Chris, CEO of Slite (Notion competitor & YC W18), shares how he built a remote team & YC experience

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Remote Tools · Christophe Pasquier, Founder and CEO, Slite

Slite, short for 'Satellite', started with a simple motto: 'Note app for teams'. 3 years later, it's become much more - one place for your remote team to share ideas & collect knowledge.

Slite is also one of the earliest companies to grow from an in-office setup to a hybrid one to now a fully-remote company. So we got chatting with Christophe Pasquier, Founder & CEO of Slite, about his experiences on building 3 startups, benefits of being a YC alum and growing a remote company.

For a quick read, you can just browse this Twitter thread:

Starting with a strong team & building fast

Chris knew they were building a complex product that would need time & expertise, so he brought on a strong team from the very beginning. Before applying to YC, they already had a 6-member team.

With a strong team in place, they moved really fast launching private beta in 6 months (post an alpha earlier), open to public in 8 months and having 50 teams onboard in a year! Among those 50, was an 80-member team who replaced Confluence with Slite (which still had many issues back then). This served as strong validation for Slite.

Listen to this section: here

YC is totally worth given the great valuation & mentorship, however it only gives you an initial boost

The decision on whether to apply to YC was fairly simple. Chris says, 'We thought we'll give it a try and if we are lucky, we'll get through'. He also said that you already get a great valuation for 7% that YC asks, plus the later rounds you raise are at a much higher valuation given you're a YC startup. On top of it, the mentorship through the program is priceless. So going for the program is also well worth it.

Chris also mentioned that people expect YC to serve as a huge explosion or launchpad for their startup. While this may be true for a few companies (ex. Checkr jumped to $20mn revenue rapidly because they onboarded Uber), most others have to work hard to eventually become successful (ex. Webflow, which was part of YC in 2010 but became hugely popular only much later). YC surely gives an initial boost (TechCrunch, Demo Day etc.) but you still have to do a lot after that.

Listen to this section: here

Hiring across geographies, thanks to remote

Building a remote team wasn't a conscious decision at the start for Slite. In fact, it was the opposite. Chris was used to working in office & everyone else also lived closed by. Later on, people wanted to move away from their Paris office (to live somewhere else, avoid commute etc.) and eventually, they ended up making new hires only remotely.

While they chanced upon remote, Chris says that this has offered them the flexibility to hire the best across the world. An example he recollects is when he hired Bob (based in Korea), one of Slite's product designers, after following his blog for a while.

... I was following Bob's work for a while and I thought why not reach out to him to see if he wants to work with us. Remote offered me this chance to work with someone whose work & content I find really inspiring.

Listen to this section: here

Having uniform contracts with every remote employee is a pain

Chris says remote companies face a huge pain when hiring remote employees across the world. It is tough to have uniform contracts in place given every country has its own regulations. Workarounds exist like having people on contract vs. hiring them full-time, but they are mostly hacks and fall in grey areas.

... say, how do you devise a uniform policy for maternity/ paternity leave. For ex. I might hire someone in Finland where it is normal to take a 6-month leave whereas other countries might have it much lower.

Listen to this section: here

Solving for mental health of employees systemically

Finally, the discussion moved towards managing mental health of employees and solving it systemically. Chris suggested having a person-to-person mapping even as the company grows since a single manager having 1-on-1s might not be scalable.

While a manager should be looking over his team, I make sure that just one person in any part of the company isn't overloaded with too many people in this regard and at the same time, there's at least someone looking after you.

Listen to this section: here

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Irma said "Great interview. Will be checking out Slite!"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Super, thanks Irma :). Indeed, quite a neat product!"

  • Mark Walter said "Great podcast! Remote working surely offers an opportunity for startups to hire the best talent globally. Particularly glad to see Chris hire the person he finds inspiring without any geographic constraints."

