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Can hiring digital nomads help build a stronger startup?

 

Danish Soomro, founder of Visadb.io, is a globetrotting entrepreneur who believes that freedom and productivity go hand-in-hand.

Danish Soomro is a true digital nomad. Over the last 10 years he has worked in 60 cities in more than 30 countries. He is the founder of Visadb.io,a platform and API that helps individuals and organisations understand the visa requirements and risk profiles for travel or work in over 200 countries.

Hi Danish. Where are you at the moment?

DS: I’m in Ecuador. I came for a migration forum, went travelling afterwards then I had to stay here because of lockdown. It’s not a bad place to be stuck as there’s amazing weather and I live in front of a beach.
 

What do people mean when they talk about digital nomads?

DS: A digital nomad is anyone who is free to work wherever they want. That often means they will travel to interesting places around the world but they could also work from one place. The important thing is that they have freedom to choose.
 

Did you work as a digital nomad before becoming a founder?

DS: Yes – both as an employee and as a freelancer – for corporates as well as startups.
 

What’s the difference when working for a startup as a digital nomad?

DS: It’s completely different to working for a big organisation. Startups have flat structures and little hierarchy. It’s easier for them to have an Objective Key Results (OKR) style of management that works well with a remote workforce. The experience is much more relaxed because it’s about outcomes rather than office politics or what time you clock in.
 

What are the benefits for a founder when hiring from across the world?

DS: Startups are often short of cash and hiring outside of your country can give you access to the best talent. You might want to go to one country or region for designers, somewhere else for programmers and somewhere else again for sales and marketing – whatever suits your business. But cost should only be one factor. I’ve found that going for the low cost option is definitely not always best.

Do you think hiring digital nomads can actually make a startup stronger?

DS: Yes, absolutely. There are eight people from five different countries working for Visadb and we’re all digital nomads to some degree. I joke that it’s a requirement for them to travel. They’re given massive flexibility and in return they give their commitment, their loyalty and their most productive hours. There’s an amazing trust between us. They’re happy to work and that’s the most important thing.
 

Is it a different experience working with digital nomads rather than remote workers?

DS: The more freedom you give a worker, the better it is for their wellbeing. If I say ‘You can work from anywhere’ then that person can make the best use of their time. They can go to Vietnam or Rio and work from there. Quality of life and mental wellbeing is more important for the new generation. They don’t want free beer on a Friday – they want to be able to make their own choices.
 

Are there downsides to the nomadic life?

DS: As I get older I now like to stay for three or four months in a place. It lets me get to know people and the culture. You can make some beautiful friendships and when it’s time to leave you want to take those people with you – but you have to leave them behind.
 

How has Covid-19 changed things for digital nomads?

DS: In the short term it’s obviously stopped people travelling. At the same time it has shown how possible it is for teams to work remotely. As things start to return to normal I think we are going to see a lot more digital nomads.

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