The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Links to Valerie and Rebecca's stuff:

Pre-seed raise after our conversation

Valerie Krämer [she/her] on LinkedIn

Valerie Krämer (she/her) on Twitter

Rebecca Görres on LinkedIn

Rebecca Görres on Twitter


Links to Tyler's stuff:




Tyler Sellhorn (00:02):
Hello everyone, my name is Tyler Sellhorn and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work, with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. Today, we welcome Valerie Krämer and Rebecca Görres. They are co-founders of Remi, a culture-building platform for remote and distributed teams. They founded the company together in early 2021. We are so grateful to them for coming to share their knowledge and experience with us as they solve for an important aspect of remote working. Tell us, Valerie, what problems are you all trying to solve with Remi?
Valerie Krämer (00:44):
Hi Tyler, thanks for your invite, first and foremost. The problem we are trying to solve with Remi is actually one of the biggest challenges that remote teams have been facing, not only over the course of the pandemic, but also before it, which is connecting teams over distance, and building trust and a sense of belonging. This is what we're basically trying to solve, and we're just getting started with it.
Tyler Sellhorn (01:09):
Fantastic. We know that it's early days for you all. Tell us a little bit more of the background of what was it that you had experienced that really prompted you to say, "Okay, we are joining forces. This is the thing that we want to spend our life, our time working on," what was it that prompted you to begin this work?
Rebecca Görres (01:30):
Maybe I could take this one. Essentially, I come from a background of psychology. So I studied organizational psychology and this topic of bringing teams together and making sure that culture is actually something that benefits teams, this has kind of accompanied me through my entire career. And when Valerie and I met up, we basically decided to found a company together. And we wanted to choose the idea together, so we started exploring different topics. And obviously we were in the midst of a pandemic, so remote work was something that we were closely experiencing ourselves, and essentially, we talked to a lot of companies, trying to understand what their problems are. And this topic of culture, we kept coming back to it because it was something that had been relevant to me before, but it's also something that was expressed so often. And when we started looking deeper into it, we realized it's one of the biggest unsolved issues. And for us, it's actually one of the topics that we would actually love to work on as well.
Tyler Sellhorn (02:30):
Valerie Krämer (02:30):
If I can...
Tyler Sellhorn (02:31):
Go ahead, Valerie.
Valerie Krämer (02:32):
Basically, what was also something that enforced this was that we kind of noticed that companies are deciding against remote work because of the fact that they believe they cannot build culture effectively remotely. And this was even more of a trigger for us to say, "We won't accept this," right? We won't accept that companies decide against choosing remote work because they believe this isn't happening. And so we said, "We have going to make this happen and we are going to make remote work more human and connected. And however we're going to do this, we are trying to solve it." And so this is basically the big passion that we came out with because we believe we want to work remotely in the future, and we want to enable everyone to feel connected in that sense.
Tyler Sellhorn (03:20):
Really interesting. One of the things that I want to zoom into is the story of how you all did meet up. We're in the midst of this kind of moment where there's a little bit more in real life, but there's still a lot of those first steps of a hiring process, or finding a co-founder, that it really does happen over a screen share, or in a video conference. How did you all find each other?
Rebecca Görres (03:45):
Yeah. Essentially, I think it goes a little bit back to what we actually believe remote culture's criteria for success, or what's going to make remote culture successful, it's productivity and intentionality. And essentially, this is how we met up because both of us, in our separate paths, were looking. We both quit our jobs in the midst of the pandemic because we wanted to found a company, so we intentionally did that. And then we started looking for ways to build a business. And we knew from the start, both of us still separately, that we want to do it with another person. And so I actually actively reached out to Valerie after I interviewed her coincidentally for a customer discovery interview, and asked her if she'd be interested. And then we took the process from there. And again, it keeps coming back to this idea of, do things with intention, put a lot of productivity into things. And that's, I think, something that the pandemic has taught us, but more importantly, remote working is also the foundation of, right?
Valerie Krämer (04:47):
What is super important I think is, and what we also noticed for ourselves is that we need to take time for the process, to get to know each other. And we put a lot of emphasis on making sure all the fundaments, and beliefs, and motivations that we have are aligned in the first place. And that with the most important things that one could struggle later on are kind of clarified already. What we worked on was really a very dedicated co-founders matching questionnaire, with all the most important questions, like how would you finance this company? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are things that you are scared of? What are the things that you're passionate about? So not only looking at obviously complimenting each other skill-wise, but also looking at values, and how and why do we actually want to build a company? And what is the longterm vision of culture that we want to build in the company? And that needs to be aligned.
