Remote companies can be too asynchronous

Jul 20, 2022

Even when Tim (my cofounder) and I were doing a Y Combinator (YC) batch in 2020, we realized we got more work done when we worked asynchronously.

Yes, even when there were just two of us, working in the same room as each other.

It stopped us both from breaking focus to discuss every single time we spoke to a user or an investor.

Asynchronous work has been key to our success at PostHog:

  • It means we're able to operate all-remotely, across a range of timezones.

  • Asynchronous communication can be shared much more easily – so it's easy to share more context and to be more transparent with a wider team, which enables people to be autonomous and empowered.

  • You can focus on your work. An awful lot of people hate meetings!

Making teams feel like teams

After YC, we raised a bunch of money, and hired people. We have always been disciplined around how we do meetings – the majority have a clear purpose, notes and action items, and meetings are banned on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Features got shipped fast, yet everything felt calm. We grew a lot.

The more we kicked ass, the more we realized – we have to keep this team together. To do that, we decided getting to know each other better was the best way to avoid churn – there was so little time made for informal discussion otherwise.

So we hired a big house in Tuscany for a week, after about six months of working together. For almost everyone, it was our first time meeting.

The TL;DR?

It transformed the company. People came together and got more comfortable giving direct feedback, we changed our product trajectory (it gave us the idea for apps and for session recording, which led to our philosophy around consolidating a bunch of tools), and we realized we have to do this often.

We now mandate an annual all-company offsite where everyone is strongly encouraged to attend, plus annual small team offsites for people to work together and socialize. We also provide a $300 monthly budget for co-working, and a $500 monthly budget to cover the cost of travel and meals to meet colleagues.

You can get too asynchronous

The "better" you run a company – removing unnecessary meetings, using more written communication – the less time you "lose" to socializing. We tried things like Zoom catchups, but it's not the same – Zoom is just too close to feeling like a work meeting compared to getting dinner or going for a walk.

Don't get me wrong – working asynchronously has huge upside. This time often goes back to people having more time with their families, or more time building things. It enables everything at the top of this post.

But, knowing each other more deeply helps create a true team – where people can more deeply trust and empathize with each other.

So, if you're building a remote company, don't wait too long to initiate those links. It could be the difference between success and failure.

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