How one startup is convincing corporate America to pay their employees to travel

August 8, 2016

Even just 10 years ago, it was hard to imagine a working world without walls. Today it’s the norm.

Now imagine a working world not only without walls, but without a permanent address. I don’t mean the flexibility of moving from one WeWork to another — I mean traveling from city to city, country to country, all the while not only keeping your job, but actually furthering your professional development.

We Roam is turning this fantasy into reality.

Sick of the day-to-day corporate grind, yearning for travel but not ready to give up their careers and larger ambitions, co-founders Sean Harvey and Nathan Yates set out to find a compromise. What they discovered is the stuff of fantasies — companies like Remote Year and Wifi Tribe, which have emerged in the past few years to cater to a growing percentage of “digital nomads” in the workforce, curate month-to-month groups trips around the world for those whose jobs allow them to work remotely. Think freelance workers, entrepreneurs, photographers, writers, developers.

But Harvey and Yates, though intrigued, weren’t quite satisfied with the programs on the market.

“There are a lot of great travel companies, but I don’t think there was a company catering to the serious professional,” Yates said.

That’s where We Roam comes in. While most of these programs require stable employment prior to application, a common critique of them is that they end up attracting people who aren’t necessarily the most career-oriented. In addition to requiring stable employment, the application to We Roam also asks for Linkedin profiles, income levels, resumes, comprehensive questionnaires and a video call. Yates and Harvey said they want to know who the applicants are, what kind of work they do, as well as what kind of relationships they have. They're looking for a group of serious business professionals who are open-minded, come from diverse backgrounds and genuinely hope to "expand their career horizons."

Yates and Harvey firmly believe in the staying power of remote work programs in the workforce, so much so that they’ve even set up a corporate partnerships program in which they hope to formally partner with companies that understand programs like theirs help attract, and keep, the best in the business.

“Companies are all kind of scrambling to figure out what the new HR, the new corporate landscape will look like in this on-demand millennial driven workforce,” Yates said. “A big part of that is non-monetary benefits."

In addition to taking care of all of the logistics and ensuring wifi accessible locations in each city, Harvey and Yates are planning speakers series, tours of local businesses, weekend excursions, happy hours, an assortment of nightly activities that catalyze local cultural immersion and chosen cities that themselves are business or tech hubs. Destinations include Buenos Aires, Florionopolis, Cusco, Rabat, Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, Split, Belgrade, Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh and Bali, with a month spent in each city. Applicants can choose either a six-month trip for $15,000 or the whole year, for $27,000.

Naturally, I asked them which city they were most excited about.

“Bali. The space is 10 minutes inland from the beach. The workspace is in a rice farm, it’s got a jungle vibe, wild animals and monkeys and whatnot,” Harvey said.

Personally, I’d trade a cubicle farm for a rice farm any day of the week.

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