  • Justin said "Second podcast of yours I've listened to now - great interview and insights, @karthik! Any previous ones I should check out, in your opinion? 📻"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Woahh, great compliment - thanks a lot 😬 I really enjoyed the podcast I had with Shane from Scrapinghub. They also have a fully-remote company and have completely bootstrapped their company to about $15-20 million in revenue.  A super pragmatic guy living in the world of tech, yet not conforming to any beliefs blindly - just following whatever is good for his company. We will be sharing his podcast and the insights from it next week!"

  • Shehan Perera said "Thanks for sharing this interview Karthik. I particularly was interested in the area on employees mental health. In the long run remote teams do burnout. Not having colleagues around or having a one dimensional working environment, can cause this. I'm speaking by experience as I too work for a remote-first Saas business. I feel that more thought leaders should speak about this. Any advice that can practically adapted would be great."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Sorry for the late reply, Shehan.  I totally agree. I do believe that as more of the world starts working remotely, we will see more focus on this aspect. It is not only that remote workers are more liable to have such problems, but is also that once it does happen, there is no co-worker around to identify it either. More employee engagement initiatives, satisfaction-measuring methods (surveys, etc.) will be put in place, I guess as we move ahead :). From my perspective, I think these are the following things that help: 1. Having company meetups (or even smaller team meetups) every couple of months. 2. Offering to pay for a co-working space, etc. 3. Incentivising your employees to join a gym, dance, hobby, etc. (possible reimbursement) 4. I have heard people like @justin-465 go on these randomly organised calls where he gets the opportunity to connect with different people. @irma has started Cafecito for this. 5. Managers should have more frequent 1-on-1s as it might become easier to identify people who are struggling. 6. Have interest groups within one's company so that people have the opportunity to interact on topics outside of work too! These are some of the things that can be done. There are many more, but I think these would be a good start in the right direction 😀"

  • Justin said "On the OP, I definitely share the sentiment that faster burnout and higher churn is real in remote companies, projects, environments, etc. In fact, better engagement + incentivization is one the points we aim to help tackle at Quidli whether your org is remote or not 🏆 Re: virtual coffee chats, I've been using for ~2 months now and I've found them to be an interesting way to break up any monotony and loneliness during the week. I try to schedule at least two per week (~30-45 min each) and they more often than not end up being good breakout sessions on whatever challenges you may be facing because: a) you mostly meet/speak with smart people; and b) they're removed enough to give you objective insights, feedback. Highly recommend checking one out if you're feeling the need for breaks between the remote working. Also, quick question, @karthik - any particular reason why my handle has 465 added? Is there already another justin(s) in the community I haven't seen? 😅"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "> faster burnout and higher churn is real in remote companies Do you think that? Hrishikesh just shared some stats a couple of days back which showed that top remote companies have lower churn: > Retention rates: Doist - 98%, Buffer - 94%, Zapier - 94%, GitLab - 85% Also, quick question, @karthik - any particular reason why my handle has 465 added? Is there already another justin(s) in the community I haven't seen? 😅 haha, even if there are other Justin(s), I doubt there are 464 before you 😆. @hrishikesh can you please help in editing Justin's handle? 🙏"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "haha, even if there are other Justin(s), I doubt there are 464 before you 😆. @hrishikesh can you please help in editing Justin's handle? 🙏 That's a random number appended to avoid duplicates 😅 @justin-465, you can change your handle in the settings here -"

  • Justin said "I'd never doubt the popularity of RC 😏 However, it looks like there is indeed another Justin... justinahn it is! ✌"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said ""

  • Shehan Perera said "Hats off Karthik. I'm with you on all suggestions. Especially about finding areas that are non-work related so employees can relax and simply enjoy each others company. Every remote working idea needs to be concerned with the long-term. A few methods will not sustain in the long run. Atleast, I can't think of working like that 😀"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Thanks Shehan - I am glad that you like my suggestions. For sure, every day while I work with my team, I seem to learn something new about remote working. So this learning process is going to continue for all of us for quite some time!"