January 16, 2019

Is it possible to have a startup with the co-founders living in different countries?

I'm getting ready to begin a startup for an app but I live in Spain, the technical co-founder lives in Argentina and the other guy lives in Australia. We all know each-other from school, but now live apart. Has anyone had any experience like this or any words of warning/encouragement/suggestion on communication between us?


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    Watch "Indie Game: The Movie". It is clearly not a how-to on remote working, but the creators of Meat Boy lived on opposite sides of the United States. I know you are in different countries, but after about 1000 miles (1600 kilometers), does it matter where you are on the globe? I work with remote workers from, like, 30 miles (50 kilometers) away. What's the difference?

    It's possible. It just takes a little extra effort.

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    Hey mate, I'm in Sydney and my co-founder lives in Portland. I think one of the issue for you will be to have some overlap time but otherwise it can be done.

    As @thecoolestcool pointed out, standups are important to keep each other informed, and I'd suggest also have clear goals on top of the tasks and responsibilities. i.e. what outcome do you want to see by the end of the month? quarter? Then discuss progress regularly.

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      Any tips on what tools to help with this process?

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        Well, we're building one (https://tability.io) but you can get started with a spreadsheet -- I feel bad pitching our platform because I did not intend to make it a sales pitch, but I definitely believe that outlining the outcomes you want and focusing on them makes working together much easier than churning features without common goals.

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    Definitely possible.

    The key is to (1) over communicate, (2) set clear tasks/responsibilities, (3) make standups a part of the culture early and (4) embrace video calls as much as possible.

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    I started a business from Australia, with a man from Iceland, who I'd never met in person, never even spoken to on the phone.

    12 years later, and it's all gone well. We did not get rich, but we also succeeded at running our product quite well. (http://TimeSnapper.com)

    We were both technical though, so writing our communication in email and code, things were always very clear.

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    Just a note that it's much, much easier for your colleague to backstab you and get away with it if you're living in different countries.

    This doesn't specifically apply to you, but I've heard bad stories of people starting a company in another country. One specific story where their cofounder who was a native of the foreign country tried to steal the entire business once they had funding because it had to be set up in his name for legal reasons.

    Overall, as @thomasm1964 mentioned, legal disputes is a big concern to get dealt with up front.

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    Definitely possible, but can be tough if any of the team is not used to remote working.

    I helped Dan and Matt (they are in England) start https://www.quuu.co/

    I worked with Dimitar (he's in Bulgaria) build and launch (and then sell):

    https://willrobotstakemyjob.com/

    I'm based on the USA so lots of different timezone.

    Agreed with the other comments about being up front with everyones roles and responsibilities. Also be honest about what happens if any of the team decides to move on to other projects.

    Better to have these conversations now and not wait until the inevitable happens.

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    Time difference is key.

    6 hours either way, you will have suitable overlap for proper communication, with the added benefit of extended support hours.

    12 hours difference (eg. opposite ends of the world) all communication will be either one way text, or when one party is struggling to focus.

    Remote teams and remote working challenges can be overcome. But co-founders need a relationship a level above normal workers.

    My current co-founder is 4 hours timezone difference, previous was at times 7 hours, it worked.

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    One other thing to consider: presumably you have some sort of co-founder agreement setting out responsibilities and the apportionment of rewards, liabilities, ownership etc., etc., etc. You do have this, right?

    Such an agreement needs to set out very clearly which legal jurisdiction applies in the event of a dispute that you cannot resolve between yourselves.

    @qzmenko 's partner lives in the Czech Republic while he lives in Russia. In the event that he and his partner come to blows, do they settle matters in a Russian or a Czech Court?

    Similarly with @spittet . He, too, has irreconciliable differences with his partner. Do they fight it out in the Australian or the American Courts?

    This is important not only because different judicial systems may work very differently but also because the person who is most remote from whichever legal system is chosen incurs extra costs to fight his corner and may be less familiar with the legal framework in which he is now expected to operate.

    That's okay though - because you will never fall out. At least, not until serious money is involved. Then you probably will.

    For that reason, too, any formal agreements between you and your founder need to include a clear exit path from the agreement.

    If anyone wants to see what happens when no such path is embedded within a founder agreement, I invite you to make sense of the Brexit process which is currently convulsing British politics as the UK half-heartedly attempts to extricate itself from the European Union. Whichever side of the debate you are on, what we are seeing in Britain is an appalling indictment of our political establishment and is only possible because there is no defined method for leaving.

    Scale the EU withdrawal mess down to your own situation and all the same dynamics apply - especially if there are more than two co-founders and you all have different aims.

    All the above applies equally to co-founders who live in the same judicial area. The different judicial systems for co-founders who live in different countries are an added complication but the fundamental need to cover yourselves for any foreseeable situation is paramount whatever your circumstances.

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      Wouldn't a dispute just be settled in the jurisdiction where the company is registered?

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        We're not talking about where the company is registered but about the agreement between the founders that allows any business to be started in the first place.

        Let's pretend that you and I are coming together to form a partnership and that, as part of that agreement, we are going to register a company. For the sake of argument, I am British and you are American.

        We form a company and are both directors of it. Let's form our company in the UK.

        Now we are going to have a massive falling out, founder to founder. This has nothing to do with the company (which may or may not be established yet, may or may not even be trading and may or may not have made any money). This argument is because I fundamentally disagree with how you have interpreted certain aspects of our founders' Agreement.

        Whose jurisdiction?

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    I have a very similar situation with you. My school friend and I successfully founded the project living in different countries. I live in Russia and he in the Czech Republic. The time difference is 6 hours.