In just two years, Johnny Boufarhat has turned his online conference hosting platform, Hopin, into a company valued at more than $ 5.6 billion.
He employs more than 500 people, but some of them he has never met and none work from a central office.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Boufarhat, 27, is now the UK’s youngest billionaire and, in a recent fundraising round, Hopin raised $ 400 million from private investors, giving him an impressive $ 5.65 billion valuation.
But he likes to do things differently.
“Being a completely remote company allows us to do things that other companies have not been able to do before,” explains Johnny Boufarhat, from his last Airbnb rental property in Barcelona, Spain.
It does not matter not having a permanent office, this entrepreneur doesn’t even have a permanent home.
You are a digital nomad moving from one rental property to another, running your business from wherever you are.
“Ten years ago I couldn’t do this because the software wasn’t good enough, sending emails back and forth wasn’t enough,” Boufarhat says.
It’s not an ideological decision, he adds – remote work has just proven more efficient as the company has expanded at breakneck speed.
Hopin only started in 2019 with six employees, but grew exponentially during the pandemic, as lockdowns meant that the conference industry was effectively suspended.
Hopin stepped in to offer an online alternative. Like Zoom, he was in the right tech space at the right time.
The platform has hosted more than 80,000 events since 2020, working with organizations and companies such as the United Nations, NATO, Slack, and Unilever.
BBCBoufarhat works from a rented property in Barcelona.
He has no immediate plans to change the remote work model that has served his startup so well.
In fact, it has developed a unique digital business culture to back it up.
It is a format that could indicate how more companies are launched and managed in the future.
They have a video meeting in the “conference room” for all 500 employees that takes place once a month on Hopin’s own platform, which Boufarhat describes as “more like a television game show.”
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of working physically apart, Hopin take advantage of cloud-based groupware: Microsoft Teams, Slack, the Loom video messaging platform, Figma (for design work), and Notion (which allows you to share information on Wiki Notes).
There are bots to keep an eye on the messaging platform Slack, which randomly pairs up colleagues once a month for coffee online (in an attempt to replace those office breaks).
Hopin also conducts a monthly survey with staff online to see which areas of work life need improvement.
Boufarhat believes that in a post-lockdown world there will be wishes for colleagues to meet in person for social reasonsbut for work it is not likely to be necessary because its productivity tools are so good.
“Additionally, remote work has allowed us to hire a global talent pool,” he adds, “which is necessary when you are growing so fast.”
“It made me a different person”
His personal story is compelling: Hopin’s idea was born from an illness.
His family is originally from Lebanon, but he was born and raised in Australia, before moving to London as a teenager.
He traveled with his girlfriend to Southeast Asia in 2015, after obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Manchester.
But on the trip he caught a virus that left him immunosuppressed. Back in London, he was in bed for months.
“It made me a different person,” recalls Boufarhat. “I couldn’t leave my house, I was vomiting, the fatigue was very, very bad. After more than a year, I was really going crazy. I didn’t feel like I could go on living such a closed life. “
HopinHopin is a platform for interactive digital conferences.
Although she felt like she could socialize to some extent online, thanks to social media and YouTube, she struggled to connect and felt that his career was in free fall.
He was able to do certain shifts of freelance coding work to stay afloat financially, but he felt in limbo.
Attending webinars and video conferences was something he could do successfully when he was bedridden, but he found that you couldn’t meet people and make new contacts, and he realized that was the key to progress.
“There might be 1,000 people in the webinar, but it was basically just two people talking and you couldn’t even see who else was watching with you,” recalls Boufarhat.
His solution was code himself the first version of Hopin, which is designed to be an interactive experience for delegates, allowing them to connect with other attendees through messages and online meeting rooms.
At some point, he managed to improve his health by experimenting with different diets.
“Looking back, the disease gave me a second life, He put me on a mission to make the world smaller. “
In 2019 he finally felt good enough to launch the product he had come up with during his confinement.
He didn’t know then that a global disease, covid-19, would be the one that would lead to massive acceptance and success for his company.
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