Valerie Krämer (05:47):
It's like a partnership, like a marriage basically, that you walk into. And that means there needs to be a certain fundament. And we took really some time to do this together with intention again, because we believe that it's the fundament of everything. And also now for our third co-founder that we have just recently officially announced, which is Franco, coming from Typeform, which is also a remote-first company from Europe, we basically tried to make this also a very kind of dedicated process, getting to know each other. And also speaking about these topics with him, because it's not only an investment on a final set of things, you have to invest in the company. But also you have to really plan for this for the next couple of years. And this has been very successful, I would say for us, and still there's also after the onboarding and get to know each other process, that we're still in I think. So very interesting for us to experience this.
Tyler Sellhorn (06:44):
I do think that's an interesting part of working in a remote fashion. Darren Murph says it this way, that remote work is a forcing function for intentionality.
Valerie Krämer (06:55):
Tyler Sellhorn (06:57):
And that's even your experience of finding one another as co-founders.
Rebecca Görres (07:01):
Valerie Krämer (07:01):
Tyler Sellhorn (07:02):
Right, I'm hearing that theme that we've heard so often in these conversations is that intentionality is often a by-product of choosing to work in this location-independent style.
Rebecca Görres (07:14):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler Sellhorn (07:15):
Okay, so tell me some more, Rebecca, about what it was about Valerie, that when you had a customer interview, made you want to follow up with her as a potential co-founder? That's one of the things that we're trying to learn here in this space here on The Remote Show is, how to do remote job-seeking and how to signal to potential hiring managers. I'm ready to do this with you all, what was it that spoke to you about Valerie?
Rebecca Görres (07:40):
Yeah. So I had the pleasure, or I had the opportunity, to spend a full half hour with her. We'd be talking about another topic and getting her opinion on it, so I had a very good first impression of her thought processes, and how she structured topics, and yeah, ask questions and stuff like that. And I think that was a really good baseline, but essentially, talked to her, found her really interesting, and was very impressed by how she was approaching topics, and also felt a sense of connection. And I think that's maybe even the most interesting part is that when you manage to feel a sense of connection to a person, even remotely, I think that's a point when it gets really interesting. I mean, it's obviously also what we're trying to solve because I think what we're learning is that it's so hard to do that, and it cannot be taken for granted, but when it happens right away, it's even more magical.
Rebecca Görres (08:40):
And I guess that's what we had. And that kind of inspired me to pick up the phone and actually ask her, "Hey, do you want to meet up? Do you want to talk about founding a company together? Just no strings attached, but I find it really interesting, and I would love to explore this."
Tyler Sellhorn (08:54):
I'm wondering some more about the thing that you mentioned, where we say connection is hard in a remote space. And I'm wondering if that's just a hard thing, generally, not even specific to remote work. And something that I'm learning from those that have gone before us in the remote working space, is that because it's different and it's a new way of connecting with others, that we are being prompted to think about it more deeply? When you think about Remi, and you all founding a company together, you've gone very deep in terms of thinking about that thing. What are some of the things that you've learned as you all are thinking deeply about connecting, in a team, in a remote team? Valerie, what are the things that you're learning as you think about that more deeply?
Valerie Krämer (09:49):
Yeah. I think what we see is that many companies have been having had a misunderstanding for how culture is built. I think they have associated a lot with a physical space that is inhabited, the office, basically. And that people are building culture in the coffee kitchen because they're speaking there. But what is actually happening, and this is also how relationships are built, friendships, it's that you proactively plan things together as a team, and make sure that you have it top of mind that you connect, that to get to know each other better, et cetera. And I think I agree with you that it's actually been a topic also before everyone was working remotely because it doesn't mean just because you're in the same room with each other that there's a connection, and that you actually get to know each other, or that you actually building trust or feeling a sense of psychological safety.
