In the final part of our “future of the workplace series”, we are so excited to feature Capdesk, a fast-growing equity management startup navigating the shift from office-first to remote-first and now, to team-first. We caught up with CCO, Hakon Junge to find out more about what sparked the decision to transition, how this way of working is propelling Capdesk’s growth and the innovative tools the team are using to address the absence of in-person contact with colleagues.
Can you describe Capdesk in 30 seconds?
Capdesk is a rapidly growing equity management platform that enables high-growth companies to keep track of their cap tables as they scale, with greater accuracy and efficiency. Our cap table software is complemented by a suite of features that turn equity, options and warrants into a tangible bonus for employees, and a powerful method for employers to incentivise their workforce. We’re on a mission to change finance for good with a vision where equity is a core component of the workplace experience in unlisted companies, better utilised by employers and better understood by employees.
Besides the pandemic, what sparked the company transition to remote-first?
The realisation that it unlocks talent we’ve never had access to.
Proof came when we were able to recruit our new CTO Guillaume who started as a Tech Lead from Canada but also in the likes of Vincent, Senior Software Engineer, Andrei-Mihai, Senior Fullstack Engineer and several newer hires that are joining us in a full remote capacity.
Raising our series A last year also made us realise that we now had the assets to also invest in a remote setup. We have big plans and in order for us to get there we need to scale – not with excessive hiring but instead focus on the best people we can get. Being remote simply unlocks that reality.
What are the benefits of being fully remote in your opinion?
Two strong ones are freedom to work where you work best and access to talent.
On the freedom side, it enables you as an employee to live the best quality life on your own terms. The beauty of this is that it means different things to different people, but ultimately it boils down to working from wherever you work best and feel most comfortable.
Some people might want to work on a beach in Bali while others would value living and working in a busy thriving metropolitan city. Ultimately it’s not down to us as an employer to specify this but instead support it in the most logical way.
On the recruitment side, it’s become extremely clear that the best talent knows they now can work from wherever they would like and on terms that make the most sense for them and their personal goals.
By enabling ourselves to hire from anywhere, we’ve uncovered this talent pool and are now able to access it.
Now that you no longer have a physical office space, what are some of the challenges that have come with remote-first working?
One is legal and tax implications, and another is building a sense of belonging and community.
When it comes to the first point, typically when hiring remotely this is incredibly painful since without a local entity in the country you wish to hire from there are many legal loopholes and know-hows to navigate. However, new startups like Deel are making this almost seamless while also protecting your new employees - more on that below.
When it comes to building a sense of belonging, the toughest thing is that lack of in-person contact with your colleagues. This is difficult to make up for, there is just something special about being around colleagues which includes the nuances you might pick up especially. I’m thinking especially of our junior staff here, for whom those first years can be crucial to their professional development.
Lastly, we actually still do have office space in London and Copenhagen. We’re seeing them more as social “clubhouses” than traditional offices: areas where people can still, if they wish, come together and work every so often. We cater to everyone's needs by using services like WeWork for this.
With all of your team now able to work anywhere, how has your approach to company culture evolved and how do you maintain it?
Our company culture now revolves around five values: purpose, curiosity, iteration, empowerment and togetherness. We find our culture is a byproduct of behaviour that demonstrates these values.
Iteration is a big one for us. Some things we are working on are transitioning more towards asynchronous meetings and ensuring that we document and record them so that regardless of geography and timezones you can stay connected and informed.
We don’t treat our remote workers as second-class employees, everyone is on the same playing field at Capdesk.
Do you have any tools or tips for other companies looking to transition to remote first?
There are so many that keep popping up and it’s hard to keep track but fun to test most if not all of them.
We recently started using Gather. We basically built a virtual Capdesk office which you can read more about on my LinkedIn. We’ve been trying to recreate as much of the office proximity feeling as possible and Gather has some clever tools that makes this a reality. It’s also free for teams under 25 people. A more practical tool we’ve been experimenting with is Deel, which is an amazing platform that allows you to remove all the legal and HR related issues of hiring remote people, not only as contractors but as full-time employees.
In short, Deel allows you to actually focus on hiring the best talent regardless of location without having to set up entities. For any Talent and People Ops team it's a dream.
Aside from remote working, what other benefits do you offer your employees? Do you expect / has your offering changed as a result of the transition?
Recently, we rolled out company cards to everyone in the team. Having worked in a company that provides this infrastructure previously, I know the benefits of empowering people with a company card and removing any additional admin which take up valuable resources. This has been a huge help during Covid-19 as we can easily enable new limits on cards if people need to buy specific things such as home office equipment.
We also offer all employees equity in the business which enables everyone to share in the profits and wealth at Capdesk. Another highlight is our company trips and once it’s safe to do so we’re looking forward to running our #supersocials once again!
As a growing company, what initiatives do you plan to implement to help scale remote-first?
We’ve got a few things in progress that we’re not able to share yet unfortunately, which revolve around increasing how immersive our remote experience is through tools.
As we’re currently hiring to boost our talent and people operations functions, ultimately it will come down to the leaders we place in these areas. They’ll take ownership of and implement the initiatives that enable, support and keep motivating our people.
A big thank you to Hakon for sharing Capdesk’s journey as the team builds their new and innovative workplace. To learn more about Capdesk’s culture, values and current opportunities check out its careers page.