I am currently experimenting with a new product called RemoteMesh. It is a chat community for remote workers and those interested in working remotely. In this post, I would like to share how and why I have been building it.
By the way, here is what RemoteMesh looks like at the moment:
Current look at RemoteMesh
In co-located teams, there are many opportunities to step outside the office with co-workers and grab a coffee to take a short break and socialize. I cannot recall how many times I breezed through problems I had been stuck with a while, after taking such short breaks.
However, those working for remote teams do not have the luxury of going to a local coffee shop with coworkers. Going on a coffee break with others at a coworking space is more complicated than with coworkers, because people belong to different teams and are on different schedules.
In this light, I started testing the idea of a simple coffee break scheduler for remote workers. But I quickly realized that coffee break is only a small part of the picture. Perhaps, what we really need is a place where remote work community can freely and spontaneously exchange ideas and network.
I named that place RemoteMesh. It is a chat community for remote working professionals, and those interested in working remotely.
How I Am Building It
Last December, I made a Google Spreadsheet to validate the idea of a coffee break scheduler for remote workers. I bought a domain, spun up an Amazon Lightsail instance for free, and served a simple html file with an iframe showing the spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet version of RemoteMesh
The main purpose of the spreadsheet was to answer a simple question: remote working professionals will take a virtual coffee break with one another. The answer I got was not a ‘hard no,’ which is good enough to justify spending more time on the project.
The feedback from the users provided two valuable insights:
- Those currently not working remotely wanted to be included
- People wanted a chat group
Based on this observation, I set up a Slack team and replaced the spreadsheet with a simple site with a TypeForm accepting user email address for Slack invites. I thought about spinning up a Slackin instance, but concluded that doing so might be an overkill.
Building a Spin-off Product
RemoteMesh is a spinoff product from RemoteBase which I recently launched with a relative success. I decided to build a separate product rather than expanding RemoteBase mainly for two reasons.
One reason is that the product surface area should be small. RemoteBase is currently good at finding remote friendly companies. It should continue to specialize in that functionality, and enjoy the competitive advantage, rather than possibly doing a mediocre job at something else.
Also, building a spin-off product allows me to grow the original product. Gabriel Weinberg explains such rationale well in the book Traction:
Building noteworthy tools that your target audience finds useful is a solid way to gain traction that also pays dividends down the road … When you build valuable tools for prospective customers, you get more leads, a stronger brand and increased awareness.
If RemoteMesh really is a product that can provide values to the remote work community, I can perhaps integrate it back to RemoteBase or permanently spin it off. Either way, the world is one valuable platform richer.
In my opinion, remote work community can benefit from having a chat room because chatting allows instantaneous exchange of ideas and networking. Not only is such platform useful for remote working professionals, but it is also helpful for those just curious about remote work, as they can connect with those already working remotely.
All in all, it seems to me that having a chat community can help mature the idea and practices of remote working by giving impetus to exchange of ideas, and connecting people. Having spent few hours over the last month validating such idea, I think we might be close to a pay dirt.