Valerie Krämer (10:50):
And so I feel what we're doing right now, and what you said before, is this basically [inaudible 00:10:58] us to this intentional planning of connection. This is also what we found out in our interviews. We were asking ourselves, "Why is this actually such a challenge of connecting with each other?" Because the infrastructure's there. We have Google Hangouts, Zoom, Slack, all kinds of tools that would actually provide being able to connect with each other. But what we essentially doing, we're not executing it well somehow because it's still happening that people feel less connected, like many, many studies are showing us. So what we said is what's actually missing is someone like an additional team member that takes care of connection building and culture building. Someone who's holding the hand of those teams and helping them proactively get to know each other, and get them together, and create and foster this company culture and sense of belonging.
Valerie Krämer (11:50):
And this is essentially what we believe that Remi should be in the future for teams, and already is for many that are testing right now, is this additional team member that does this. And it's basically not just them. I truly believe it's not so much about we all know how in theory culture will be built, but it's more about the execution, and this is where we help with. Basically, in the jungle of different activities that one can do together, in the jungle of what you can basically do in general, and what's actually effective, we're kind of the guiding light for remote and hybrid teams to help them figure out.
Rebecca Görres (12:29):
And maybe just to add to that, I think another really, really interesting aspect is the aspect of individuality. I think that's something that's really shifted because at the time when there was a water cooler and everyone could just gather around that, everyone just kind of fit themselves into that situation. And so it wasn't so necessary to actually look at what do individual team members in a team care about. But when you don't have this physical environment that's there to create the moments, connection and culture slips away. And I think that's forced organizations that work remotely to look much more closely at, who are actually these people that work at this company and what are their individual needs? And it's actually something that we're building it into a product as well and we're getting first findings that, for extroverts, it's easier to connect. And maybe that's something that's expected, but it's really good to kind of see how people use our product, and what that also means for individuals in an organization later on.
Rebecca Görres (13:36):
And I think that's where it can get pretty game-changing because if you think about that it might matter more in the future, what role in individual plays in an organization and whether they can decide where they work based on their individuality and based on their culture, I think that kind of shifts the whole kind of power balance of people versus the entire organization, in the favor of the individual. And that's really interesting as well.
Tyler Sellhorn (14:04):
Yeah, that is a theme that we've been feeling is, remote working does enforce a certain amount of authority sharing and distribution of responsibility, further away from an individual in a hierarchy, but rather, more broadly among individuals. And I know that for myself, Valerie was saying, that we need a guiding light through the jungle. I appreciate the bushwhacking that you all are doing for us, heading out there into this space of culture building. When you think about prompting people or giving them a North Star to do the dead reckoning, I'm a big sailing person, so yeah, I'm going to join in on the navigation stuff.
Tyler Sellhorn (14:50):
When you think about providing that North Star, what are the things that come up? What are those ideas? Give us some bullet points of, here are the things that Remi does, or any remote organization really needs, to be able to say, "Okay, we're going to guide ourselves by these stars."
Rebecca Görres (15:07):
I think two words that keep coming up and that I think are just super important, they are intentionality and proactivity. I think that's something that we've seen from our product and from obviously, trying to understand this market and trying to understand this topic of culture is that, if you do anything, it's be very aware that remote culture needs to be built with much more intentionality and much more proactivity. You need to be very, very aware that there's no space for teams to naturally connect. And if you don't pay attention to it and you don't take care of it, it's not going to happen. And that's especially dangerous for people that are introverts, or don't have an affinity to connecting with their colleagues, or that have children and they can spend the time to do that.
Rebecca Görres (15:57):
There's so many factors. And if there's nothing that ties them together, and that's not being watched and managed, then it's just something that falls flat and something that gets left behind. And it's kind of a slow process that you don't notice. So that's also where the danger lies, so you need to actually put it front and center and celebrate it. And that's maybe the second thing that I would add.
Valerie Krämer (16:21):
Would absolutely double down on those. And also, I think what we heard, especially, I mean, we did really, a deep dive into custom exploration. We did lots of interviews with lots of, lots of remote teams. And what we really found out was also that many have just been trying to replicate office situations, many have been replicating virtual team drinks. Many have just been replicating meeting virtually for lunch, or a virtual coffee break. And what has been happening really is seeing diminishing returns, always the same people show up. No one actually wants to be on Zoom after work, no one wants to be on Zoom during lunch. They want to go for a walk or do whatever they feel like.
