Given the size and user base of Twitpic, you may be surprised to find out that we just moved into our first official office space. Previously, we all worked remotely, which has worked out very well for us.
To give some background… I started Twitpic in February 2008 as a side project, not thinking it would grow into what it has become today. I ran Twitpic by myself for the first 18 months until we hired our first employee (and shortly thereafter, our second). Now we’re up to 7, which is extremely small compared to other sites our size. Regardless, our group is tight knit, and their capabilities amaze me everyday. I couldn’t ask for a better team.
Working from home has kept things simple and efficient, and since we’re a developer centric company, pushing code from the comfort of our own homes has been a pleasure. We’ve been a remote team for almost 2 years now (until this week, but more on that later).
Here’s how we worked as a remote team:
Communication: Campfire from 37signals is our main method of communication, with Skype coming in second and txt’ing / email (yuck) 3rd. We rarely have a real “meeting”. We’re dynamic when it comes to prioritizing work and what needs to be completed immediately.
Development: We originally started out using SVN, but moved to Git / Github last year, which has made things much easier. Some of the IDEs and code editors used have been: Textmate, Espresso, Coda, and (recently) Sublime Text 2. I’m sure there have been more, but text editors are like girlfriends… there’s always a hotter one down the road.
Support: We started out using pure email for handling support requests, but as they grew, we moved to a ticket based system to better keep track of things. We strive to answer any request within an hour, but usually we answer within a few minutes. And of course Twitter is also a great first-contact for support questions.
Fun!: If you’re not enjoying your work, you are in the wrong field. We recently took a company cruise to the Bahamas, which was a great time to get away from work and bond as a team. Company trips are something we plan on doing once or twice a year.
Now that we have an office to call home, it’s changed things up for us a little bit, but honestly not that much. We now have a place to feed on the energy and motivation you can only get from being around people in-person, but going forward, we’ll remain a hybrid team consisting of some remote workers, and some in the office. Also, just because we have an office doesn’t mean you have to drive into work every day. Employees are free to work from home, which is more comfortable for some and comes with less distractions.
In the end, do what works for you. An office is certainly not a requirement for running a startup, and these days, many don’t even start with one.