There’s a world out there that’s diverse and unequal, a world that limits human potential simply due to one’s environment.
A world in which talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.
I realized this after fleeing war-torn Beirut in favor of Europe to pursue new experiences as a teenager.
Truth is, if we give people a chance to participate in the global economy, they’ll worry less about their financial safety net. And when they no longer worry about how they’ll provide for themselves and their families, they can unlock the treasures of human potential.
And that’s what the dialogue is really about: Everyone everywhere deserves this chance.
And Oyster’s here to prove it.
Oyster’s mission was born after I left my previous company Nexmo and took some time off to start another.
I wasn’t so concerned about what I would do, yet how I would do it, which I broke into two dimensions: mission-driven and globally distributed.
Mission-driven because it is more important to me this time around to align what I do with what I believe in. I needed a strong drive for personal motivation beyond just revenues, valuation, and fundraising.
And in regards to being globally distributed, I witnessed the benefits of such at Nexmo.
We tapped into the global talent pool in 45 countries, built a highly diverse and committed workforce, and were a great employer for people in emerging countries, offering them fair compensation and growth opportunities.
In short, I knew distributed teams are powerful.
We struggled at Nexmo to hire employees in over 45 countries. We had to set up legal entities, engage with employment law firms around the world, build global payroll and benefit teams, and more. And with all the good intentions to provide a globally consistent and high quality employee experience, we failed. Global employment is very complex and constantly changing.
Back in 2019, I interviewed people from iconic distributed companies like Buffer, GitLab, and Automattic to solve how to build a distributed company. I soon realized there was no easy solution and that global employment was more complex than global payments, global compliance, global benefits, and global payroll combined.
This is also when I realized that the problem was not very dissimilar to what we had done at Nexmo—build APIs in a dispersed telecommunications industry in 180 countries. We could do the same here, using software to lower the barrier to entry, and therefore create a new category that did not yet exist: Global Employment Automation. It was similar to plugging an API on top of fragmented telecom infrastructure, but here, the scale and complexity were much much bigger.
I started getting obsessed with the macro-economic opportunity.
According to BCG, there are 90 million jobs going unfulfilled in the Western world (pre-COVID), and that’s around a $10 trillion economic loss in the next 10 years.
At the same time, you have 1.5 billion knowledge workers coming into the workforce in the next 10 years, mostly in emerging economies.
Knowing this, it was clear to me that if you create a global employment platform that makes hiring somebody on the other side of the world as easy, accessible, and scalable as having a local, you can change the world.
I later learned after inviting Bryan Kaplan, the world famous economist who wrote Open Borders, to our Oyster Ascent event, that if you remove the concept of borders from the labor market, you increase the global economy from 50% to 300%.
In other words, you can lift everybody up from where they are today.
Most of the world’s jobs are concentrated in a small number of wealthy cities. When you look at the current state of global employment, this comes as no surprise.
First, the current model of global employment is broken.
If you’re a company, and you want to tap into the global talent pool and hire people worldwide, there are so many hoops to jump through with contracts, regulations, benefits, payroll, and tax rates.
Because each country is different, it’s nearly impossible for your company to tap into the global talent pool at scale.
Trust me. I tried.
At Nexmo, we employed people in 45 different countries, investing millions of dollars in building local internal employment infrastructure, setting up entities, hiring lawyers, and hiring benefit providers and payroll providers.
While we had the best of intentions, we failed at scaling it.
The second problem with the current model of global employment is it’s not human-centric.
It’s very hard to create consistent experiences between countries and know what great benefits look like in each so you can provide a great employee experience.
What if you offer something that’s subpar? Or not locally relevant?
For example, how you onboard someone from France is very different from how you do so in Romania. (In France, you have to send someone to do a health check first.)
Also, the current model of global employment doesn’t enable you to incentivize your team.
What if you want to give them equity?
If you want to give equity to an employee in Morocco, you’ll have to hire a lawyer and spend $20K and two months to analyze the Moroccan equity regulations to see if it’s even possible.
And you’d have to get all the answers before hiring the employee, as equity is generally included in the offer letter.
