This startup has no offices and unlimited vacation, and its founder has lived in more than 30 countries in 5 years

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toptal_cofounders

Toptal cofounders Taso Du
Val, left, and Braenden Beneschott.

Toptal

By the time Braenden Beneschott graduated from Princeton,
his startup for placing technical freelance workers with
companies, Toptal, was already doing about $1 million a year in
revenue. 

Nearly six years later, the company is “flying way
past” $100 million annually, has clients ranging from the
Cleveland Cavaliers to Airbnb, has hundreds of employees — and
not a single office space anywhere in the world. 

Beneschott founded Toptal while he was still in school at
Princeton University, where he paid his own way. In order to
put himself through school, he taught himself to be a software
developer and started to do freelance work. Very quickly, he
realized the pain of navigating the freelance world, both as
a freelancer and someone looking to hire freelancers. 

The idea for Toptal was born out of this realization. There
were plenty of talented technical freelancers, and lots of
companies who needed short-term help, but there wasn’t an
efficient way to connect them.

As Toptal grew, Beneschott and his cofounder, Taso Du Val, had a
decision to make: go the traditional Silicon Valley startup route
or take a different path?

“I asked myself, are we going to do that assumed route of
‘I’m going to move to Silicon Valley and raise a $10 million
Series A and get a big office and really go with this,’ and I
didn’t really want to,” Beneschott told Business
Insider. 

The pair decided to move somewhere that was not only much
cheaper than the Bay Area, but also had a wealth of smart
people with fewer local job opportunities. They chose Budapest,
Hungary. But that was only the beginning of the
journey….


remote_team (002)

“There are no offices —
everybody is encouraged to travel,” Beneschott says of the Toptal
team.

Toptal

‘No matter where you are in the world…you’re
behind’

Toptal’s employees live like the freelancers it serves. The
company now has hundreds of employees in more than 30 locations
around the world, but anybody can work from anywhere. The
company also has an unlimited vacation policy an encourages its
employees to travel as much as they want. 

“If you’re cut from a certain cloth, you really avoid
burn-out with a lifestyle like this,” Beneschott said. “Traveling
constantly and going to new places and feeling refreshed daily —
as opposed to sitting in an office and staring at a clock in a
cubicle — your life kind of becomes your work and your work
becomes your life.”


Toptal travel photo

Beneschott travels with
only three or four bags, which contain his work computer, a
10-pack of black t-shirts, and snowboard equipment or polo
gear.

Toptal


toptal_event_svalbard

“We
had the ‘penthouse to have’ in downtown Budapest and had an
amazing time as young single 20-somethings,” Beneschott says of
the early years of Toptal.

Toptal

This might not sound ideal for people who crave a defined
work-life balance, though, and for those new to the company, it
can sometimes come as a surprise.

Toptal doesn’t schedule meetings. If you need to
get ahold of someone, you ping them on Skype and talk right then
and there. 

“People can be watching a soccer game or standing in line
at a movie theater or even out on the town,” Beneschott said.
“P

eople are shocked when they first come to the
company at just how available people are around the clock. It’s
not because they’re chained to their desk, it’s because they’ve
figured out how to be available while living a hell of a
life.”

So how does Toptal keep track of hundreds of employees in
multiple time zones?

“We use a lot of time-conversion tools,” Beneschott said
with a laugh. “But n

o matter where you are in the
world and what time you wake up, you’re behind. Which, for the
right person, is a really exhilarating feeling. You wake up and
drink a Bulletproof Coffee and you dive right in and it’s just
non-stop. It’s constant change and constant problem
solving.”

Taking a break from travel — for the moment

Beneschott himself has now lived in nearly 35 countries since his
big move to Budapest. A self-described “summer chaser,”
Beneschott stays in countries in Europe and South America
for a couple months at a time. This type of lifestyle is ideal
for the way he works, he says.

Beneschott travels for another reason: he’s an avid polo
player, a sport he competes in worldwide. Friends in Budapest
first got him into the sport in the early years of Toptal and he
plays often, even recruiting fellow Toptal employees to join
him. 

“We probably have the highest concentration of computer
scientist polo players in the world,” Beneschott
said. 


Toptal polo

Beneschott has played
competitive polo in places like Argentina, New Zealand, and
Europe.

Toptal

But Beneschott is taking a bit of a break from all the traveling
at the moment, but for a very happy reason: he and his wife just
welcomed a new baby girl. Right now, Beneschott is living in
South Florida, which he described as a great place to raise a
family, but not a place he seemed keen on staying for the
long haul. For someone whose life is a constant series of new
things and new places, he just experienced yet another “first,”
albeit a more mundane one: signing a lease. 


I have a one-year lease for actually the
first time in my whole life,” Beneschott said. “But
o

nce [my daughter] is able, actually in the
next few months, we’ll start to travel a bit around the US and
we’ll see how that goes and play it by ear, but the idea is that
she will be with me and so will my wife.”

From the sound of it, that one-year lease might be
Beneschott’s last for a while. 

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