If you want to grow a business, it is all about your people. And if it is all about your people, it is all about creating a fantastic culture. Hard at the best of times; harder still for hybrid and remote teams, where people quickly become isolated and lose sight of that feeling of belonging.
Remote Social is a Sydney-based company that is on a mission to enable companies to create an unbeatable culture and end that isolation and loneliness for good. And, of course, to enable companies to grow successfully in the process. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” after all (Pete Drucker). Remote Social is starting by bringing fun back but for a serious purpose.
We have always understood that corporate culture comes from leadership. With teams working remotely, four contributing elements have been seen to be mainstays in developing company culture:
- trust and transparency
- reward and recognition
- connection and community
- collaboration and competition
Remote Social offers companies an effective way of providing collaboration and competition.
All three of the founders behind Remote Social, Gerardo Contreras Vacca, Mike Fitzbaxter, and Jessica Baird-Walsh, had experienced the plusses and minuses of remote and hybrid teams.
Mike had worked in tech and unicorn start-ups. At Atlassian, he had seen their legendary culture at work and then saw first-hand how difficult it is to reproduce that sort of culture in the US in a different company. Jessica had her own business in Hong Kong and then worked with a hybrid company in Australia and saw the problems they had of integrating team members within the office and those at home to create a strong culture.
Gerardo had run his own design and innovation company in Colombia and, after moving to Australia, had worked for tech giants including Adobe and Google. He, too, had experienced running groups on different time zones and the vast integration issues of hybrid teams.
All three could see the problems of creating strong bonds and culture from first-hand experience and that these issues would only grow with more companies moving towards remote and hybrid working even before the pandemic. From day one of the pandemic, companies who had never considered it had to cope with this problem. Cultures evaporated overnight.
Forming Remote Social
Mike, Gerardo, and Jessica all had ideas for their next businesses and signed up to the prestigious global accelerator Antler to develop them. As part of the new cohort, they met up just before entry, but they had to get to know each other remotely because of the pandemic.
Antler is the world’s largest early-stage investment platform, running in multiple cities worldwide. They concentrate on identifying top talent, believing that choosing the right founding partner(s) is the key to start-up success and bring together multi-skilled people from across the board, from business development to engineers.
The three started with Antler in June 2020. Initially, they worked on all of their ideas and discovered that they worked well together and enjoyed doing so. However, it was quickly apparent to them that it was Mike’s idea, Remote Social, that would be the one they would go with.
Still having known each other only a few months, they pitched to Antler during the first week of July. They got through and became part of Antler’s portfolio and won the pre-seed funding to build their first version platform for validation. They were also able to access Antler’s coaching and contacts.
They built the MVP together with an impressive list of users including Google, eBay, and Atlassian among them) to gain the essential feedback to build the full version, which will launch mid-2021. When I caught up with them in March, they were recruiting more engineers and were already at 60% of their next fundraiser.
How Remote Social helps build Culture
Their big focus has been to create a platform that helps teams come together and create strong connections, using play, shared experiences and organic interactions. With the lack of interaction, fun, and culture loss, team performance and mental health have suffered. The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already starting to appear.
Many companies are planning or already running hybrid organizations for the future and meeting all the cultural challenges which Mike, Jessica, and Gerardo have seen before. And solutions are essential. Culture makes for strong teams.
Remote Social believe this begins with bringing the fun back so that wherever people are working in the world, they still feel part of something bigger. People build connections and culture through shared experiences and play.
The platform offers and activities are specifically chosen to strengthen culture, wellbeing, and connection. Games can be played by just two or three people or thirty upwards. Trivia is proving the most popular. It is easy to run as it doesn’t need a host, and some of their users are already running trivia evenings every week with their teams. They are continually expanding their list of games, which also include bingo and fitness challenges people can do via a slack integration.
They have people working in the US and the UK to add live events, including stand-up comedy, masterclasses from photography, cooking to cocktail making. They plan inspirational speakers and charity partnerships for the subscription service.
Most of their time has gone into the selection of quality and choice of games and events. But by January, they could see that there was a need for different sorts of interaction, with lockdown and zoom fatigue fully taken hold. There is more to culture than remote Friday beers and slack channels. From being a games center, they started thinking in terms of Remote Social being a culture platform.
Many larger organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, Square, Atlassian and Slack are offering people the option to work at home permanently. This has meant that the creation of hybrid and or remote work culture has become a major focus for HR departments and it is here for the long term.
Remote Social is an example of this new CaaS (Culture-as-a-Service) market on which companies can build the essential team identity they need to remain ahead of the game.
Their definition of culture
Culture, in their view, is the way people interact, the way they behave and help each other and face challenges together. It is built and sustained by offering touch points within a working week in which people get to know each other. That connection is what makes people passionate, really getting to know their colleagues and make super powerful bonds.
Recreating those moments, such as when you come in and have a chat and discuss how your weekend was, water cooler moments are crucial to culture. The Remote Social founders want to continually develop ways of helping people interact within the working day but crucially, without being forced to do so.
It isn’t all fun and games either. Some companies use bingo in particular as an ice breaker and warm-up to serious meetings such as strategy ones and finding it effective. It is all about building interaction and shared experiences to build the culture.
The founders are keen to realize their vision of supporting both individuals and organizations, helping to combat loneliness and isolation, and ensuring everyone feels a part of a bigger picture. They want to enable people to share the very best of themselves and to create a world where geography is no barrier to connection.
They believe that this future is attainable through hard work and are taking things step by step. The next step is to get the working model of the games and events up and running and setting up continual feedback groups from the regular users. Interestingly, they are a B2B company. However, it is the end-user’s feedback, which will matter perhaps the most because if people don’t use it, companies will not buy it. So that CX experience is crucial.
They will increasingly study how they can help generate more moments of interactions between team members that ultimately lead to stronger connections. They are looking at how teams interact with each other and how the data can be to help organizations perform better.
You may also be interested to read this fascinating interview with a workplace psychologist on how to increase productivity