Valerie Krämer (17:02):
What we basically identified as, and this is also what we solve with Remi, but also what we would give as a best practice, is really look for things that are not just one off. And that you always have to kind of think again about, coming up with a new activity to do together that is more exciting than the last one, et cetera, or just focusing on offsites once a quarter, because that's great. And we should always do those but effective basically, for three plus minus days. So what can we integrate into the day-to-day and into the already existing routines of teams? And this is also the reason why we believe rituals are the answer to it and why we believe that we should use the things that have been worked for teams very well in the past, and basically make them usable for social interactions as well. And that's why we're working with basically a mechanism that is ritualizing social interactions and helping teams identify the right activities that they can do on a daily or weekly basis, that are really just short interactions.
Valerie Krämer (18:07):
Currently, we're working with two to five minute experiences that teams can do asynchronously together, and basically really do on a daily or weekly basis. Super short but still brings them together and feels them closer connected to each other. And that's, I think, something that one just has to keep in the back of your hat, is it's not always the big things that you have to do, but it's really the little things, on a daily basis, that you should integrate and make, best case, a ritual out of it or a process that is repeatable.
Tyler Sellhorn (18:37):
I hear you rhyming with so much of my own experience as a remote worker. I was mentioning the sailing aspect before, but there's so much about building into a good ship. As you think about being, being the captain of your own ship, there's got to be routines to maintain the tools and the community, and the living by the bells. And having a certain set of expectations of how we're going to show up for each other, and having clearly defined roles, and how we appear, and what are we going to show up with? Are we going to show up with our whole selves? Are we invited to show up with our whole selves? Those are things that are really important as we think about our remote working lives together.
Valerie Krämer (19:15):
Yeah, absolutely.
Tyler Sellhorn (19:16):
Okay. Rebecca, when you are interfacing with the people that are also very interested in this same problem, what are the themes that you're hearing from people? What are the things that end up being the solutions? Valerie was just mentioning ritualizing. What are those rituals that are really feeding and serving you all and the people that you're serving?
Rebecca Görres (19:39):
Yeah, that's really interesting because it's a question that we asked ourselves, and it goes back to the pains that we're trying to solve. And it goes back to the question of what culture really is. Are we actually here to help teams be entertained, or are we helping teams to connect? Are we helping teams to establish trust and psychological safety? And the answer for us, very, very clearly it was the latter. It's not so much about providing another platform that plays games or helps you play games, it's much more about a platform that helps teams and companies take care of the non-professional side of things. And that's really there to also give them the mental reassurance to do that. And all of our rituals are really structured to deliver on that. And it's not even about creating the most exciting or novel experience, it's about using the rituals to create a great foundation for teams to build connection, to feel safe, to feel like they can trust their environment.
Rebecca Görres (20:46):
And so a ritual might be something like a temperature check, where you're just checking in every day with your team, and you're just checking how you're doing. And the wonderful aspect that we've learned, the wonderful kind of by-product of this is that you're actually creating a mindful moment, not just for the team, but also for yourself. And in the midst of the craziness and the unstructuredness that remote work inevitably provides, creating a moment of mindfulness and checking in with yourself and with your team provides a mental structure and provides mental clarity. And that's a wonderful thing. So it might seem like a super easy and simple ritual, but it's actually quite important in the psychology of working remotely as an individual. Another one is practicing appreciation, for example. It's also, again, talking to your colleagues and building a relationship with intentionality, and getting to know them by actually appearing in front of them with a lot of good intention and good vibes, essentially.
Rebecca Görres (21:52):
That's appreciation and there's a ritual for that, that's been very successful for us as well. It also needs to be, we also need to cover the fun side to a degree. And by the way, maybe to just throw this in, the way we're thinking about this is, you probably know Maslow and the Maslowian Pyramid, and so we're really thinking about the team's needs as the hierarchy of needs. And so at the bottom is really covering those fundamental needs, which might be something like a temperature check in, or an appreciation ritual. And then it goes more into getting to know each other and then self-actualizing as a team. When they're getting to know each other phase, we have rituals like team questions where teams can get to know each other through a question that they all answer, or share your world, where they basically share a little bit of their world through a picture, or through a playlist or something like this.
Rebecca Görres (22:43):
And when it comes to the self-actualization, that's interesting because it gets into joint goal setting. And how can you actually, as a team, set yourself goals that might be professional, but might also not be professional. But you accomplish them together and it creates a sense of shared accomplishment, essentially. And so this is how we essentially think about these rituals and, I guess, some examples for them.
