At the beginning of 2011, I moved from Hamburg, Germany (where Jimdo’s headquarters are located) to San Francisco, to open our office here. I want to share what I’ve learned so far during these 2 years. The focus will be mostly on general lessons (not SF- or US-specific) related to starting a new office far away.
Everything is constantly changing. We can sense it. It's even more noticeable for internet companies like ours. New technologies, trends, browsers, and devices ensure that the internet is always in a state of flux.
What does that mean for us? It means that we don't plan projects in their entirety. Instead we break them up into small parts that are relevant now. In other words, we take an agile approach to software development. There's also the fact that we're no longer just a German company: we offer Jimdo in 11 different languages. We ourselves as well as our customers are affected by changes and upheavals all over the world.
Everybody knows it: meetings often suck. At Jimdo we've had these meetings as well, and sometimes we still do. But we've learned one way to make meetings more effective – and more fun: adding a moderator.
It all began when Nadja, our flow manager, was annoyed by some of our meetings. She decided to start moderating the ones she was involved in. Nadja's goal: give the meetings more structure and never leave without a specific result again. The impact of her moderation was huge!
The trick is really easy: the moderator's only purpose is to guide the discussion so that you reach your goal.
As you know, we operate Jimdo in eleven languages - and we try to visit the countries and markets Jimdo is present in personally. I wouldn't say we've been particular good at that over the last months, though.
One market none of us three had ever visited is Russia. I personally have wanted to go for some time, but never found the right occasion. Since we were invited to take part on a panel for Russian Internet Week this year, I decided to go for three days. Having just got back, I regret not having gone before.
We've run into more than a few bumps in the road while building Jimdo into what it is today. Oftentimes, it was exactly the most difficult times that helped us to become better than we were before.
One of the most important lessons we learnt was: sometimes you only know what you want after you've done what you don't want. Only then do you truly realize what you have and that it is worth fighting for, even if it means taking a detour or two along the way. The best example of this was when we were 'married' to 1&1 (or if you prefer, United Internet). We took them on board as an investor in 2008 -- they wanted to use our software as the basis for their own product to sell to 1&1 customers. In perfect Jimdo style, we hammered out the details in double time (working as a single team on sprints) so that everything was ready to be presented at the CeBIT. That's when the 'fun' started.