Distributed Teams Make for Hard Work

A London-based entrepreneur, whom I have been mentoring briefly, just emailed me and told me he had to shut down his (promising) business. The reason for this was a fall out between him and his Berlin-based business partners.

Both in my own companies and companies where I have had only tenuous involvement, I have now seen this pattern over and over again. Distributed teams just don’t work well in the early stages of a startup. I have now come so far as to say that I want to have no involvement of any kind with distributed teams.

“But Jens, Skype had a distributed team. As did Kickstarter. What are you on about? Clearly this can work!”

Yeah. I would suggest  you go to the people who were involved with those businesses in the early days and ask them how well that worked out. Read this re Skype (“us and them mentality”). Watch this re Kickstarter (started in 2002, took seven YEARS to get anywhere and the team worked from multiple locations on various jobs to get by, very long and hard slog indeed).

I personally find that setting up a company with the team in multiple locations is hard. Very hard. I would therefore really rather pass on that kind of setup. Having everyone in one room or garage is so much simpler. And that has produced a number of great companies. Like this one. Or this one. Or maybe this one.

Update: Met somebody from a failing startup yesterday. CEO and CTO in LA, developers in London. It really doesn’t work…