A popular meme that has done the rounds in tech circles during this pandemic goes:
“Who has been the biggest agent of change to your company’s way of working in the last decade?
So true, right? COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the agenda for tech adoption and one of the companies leading the charge is Libryo, a remote-first legal tech firm which has always done things differently, pushing change forward well ahead of the curve.
They have been part of Legal Geek since our first meetup so we thought it would be good to have a catch up with Pete about what’s been happening at Libryo. They were founded in 2016 and Libryo is now into its scale-up phase and is in the midst of delivering a partnership with Rubicon Global, a US technology company providing smart waste and recycling solutions to businesses and governments.
“They are Uber for waste management”, Co-Founder Pete explains. “They allow independent waste haulage companies to join their app to try and win really large contracts with big key accounts who operate across the whole of the United States. These waste haulers pick up jobs, fulfil them and get paid.”
Pete says that one of Rubicon’s biggest accounts is with a “coffee chain with 9000+ stores across North America”. But fulfilling waste management services across such a vast territory encounters many legal jurisdictions, which is where Libryo comes in 🙂
“In the US, you have federal laws, then you have provincial and state laws, and then county and district laws. Then there’s the different city laws. And America has 10,000 cities! Different stores might require different laws too. For example, if you are in a mall that might be different to being a freestanding stall.”
Driving the analysis of the varied legal scenarios across the United States is Libryo’s data engine plugin. The aim is to make it super simple for the haulers to know what they need to do when collecting in any location.
On top of the complexity of dealing with the US comes applying this technology across languages. As Pete says “we are creating a global and cross-comparable set of questions so if I ask a question in England and ask the same in France, I can check if my sites in both countries are in compliance, even though the underlying law has different requirements. This requires us to create a knowledge graph of concepts across languages so does ‘waste’ or ‘rubbish’ or ‘garbage’ mean the same thing in French or does it mean another thing?”
How do you build a technology and company culture to solve these problems? Libryo’s offering is highly specialised and is powered by a team of employees from London to Toronto, to Berlin to Cape Town, all working remotely. That won’t ever change, making their expertise in this area so valuable for those of us still getting used to this new normal.
Libryo’s learnings from four years of remote working
- ‘Remote is lonely’ so make counter-acting this a function of management.
- Do “standup meetings” on video call – each person speaks for >1 minute on a “highlight”
- Do virtual co-working: log in to a video call and just work together – make the odd comment every now and then (like co-working in an office)
- ‘Remote tests trust’ so it’s time to trust each other! Accept that everyone will be doing the best that they can under very difficult circumstances.
- Do iterative objective cycles, where: objectives are agreed, then achieved (or not), be retrospective about why, learn lessons and repeat
- ‘Remote is default-dehumanising’ so avoid the classic pitfall of seeing someone as an input or an output on your screen. They are not robots.
- Do make space for social niceties and genuine interpersonal interest. Ask other people “how are you doing” and refuse to accept “fine” as a satisfactory answer. Then get on with it!
- ‘Remote accentuates different kinds of organisational dysfunction’ so make sure those who shout the loudest aren’t the ones to be heard
- Do flatten the lines of communication to enable frequent interaction
- Do create a culture where regular communication is encouraged and celebrated – including some healthy banter.
- ‘Remote requires more (two-way) empathy and flexibility’ as “life happens” a lot more when working from home, because it can!
- Do plan in advance. Create boundaries at home. And communicate. If life happens and you are unable to make a meeting last minute, say so.
- ‘Remote defaults to working too hard’ because when does the day end?
- Do remember that ‘we overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year’
- Do be satisfied at the end of each day.
- ‘But 🙂 Remote is better’
- Remote is better for families. It is better for the planet. It is better for the individual. It is better for the collective.
You can read the full piece on the Libryo website.