Tyler Sellhorn (23:09):
Thank you for those examples and thank you for those rituals. As I heard you speaking, I feel the ad hoc sort of ways. The team that I lead has already created some of those types of things for ourselves.
Rebecca Görres (23:21):
Tyler Sellhorn (23:21):
And I'm wanting to express gratitude that you all are trying to build that into a product. Something that anyone can avail themselves of and start practicing good psychological health inside of their team, just using a product.
Rebecca Görres (23:35):
Tyler Sellhorn (23:35):
Okay, I want to throw it back to you, Valerie. When you think about the bottom-line impact of these types of rituals for a team, we're doing a business here, right? What is the return on investment of investing in team culture?
Valerie Krämer (23:50):
Yeah. What we are measuring right now [inaudible 00:23:54] North Star metric, so to say, is really moving the needle on sense of connection and sense of belonging. And there are lots of lots of studies actually that show that, when you are feeling like you belong, and you're connected with your team, that you are two to three times more productive. And I think we sometimes forget that around culture, it always is such a soft topic. And people say that it's something that comes at the end. But I think for remote building and remote team building, culture is actually the baseline for everything, at the foundation, for a strong team to actually perform at its best. Because if you're not building trust in your team, if you're not building psychological safety in your team, if you're not building a sense of connection in your team, there's not going to be a well-performing team that is going to be productive in the long run.
Tyler Sellhorn (24:45):
Okay, so I'm hearing some of Rebecca's words in your words there in that, Rebecca was saying intentionality plus proactivity equals productivity, is what you're telling me, Valerie. And I think that's an interesting equation to think through that, these sorts of investments in the human side, really do pay off in the longterm for teams, especially when you think about what is the cost of hiring? What is the cost of someone leaving a team? That there's downside cost to not having these things as well. Okay, I want to transition to closing our conversation, and the thing that I'm most interested to hear as we say goodbye is a little more about what you think about when you're talking to people that are trying to build strong remote cultures. What are the things that you hope they are able to communicate?
Tyler Sellhorn (25:40):
Our audiences is a lot of remote job seekers and hiring managers. When you think about progress towards team culture, in a remote team, what are the things that stand out to you as things that are ways to communicate? Or what are the signals that say, "Oh, this is a team that has a strong remote culture," or, "This is a team that maybe doesn't have a strong culture"? What are those signals? What are those identifiers for you all?
Rebecca Görres (26:06):
I think that's so interesting. The question is so interesting because culture is such an intangible subject. And part of the reason that we exist, as a business, is because we want to clear the fog and we want to make sure that culture, which is typically seen as a set of beliefs and assumption, actually turns into a set of behaviors. And in that sense, and for the indicator for a healthy culture is probably a team that has established rituals and routines for their team. Practices to make sure that actually the non-professional side and the social side of things is not something that gets left untouched or forgotten. That's probably the best indicator because it's tangible. And just establishing practices for making sure that every kind of employee gets heard. It's also the simple things that you would have in a non-remote culture, like one-on-ones and stuff like that. But it's really about having those items in your calendar, having a very loud and clear signal that this is something that is being taken care of, proactively, I think that's a good sign. Maybe you can add to that.
Tyler Sellhorn (27:20):
Valerie Krämer (27:21):
I would add that a place really that is inclusive, and that means, as Rebecca said, everyone is heard. And you can't make sure that this is happening when you don't have the appropriate processes for that in place. So I don't have too much to add to Rebecca, because I think she has rounded up very well.
Tyler Sellhorn (27:41):
Fantastic. Well, I wanted to say thank you Valerie, thank you Rebecca, for appearing with us here on The Remote Show. We really appreciate you and the work that you're doing in the remote working culture space, and thank you for working hard on Remi, and being willing to show up and be seen here, as well as in your business.
Rebecca Görres (28:00):
Thank you so much Tyler.
Valerie Krämer (28:02):
Yes, thank you for the invite.
Tyler Sellhorn (28:05):
Valerie Krämer (28:05):
And waitlist is open, you can still sign up.
Rebecca Görres (28:08):
Tyler Sellhorn (28:10):
And we'll be sure to include all of the links to Valerie and Rebecca's social media, and a link to Remi's website, if you're interested in learning more about their product.
Tyler Sellhorn (28:22):
Thanks so much again for listening to the show and be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest, easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at [email protected], that's [email protected]. Thanks so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time.

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