Foundr Magazine publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Our articles highlight key takeaways from each month’s cover feature. We talked with Alex Bouaziz, the co-founder of Deel, about quickly building the remote HR solution into a global empire. Read excerpts from that in-depth conversation below. To read more, subscribe to the magazine.
Deel, launched in April 2019 by Bouaziz and Shuo Wang, is an international payroll, compliance, and HR solution that allows companies to hire remote workers anywhere in the world.
“What we do at Deel is we help companies globally hire,” Bouaziz says. “So if you want to hire someone in another country, then we have all the infrastructure for you to do so in a couple of minutes.”
By May 2020, as nations locked down against Covid-19 and workers went full-time remote, companies realized they were no longer constrained by physical location—and Deel raised $14 million in funding. The following September, they raised another $30 million.
A Clear Mission
Now that remote work has become more common, Deel has positioned itself as an essential tool to find and manage the best workers anywhere in the world. Currently, they have 8,000 customers worldwide, including Dropbox, Airtable, and Shopify.
But good timing will only get you so far. To launch and grow a company as successful as Deel takes leadership with a clear mission and a solid infrastructure.
The idea was simple: Create a company that matched employers and talented workers from anywhere in the world and give them the opportunity to work for the best companies without having to relocate.
“Based on who you are, what you can do, you should have the best opportunities,” Bouaziz says. “Not being born in the right country should not be the reason why you don’t get to work for the best companies in the world and have the best potential life and career. So for that, we could solve that. And eventually, that led to creating Deel and what it is today.”
Navigate over to Deel’s About page, and you’ll see something unusual: a picture of the company’s very first customer, Ashutosh from Sunsama, right there, above the fold. Scroll down, and you’ll see more pictures of customers smiling next to their logos.
It’s a testament to Deel’s commitment to its customers, which hasn’t always been easy to stick to as the company’s growth exploded.
When Bouaziz and Wang took Deel to Y Combinator, the team numbered fewer than 10. The team now includes more than 1,300 people across the globe.
“It was a very small team,” Bouaziz says. “So it was me, then we had three engineers and one person on content marketing. And that team actually was more or less the team plus one more person that we had until 2021.”
Bouaziz looked to take the business out of Y Combinator and set it up for growth by focusing on two key elements: infrastructure and the customer.
“I think Shuo and I are very customer-centric,” Bouaziz says. “One of our key company values is speed, which is the idea of moving really fast. And what we mean by that is, specifically when it comes to the customer: Your customers need something.
Your customers have an issue. Be there and solve that within the next 30 minutes, one hour, as fast as you can for them.”
It’s a strategy that has paid off, allowing Deel to iterate more quickly through customer feedback and build its reputation through word of mouth.
“I think at the end of 2021, [Wang and I] were the ones doing ticketing and support,” Bouaziz says. “It just shows you care, and it shows that the product is evolving. And you can lead by example, which makes the whole company customer-centric. And I think that was one of the things we did really right and that really helped us shape the culture from the very beginning. Move fast and discuss and make sure that your customers are always happy.”
While growth can be a challenge, Bouaziz also sees it as a solution.
“If you’re growing really fast, everybody’s willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to make things happen.”
Their exponential growth also attracted the best talent to their team—talent they were, of course, hiring from all corners of the globe.
“If you combine the fact that you can hire the best people, but also internally, people are very excited, and they see the growth of the company, they go the extra mile to make things work even more than you just find solutions,” Bouaziz says. “So instead of looking at it as ‘We have problems,’ you look at it as, ‘What do I do for this to work?’”
How to Build a Customer-Centric Business
Bouaziz followed a rigorous framework to build Deel into a business that always puts customers first. Here’s how you can do the same.
- Launch with an MVP: Start with a minimum viable product and work through an iteration process.
- Get Customers Involved Early: Entrepreneurs don’t build in a vacuum.
- Scale with Your Customers: Listen to what products/services your customers are asking for.
- Celebrate Your First and Latest: Showcase your customers across your branding and marketing materials.
- Lead By Example: Answer service calls, meet with customers, and show your team how it’s done.