Remotely co-founding a startup is easier than you may think

Wed, Jan 28, 2009

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It’s not news that the internet provides a ton of ways for you to work remotely and it works great for the few times you can’t make a meeting in person but what about founding and launching an entire company? Farhan, who is located in Wisconsin, and myself, located in Michigan, are doing just that. We’ve accomplished an amazing amount with ShopFiber over the past several months and have only actually physically worked in the same room for a total of 3 days (which just happened recently during my trip to WI to meet our mentors).

Due to our distance we have had to fully leverage every cost-effective (read: free) collaboration tool out there to allow us to brainstorm, document, architect, implement, and improve ShopFiber. Here’s how we do it:

Meeting notes/idea documentation/market research/etc… – Google Docs (cost $0)

Google Docs rocks. Word processing and spreadsheets all accessible anywhere (this one is huge) and provide for real-time collaboration. We have leveraged Google Docs for all sorts of uses, it is truly invaluable. Document management and versioning has never been a thought in our minds. We have bigger problems to worry about than emailing word docs back and forth. Use Google docs and spend time on things that matter.

Screen SharingMicrosoft SharedView (cost $0)

We needed a way to share our screen so that we could quickly show one another a particular problem we were having or to provide for single focal point/whiteboard during our meetings as we sketch up new ideas and designs. It’s pretty simple to use and works well. We tried a couple other screen sharing services (including Windows MeetingSpace) and weren’t having a smooth experience so we settled on SharedView.

There are some other programs that Henry Balanon (@balanon) recently introduced us to that we will be trying out because they look quite promising. One is called Jing, which let’s you quickly record your screen to allow for asynchronous communication between you and a colleague. The other is Adobe ConnectNow, which is another way to share your screen.

Voice communication - Skype (cost $0)

Unfortunately, SharedView doesn’t provide voice communication. No biggie though, the obvious choice here is Skype. Of the applications I’ve used for talking to someone online Skype is the best. Sound clarity, ease of use, and feature set make it a must have.

Ticket + Code Management – Trac and Subversion (cost $0)
These are a must have for any company really. Tickets help us coordinate new tasks and fixes, and Subversion allows us to work on one code base preventing us from wiping out each other’s work.

Database Design – MySQL Workbench (cost $0)

When designing the ShopFiber database we needed a tool to help us document it. We landed on using MySQL workbench (even though we use PostgreSQL) mainly because it did what we needed it to do and it was free. Workbench  is a little quirky at times though and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a better free alternative. Once we layout the tables, we edit the models in django and generate the SQL through its command line utility (“django-admin sqlall”).

So there is a quick recap of the tools we use to communicate and coordinate ShopFiber work. By using these tools we have managed to design, implement, and soon launch ShopFiber while living almost 500 miles apart. If we can do it, you can too.

Do you use any tools that you think we should check out? Let us know in the comments.

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4 Responses to “Remotely co-founding a startup is easier than you may think”

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