in Panama. Although, I only received three calls my entire trip, I was always available just in case.
The funny part? I didn’t tell either team that I was gone, until AFTER I came back!
Success! I returned just in time to install our first video camera. Launch went smoother than expected! Our technology worked even though I managed the heart of development from a different country.
What does “The New Way to Work” mean to me?
LOCATION INDEPENDENCE! Work no longer needs to tie us to one location.. even when you are building a Startup company.
Thank you for reading my submission to the Elance “The New Way to Work” Contest. You can contact me, Austin Evarts, at Austin@FullFoundation.com