Why We’re Building Remotion

We’re building Remotion because we believe that people should be able to do your best work from wherever they’re happiest. The world and its people are diverse and marvelous; why restrict ourselves to working with teammates who live in a 50km radius?

Our team at Remotion is spread across 4 continents, 6 time zones, and 8 cities. We think of ourselves as “Tech people who don’t live in Silicon Valley.” Each of us has a unique life story that put us here—and also a different favorite local candy to bring to offsites.

We started working on Remotion shortly after Charley and I became cofounders. We’d known each other since college and were aligned on the values behind what we wanted to build (more on that in a future blog post), but there was a catch: Charley had to move to Chicago to follow his significant other to medical school.

We’d worked on distributed teams before and quickly put together some of the standard toolset and best practices, but still found that we were more productive and had better working rapport during in-person visits. As a nascent team building nascent ideas, we needed to closely collaborate in a way that current tools didn’t support.

The survey data is clear, and we’ve spoken to hundreds of distributed teams about the challenges of remote work. Individual contributors find it harder to get help, build momentum around new ideas, or to feel connected… Managers worry about team culture, accountability, misalignment… An underreported issue is that many teams shy away from hiring junior people remotely because it “doesn’t work.”

We think that these are the symptoms of a root communication problem: Whereas the most natural way for people to talk is to simply strike up a conversation, distributed teams are stuck in text chat and scheduled meetings.

How do today’s most successful remote-friendly companies avoid drowning in chat or the oft-dreaded Zoom fatigue? The likes of GitLab and Buffer have great wikis and guides we draw inspiration from. Importantly, there’s some consensus on adopting an asynchronous-first communication culture. Document and structure the work, then formalize the informal. Taken to the extreme: Humans as async APIs.

This works for some, but means that we miss out on the more human side of work: Our teammates, their struggles and feelings, their creative energy, the ideas that can’t be written, the spark of a serendipitous moment.

We believe remote work is better when we feel connected and can chat face to face naturally. We like beginning work on a Monday, seeing who’s around, and having a 2-minute unscheduled catchup about the weekend with a colleague. Instead of a day of texting back and forth, we prefer hours of focus time with a few quick, high-bandwidth video calls to help a colleague out and jam on ideas.

Remotion helps your team collaborate closely with two key features: team awareness, and quick video chats. It works by putting a Shortlist of your closest collaborators on your desktop, so you can see who’s open (or heads down), and jump into video.

If you agree that distributed work shouldn’t feel remote, we’d love to hear from you. I’m always up to chat about remote/Remotion/careers at alexander@remotion.com, and we just opened our beta for macOS in March. Please check it out at remotion.com and let me know what you think!