Remote workers are becoming increasingly common in today’s workforce, especially in the tech industry. According to a survey by Deskmag, there will be over 10,000 co-working spaces at the end of 2016 — these collaborative environments for startups, freelancers, and creatives that work remotely are popping up in almost every neighborhood of Atlanta.
Consumer startup Hot Desk International is looking to target those remote employees seeking a change of scenery. The Switchyards-based startup wants to take you on a South American adventure, all while staying productive— from listening to tango as you work at a cafe Buenos Aires to having a Skype meeting with your boss before embarking on a trek in Machu Picchu.
“Changing environments, new sights, new sounds, new people and surroundings keeps one motivated,” says founder Adam Wilson. He runs the cohorts along with his business partner, Laura Vega, and a team of freelancers on the ground.
If you’re ready to cross a few countries off your bucket list, read on to learn more about the program, how to pitch it to your boss, and the invaluable lessons Wilson learned in launching the company.
Funding or bootstrapped:
Bootstrapped. Not currently looking for funding. Our plan is to operate on our initial bootstrapped investment plus positive cash flow from operations until 2018. At that time, we will be able to present a proven business model and track record to seek funding/investment for expansion.
What’s your pitch for those interested in participating?
Balancing work and play while living the location independent lifestyle is hard enough without having to worry about all the logistics and planning. Hot Desk International makes it seamless. On our year-long or eight-week programs, we take you from city to city through Latin America and provide housing, access to co-working spaces, transportation, and even offer optional Spanish lessons, for a fully immersive experience. We hand select a group of great people for your cohort—other location flexible workers, who all want to experience culture and see the world while still pursuing their professional goals. Our on-the-ground travel experience in Latin America means that you can focus on the ‘work and play’ part—we’ll take care of the rest.
What problem are you solving?
For the person who is sitting in the same spot day-after-day doing a job that could feasibly be done remotely, is generally bored with the standard routine and surroundings, and wants an interesting life experience – we offer a turnkey solution to explore the world while continuing to work.
We take the hassle out of all the travel details and logistics and offer local expert knowledge that enables each participant to fully enjoy their new environment and focus on their career. We curate our groups with interesting group members which adds to the overall travel/life experience.
You had to push your initial launch, correct?
We did. We set an aggressive schedule to launch. The research, planning, coordination and development took longer than we anticipated which greatly shortened our marketing window. We didn’t want to start our sales/marketing efforts until we were absolutely certain that everything was lined up perfectly.
What are some lessons you learned as a founder during this time?
Start marketing from day one and don’t let up. Being new to the startup world, we wanted to get everything organized, developed and certain before we took it to market. We thought this was the responsible way to do it – to go get the tires and the windows and doors and all the parts and assemble them before we started marketing or selling ‘the car’. This set us back many months and was not the most effective way to approach the process. If we had it over to do again, we’d start heavy marketing from day one and simply change the message/strategy as we moved further towards completion. It doesn’t need to be perfect or complete to market.
We didn’t even have a landing page, partly because we didn’t want the competition to know we were coming, thinking that they may potentially try to block us out of some key spaces before we solidified our arrangements. This set us back from a marketing standpoint. Looking back, I would have laid it out there on day one and fired up the marketing machine. One of the ideas that the founders of Switchyards like to impart is ‘keep your eye on what others are doing, but other than that, just run your play book.’ We were new to starting a business. Now we know.
Why should a company consider sending their employees on your program?
- Competitive Advantage — More and more these days, companies (especially in tech) are doling out all sorts of perks to attract and maintain top talent. The ability to explore the world while managing a career is a very unique offering. For the young, single superstar who get’s antsy sitting in one place and is ready for something different, this is could seal the deal.
- Productivity — A happy, inspired employee is a productive employee. We hear this all the time. Furthermore, an employee who feels that the company has ‘gone out on a limb’ for them and has given them an incredible opportunity is typically an uber productive employee. They feel a sense of responsibility not to break the limb.
- Employee Enrichment — Employees will return with new life experiences and an expanded view of the world, business, culture and people which will foster new ideas, creativity, and continued motivation.
What are the two program options?
Latin American Immersion (One Year) — For individuals who can pack away the domestic life and settle into new work / travel international lifestyle. 11 Cities from Buenos Aires all the way north to Mexico City. Approximately 5 weeks in each city.
Latin American Highlights (8 weeks) — For those who can’t commit to being away for a full year but still want a taste of the international work/travel lifestyle. We travel to Buenos Aires, Lima, Cusco and Bogota.
How many folks are allowed in each program and what features do they have?
Our one year program will consist of group 36 members. In our past experience on long duration trips, we have found this number to be small enough to remain manageable and stay engaged but large enough to provide a diverse, interesting community of colleagues from whom you will be able to continually learn and enjoy through personal and professional interaction.
Our 8-week program will consist of 22 group members. For this ‘mid-level’ duration trip, we have found this number to work well. It’s the size of a typical high school or college class room and seems have the familiar, comfortable feel.
How does ATL weave into your story?
We are home grown here in ATL. We are headquartered at Switchyards. I remember the first day we walked into Switchyards. We were experts in organizing and operating group travel in Latin America but we were as green as green could be when it came to starting a business. Within a very short period, we met many people and received an amazing amount of help and support that I think was well beyond what someone could expect to get at the average co-working space. Outside of operations, we put together most of the company through our Switchyards network.