Maxime Bouroumeau-Fuseau
August 10, 2020

Company Interview with Maxime, Co-founder and CTO of Digicoop

From making employees shareholders to letting workers take control of their roles, Maxime describes Digicoop's path to remote success.

How did you get started with remote work?

The company has been remote-first since day one. It was something evident for us. First, when we started the company, we had no offices, so remote was the only way. Second, we all had experience working remotely and enjoy it.

Finally, the fact that we decided to do a worker cooperative means we already trust employees fully as they are also shareholders. So all these aspects of remote work that make some companies hesitate was a non-issue.

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What has been the benefit of allowing remote work?

One benefit has been the freedom to organize yourself and a better work/life balance. As a worker cooperative, this is a core value of the company. Being remote-first gives each of us more flexibility than going into an office, having to commute, etc.

But I don't think remote work is enough by itself. To become great, it has to come with trust and asynchronous work.

Asynchronous means that not everybody has to work at the same time.

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Why do you think remote work has been successful at your company?

First of all, at the moment we have only hired people with remote work experience. So we clearly removed a lot of the possible challenges.

Secondly, the built-in trust a worker cooperative offers removes all the fear usually associated with remote.

Finally, we have set up the infrastructure needed to ensure that remote would work for everybody:

  • no paper policy
  • full set of online tools for daily work
  • company mailbox from a service which scans our mail as PDF, so there is no need to go anywhere (administrative documents are still often mail-based)
  • online accountant

Generally speaking, we have nothing that is dependent on a location, and any new service that we purchase must not be location dependent.

I think the infrastructure aspect of remote work is greatly underestimated.

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What have been some of the challenges?

Like in our personal life, company life has its ups and downs. I feel that it is harder to re-motivate everybody when fully remote. It's much harder to create the energy necessary to get out of these moments quickly. A larger company may be able to glide for some time, but as a small team and bootstrap company, we cannot really afford the wasted productivity.

I also feel that spontaneous creativity moments are harder. These kinds of moments where a discussion drifts to a brainstorming session and new ideas come out of it.

I feel that as a company evolving in a very competitive market, we must always provide innovative solutions, and not having these moments perhaps robs us of some good ideas.

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Do you have a hybrid or full-remote team?

Full remote team, but we do have an office where people can just go if they want. We do not consider it a hybrid as no one goes there more than a couple of days per week.

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What are your company's most popular tools?

Kantree of course! That's where all the work happens, no matter what type of work we are doing. This was the main motivation behind the product: allowing us to operate the whole business (from an organizational perspective) with a single tool.

But I should also mention our chat system (we use Mattermost) as that's where the social life of the company happens. But we are working to bring better conversations directly into Kantree :)

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What does a typical day look like for your remote teams?

We have various start times in the morning, but usually, everybody is connected by 10 am. We have a weekly meeting on Thursday, and the rest of the discussions happen in Mattermost or Kantree. All the work is listed in Kantree, so we do not need a meeting to know who is working on what as this is accessible there.

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How do you support or train your remote managers?

So far, we've never had to train anybody. We are a small team and a worker cooperative. Everybody is encouraged to take control of their role. When hiring, we make sure to select profiles compatible with our mindset: former freelancers, entrepreneurs, etc...

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Do you have a formal remote work policy?

Our work contracts stipulate that we can either work from home or from the office, so I guess that makes it a formal policy :)

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How has the role of HR changed when it comes to supporting your remote workforce?

As mentioned before, we are a small company with no dedicated HR person. The infrastructure is maintained by our IT person, and he can be solicited for improvements to the tools we use.

We have yearly company-wide meetings to review the way we work, and how we feel about the structure of the company.

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How do you build trust and camaraderie among your remote workers?

We make sure everybody knows each other in real life.

While I think it's possible to create a team where nobody ever meets in real life, I don't think that's something we want.

I do feel it would be harder to create camaraderie and bonding.

We have regular meetups with everybody, and as we welcome somebody new, we make an effort to come to the office to work physically together for a little while.

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Do you facilitate opportunities for face-to-face interactions?

The office is always there if needed; we don't do anything special otherwise.

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How has remote work impacted your company's productivity?

As we have always worked remotely, it's hard to compare with a non-remote situation. But I do think that it has a great impact on productivity.

The freedom to work at your own time, and wherever you want without commuting, is very liberating.

On top of that, it forces us to create an infrastructure that is 100% accessible online, and as hassle-free and frictionless as possible, so work happens smoothly.

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Maxime Bouroumeau-Fuseau

Maxime Bouroumeau-Fuseau is a French developer, entrepreneur, co-founder, and CTO of Digicoop developers of Kantree. After several years of developing large-scale web applications, he took time off to travel the world before returning to Paris to start Digicoop.

Company info: Kantree is a flexible work management platform that empowers people from any team to organize themselves and boost their productivity.

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