Hey! We're Sqwiggle, we're a remote team building tools for remote teams - AUA!

Hey everyone,

We’re the team behind Sqwiggle - a tool for remote teams to stay in touch through instant video and presence. We’re super passionate about remote working - currently the team is in San Francisco, Baltimore and England but we all travel a lot.

We have just started working on a new app called Speak.io (we’re recruiting beta testers!) which deeply integrates into the Mac desktop to provide audio and presence (a bit of a pivot in startup terminology :wink: ) - again we’re focused on distributed teams.

Today I’m joined by Eric, Luke and Will - the team building Speak.

Ask us anything!

How important is non work related activities to you all. What do you do to encourage unification in the team outside of work. Especially between people who may not necessarily work together very closely. i.e. design and backend.

Hey @tommoor , thanks for doing this AUA!
Do you guys work as a distributed team yourselves? And what other tools do you use as a team?

Hey @tyvdh,

Thanks for the question. They are really important! But obviously tough when on a remote team. We have quite a few impromptu chill sessions using our product actually. In the past we’ve also had weekly meetings where the goal is to just chit chat and goof around. Always a great team builder, especially for those who don’t get to converse as often.

We also come together in person from time to time, great to work together IRL. We’ve went on a few trips together too which has definitely brought us closer.

Absolutely, we do work as a distributed team - we consider this important as it’s the best way to dogfood the product! Only me and Eric are currently in the same city and we don’t have an office here either… (we tend to meet in coffee shops a few times a week)

Some other tools we use, kind of in order of how much…

  • Sqwiggle/Speak (for all our audio/video needs)
  • GitHub
  • Google Docs (product planning etc)
  • Trello
  • Sketch

This is what our retreat (in Tahoe, CA) last year was like… :smile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Q6i-ANtAs

Hey Tom, Eric and the rest of the team! Thanks for doing this AMA :smile:

What is your plan with Speak?

How do you feel Slack’s explosion into collab software has changed the market? How are you changing the product you offer because of this?

How do you see virtual reality change remote collaboration? TopTal just did a test with the Oculus. Are you planning making anything in this?

Hey guys, thanks for participating!

  1. How do you go about testing your products with larger remote working audiences? Do you have a community of remote working beta testers?

  2. What team structure/what roles do you have and what structure do you think works the best for a distributed team (if it matters at all)?

Thanks!

Our pleasure! We have a decently sized list of beta testers. Plus we’ve met many great remote teams over the years, and luckily they are usually open to being our guinea pigs :smile:

Personally I feel it’s less about roles / structure and more about building a team of self managers. They also need to be super psyched about what they are working on. Buffer employs this technique to a greater extreme than us, here’s a great writeup on that https://open.bufferapp.com/decision-maker-no-managers-experiment/

More specifically, I believe sales, marketing, design, dev, etc can all be done remote as well as in an office. It’s true that some things are inherently easier when you’re all sitting around a table, but there are tons of great ways to collaborate remotely that make it less of an issue.

Thanks! How about specific roles such as developers, designers, etc. - is working with “unicorns” easier while being remote or having separate specialists (e.g. a front end, a backend, a UX designer, a UI/visual designer, etc.) can work in remote settings too?

hey @tyvdh, non work related activities are super important. Its interesting you mention the disconnect between front and backend teams. @Eric_Bieller often works on front end and I often work on the backend and thus we often want things from each other that the other doesn’t like doing (think fancy forms ;)).

Simply hanging out and having fun reminds you that your a team with a unified goal and can make you enjoy doing the things that normally aren’t your favorite. It allows you to discuss the bigger picture with some perspective.

It also helps you put culture/language quirks into context. Now we’ve heard our little phrases in person its a lot easier to translate the intent of a statement in text chat, which is often lost in translation!

hey @marinajaneiko from the perspective of a developer. I find it really helpful to have crossover but to have a main focus. I’m in a different timezone to the rest of the team so it helps with self management to know which issues fall into my domain.

I’ll leave this one to the founders but I wouldn’t mind an oculus for r+d @tommoor :wink:

Hey Pieter!

Our plan with Speak is really to take all of the lessons that we’ve learnt from Sqwiggle and distill them down into a new product and architecture. A couple of key points:

  • Stability, reliability and speed of platform #1 priority.
  • More passive, integrated into your desktop and workflow (we’ll work in harmony with other tools such as Hipchat and Slack)
  • Still allow for instant one-click communication, but also have great privacy controls and fallbacks for those that don’t need it
  • Audio first, video second

Slack’s success has definitely shook up the market a lot and I think one of the things we realised is that we don’t neccessarily need to build another chat client to still have a really compelling product - it’s probably better to work with whichever clients your team is already using :slight_smile:

We’re closing the AMA now, thanks Sqwiggle for taking the time to answer our questions :slight_smile: