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Peerdom Strategy: Growing a business
Nothing has undergone the change from a traditional hierarchy to a peer-to-peer organisation. The restructuring has had a great impact on how we work. Today we spoke with Bastiaan, Nothing’s founder, about the challenges such a transformation poses and how Peerdom as a product reflects new ways of work.
What do you do at Peerdom?
At Peerdom, the development of the whole product is based on three areas: Business, design and technology. Each of these areas is guided by a Representative. I am the Design Representative. This concerns everything that the product should do, how it should function or how it should look, and the glue holding the product together. I work closely with the Business Representative and the Technology Representative.
The three areas always influence each other. It is not only the design that shapes the code, the code in turn also influences the design. Both generate creative input that influences the direction of the product. This leads to many ideas from all three areas, which we document and then sort. It’s more like sorting out possible next steps: 99% saying “no”, 1% saying “yes” to new directions in the product.
What is the backstory and what triggered your initiative to restructure Nothing into a peer-to-peer organisation?
When a CEO wants to be replaced, it usually takes years to find someone suitable. As a founder, you accumulate so many roles that you become almost irreplaceable. But then I asked myself: If I have so many roles – maybe there is not one person but several who could take over my roles?
Again, I found inspiration in technology. The internet was originally built in a decentralised way: If a server fails, the internet has to keep running. If you understand yourself as a collection of roles which can be distributed, then you can create a decentralised network within your organisation.
What are the challenges in such a restructuring and how did these insights feed into Peerdom?
A traditional hierarchy is like a “death by a thousand cuts”. You could say new forms of organisation like Holacracy, Sociocracy or variations of it risk suffering “death by a thousand governance meetings”. We had this phase too. The solution was simple: Lead by example. Sometimes you just have to decide and show that it works. In the beginning, we at Nothing had to learn that Representatives in particular can make bold decisions within their area of responsibility without even needing a meeting. This then led to a general willingness to make decisions and a recalibration. Our challenge now is to reflect this in our product.
How did this lead to the Peerdom product?
As a start-up, we were faced with making everything as lean and econonomic as possible. We worked with hypotheses about a certain aspect of the product, visualised them with a prototype and then went directly to the customers. Their feedback was enough to then define an MVP (minimum viable product). This method of showing the idea and asking, “Would you pay for it?” is a tremendous shortcut.
What is the difference between Nothing’s and Peerdom’s work?
To put it in Silicon Valley terms: A service company is still alive and at the same time slowly dying. If there is no work for 3 months, the company goes bankrupt. With Peerdom, we managed to make the leap to a product that has global market potential. This would allow us to move away from selling hours as a business model to selling a solution. Probably the biggest difference is that we have to think and act in a way that the product scales. All Peerdom Representatives must ask themselves this question: If we had 10’000 customers tomorrow, would our product work? We are not there yet, but we are moving in that direction with every release.
What was the key to your business success?
I am a fan of “lead by example”. You can theorise so much. But only the first step of doing raises the right questions. Peerdom is an extreme form of “stop overthinking things”. This gave us an absolute learning boost, which in turn flows into Nothing.
What are the goals for the future?
To develop the dream of “new work” and to offer a real alternative that is not driven by command-and-control power but by deep human-to-human collaboration. So that people are not defined and restricted by their position, but feel value and pleasure in their work.