Running a Decentralized Nomad Startup

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in an office in India. A week ago, I was in Slovakia. Next week I’ll be in the Czech Republic. In case it isn’t clear, I travel a lot. This can make it hard to get a job. However, the internet, in addition to allowing me to look at cat pictures and book flights easier, has helped me find a job. The company I’ve worked for this summer and last, Blockonomics, is technically based in India. However, only 2 team members are actually in India, the rest are spread throughout the globe. Globally, more and more people are working at least part time from home, but some companies, like Blockonomics, are taking the next step and using a completely decentralized remote workplace. Instead of working in cubicles in the same building, people are now working around the world in a variety of places.

I often work looking at views like this

Is it worth it to set up a remote decentralized workplace, though? Surely workers would slack off if working from home, projects wouldn’t be properly coordinated, and there would be little to no oversight. However, this is an old way of thinking that doesn’t hold true anymore. The “9 to 5”, or “8 to 5” as this article points out, comes form a time when workers were exploited to work extended hours and manufacturing jobs were on the rise. Now that unions help ensure workers rights, and because office jobs don’t require people sitting in the same location, 9 to 5 is obsolete.

There are many advantages for a decentralized workplace, for both the boss and employees. By its very nature, a decentralized business is flexible, it isn’t expected for someone to work set hours because with differing time zones and schedules, employees wouldn’t all be able to be available at the same time. Although at first glance this might cause problems, as described above, communication can be facilitated through platforms on the internet. Hence, the benefits of flexibility can be fully recognized. There are a number of advantages in working from home and avoiding the 9 to 5 job.

I’d rather work here…

This article form Forbes details some of the many advantages. It allows the workers to manage their time the way they want to. If they prefer working alone and at midnight, they can. This increases productivity because its not forcing night owls to wake up early or introverts to be stuck in a small space with lots of other people. A comfortable and happy worker is a profitable worker. Preferences vary from person to person, so adopting a “one size fits all” approach is problematic, especially with today’s technology. Furthermore, if the workforce is spread throughout the world, it can be easier to respond to support and marketing inquiries, as there is always someone on call. So to summarize, working remotely more often than not, creates more productive employees.

…than here!

Of course, setting up a decentralized remote business can be hard. How do you ensure that you reap all the benefits decentralization offers?

Communication is key for any business, but it is even more important for a decentralized business. With people around the world in different time zones and localities, there needs to be an easy way to make sure the team is on the same page. Two team members shouldn’t be working separately on the same project, but all the projects need to have a member assigned to them. This requires good communication. A number of applications can help out with this. Looking at Blockonomics, Slack is a huge savior. It has allowed all of us to keep in quick contact, and to organize work projects easily.

Our lively Slack allows for quick and easy communication

Additionally, just because the company is remote, face to face communication shouldn’t be discounted. Holding online conference class is important, it allows the team to better express what they are working on, and allows the boss to provide better feed back. It also helps increase the camaraderie among the team if they can place a face and voice to the typed messages.

By fostering good communication between workers, projects are finished in an efficient manner, and no one complains about someone else doing their job. Of course, the internet and new apps allow everyone to stay in touch, whether in an office in India, your home in the US, or an airplane 35000 feet over Greenland. Any work that is produced can be easily shared through applications like Dropbox and Google Drive. This offers an easy means to show what work is being done, and collect feedback on a project.

However, for entrepreneurs looking to create a remote start-up, one key thing is to avoid micromanagement, as mentioned in this article. With a decentralized workforce, it can be hard for a boss to not be able to see what is being worked on all the time. Its important though to trust your employees, they will be working different hours and at their own pace, so as long as they meet the deadline, let them do their work. If there is too much micromanagement, it can decrease efficiency in the employees, in addition to slowing down response times. If the boss is in the US, and the employee in Europe, the employee would have to wait for the boss who might still be sleeping.

Paying your workers can be an issue. Obviously, in a remote business you can’t send a check home with the employee on payday. Doing wire transfers include heavy fees that can be harmful to a small business. Blockonomics has gotten around this by using cryptocurrency. For example, I get paid using the Blockonomics invoice tool. I just fill out the the amount of money I’m to be paid, and my boss sends it out. The only fees are the standard Bitcoin transaction costs.

Workers around the world!

There are of course some negatives for an entirely remote workplace. When using direct in person communication, feedback can be given even more efficiently. Its much easier to be looking at the same screen while discussing a project. There is also something fun about going out with the boss and coworkers for a post-work day beer. Hard to achieve when in a decentralized business, although some of us at Blockonomics managed to!

There’s something enjoyable about that post-work beer!

Nonetheless, running and working in a decentralized remote business generally offers more benefits than disadvantages. It produces more efficient workers and allows for great flexibility for both the boss and employees. It can be easy to run, as long as everyone recognizes communication is vital to make the venture successful. I for one, will enjoy working at a remote business as I take off for another city, happy as I type away on my computer, knowing I’m getting a pay check and still able to travel.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at