In short, if you want to employ people in more than 10 countries, it all becomes a very burdensome process to do so internally.
So, companies opt for the easy route, and they just don’t do it.
Whereas, with models like Oyster, we’re leading the pack in sharing global employment information to turn global talent acquisition into a delightful, human-centric experience that’s scalable to over 150 countries.
Overall, our mission is to create a world that is more equal, sustainable, and fulfilling.
We’re on a mission to create a more equal world by making it possible for companies everywhere to hire people anywhere.
As we increase global talent mobility, we want to increase employment corridors by existing and succeeding as a company.
By being distributed and tapping into the global talent pool, companies can not only achieve their goals, but they’ll see it’s in their best interests to build a diverse, globally distributed workforce.
Oyster is also trying to create a world that revolves around sustainability.
Every year, we humans are pouring around 4X the equivalent of NYC of concrete into the ground to build urban centers.
And as that’s happening, urban areas are becoming less sustainable. Air pollution is high. Quality of life is poor, and people in cities and crowded spaces are disconnected from themselves, others, and nature.
We can’t continue to force people to work in cities.
We need to advance toward a more sustainable world where people can decide if they want to commute, go to the office, etc. They shouldn’t be forced to do so.
They should have a choice.
And finally, the world Oyster is trying to create is more fulfilling.
Again, this ties to the fact that you don’t have to restrict yourself to opportunities that exist in your area or country. You can go for the best opportunities in the world.
As a result of that, you can grow faster as a human being and have a more fulfilling career and life.
The three major obstacles that stand in the way of Oyster and its end goals are:
The first challenge is all about how you make people successful working from anywhere.
I call it the distributed leadership challenge.
I believe leaders have to change the way they lead, operate, and manage. They have to adapt new ways that enable team members to be successful, no matter where they are.
After years of practicing and creating the research for distributed leadership, I truly believe that distributed leadership can not only cause higher performance, but higher team well-being.
Sure, it’s not obvious. No one’s taught us this. The pandemic threw us into remote leadership for the first time without training.
And I understand that many people are still struggling with it.
So, one of the biggest obstacles is really around demonstrating that it is possible for leaders to deliver higher performance and well-being from their team members.
The second challenge to creating the world Oyster imagines is about enabling people to think globally about their career perspective.
If you’re a graduate from a top university in a given country, your first reaction isn’t to look for a job outside of your home country, yet within.
Best case scenario, that’s about 5% of the available job opportunities for you.
So, how can we get people worldwide to adapt an international career perspective and help them see the world is their Oyster when it comes to job opportunities? (Reality check: it is.)
Finally, the third challenge is about overcoming the global employment complexities.
Employing someone in another country feels like climbing Mt. Everest–an ambiguous, risky, complicated, and unpredictable experience.
Plus, there are a myriad of regulations for compliance, payroll, and benefits.
This is where the platform Oyster can step in, making international employment possible for companies.
Through one platform, you can tap into the global talent pool while being attentive to employees’ needs, at scale.
First, companies need to move their talent acquisition from where they can hire–usually in cities where they have offices–to global talent acquisition.
I admit. It’s a big move for a lot of companies.
They’re faced with new challenges around employment regulations, compliance, payroll, and benefits. And they’ll need to rethink their acquisition value chain to adapt to this new world of work.
But it’s in their best interest.
If you’re just employing people in London, you have access to less than 1% of the global talent pool. By hiring everywhere, you dramatically increase your chances of hiring the best talent for the job.
Secondly, it’s about making people successful working from anywhere.
It’s not about people in the headquarters or the office who have the best opportunities for growth and are most effective.
Leaders have to change and evolve their leadership style from an office-centric to a remote-centric one so they can make sure every one of their team members is successful and has access to a high level of well-being and work-life balance.
Thirdly, it’s about believing in the power of diversity.
Build a globally distributed company and help achieve a distributed future, while embracing diversity. You have to create an environment where diversity becomes a superpower.
Consider your role in creating a more equal world and embrace the distributed future of work, one remote hire at a time.
Oyster is a distributed HR platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches or the expense.
Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll as well as great local benefits and perks.