Dee Coakley is the co-founder and CEO of Boundless, the operating system for your international team, which she co-founded with Emily Castles in Ireland in 2019. Boundless is ‘global employment made simple, with benefits, share options and payroll in one neat platform’.
In this episode, Dee riffs with Eoin Fitzgerald and Pete Townsend on the snowball effect of the diverse international experiences and relationships that made Boundless such a no-brainer for her to co-found, the shifting mindsets, societal changes, and competitive landscape that have made remote working and distributed international teams a scalable reality, the benefit of tight alignment with your seed investors, and how Dee is thinking about the next steps to grow the Boundless business.
Dee Coakley on the problem that Boundless solves:
“What really frustrated me when I was a COO were the problems with sourcing lawyers in France and Germany, looking for accountants in Croatia and Spain, and these things didn’t drive the business forward. Having the right people is so hugely valuable to any business, so there’s a big value upside in solving the problem, but it’s not core to your business.
“So all of that heavy lifting and the nitty gritty that no one is interested in, we take on all of that. Now I spend my days worrying about these problems that I hated so much before I founded this business.
“I knew what to do because I’d been a customer. But I think there was an attitude in the space that you can solve all problems with tech. In my mind, the tech, a good tech user interface, and a great product experience, that’s table stakes. You have to provide that, but you cannot eliminate what’s behind that.
“You’re dealing with HR problems, you’re dealing with people’s benefits. There’s a big human element to what we do. So you need all of that at the backend, and it needs to be high quality.”
Dee Coakley on the realities of global employment:
“From an employer’s perspective, It’s super low-cost to have someone in Denmark, for example, where employer taxes are only about 1.25%. It’s a fixed cost, even for people on very high salaries, so it ends up being a very low cost. But if that employee wants to move to France or a lot of Southern European countries, those employer taxes can cost the company 40 to 50% of the salary.
“Employees often don’t realize that when they’re requesting moves, they think, ‘how hard can it be? They’re just being awkward. Why won’t they let me do this?’ And quite often, line managers aren’t given exposure to the realities of why it’s a ‘no’, and it’s just a ‘no’ communicated to the employee. They think the company is just being awkward, but it can often be down to very practical reasons why it’s not possible.”
Dee Coakley on the snowball effect of her experiences leading up to Boundless:
“I think so much of it’s about psychology. I’m not into sports, but being a startup founder, I do see the parallels. I know a lot of people would read sports biographies to learn about the mindset of athletes or coaches, and it is similar. You have to believe that you can win, and I didn’t believe that before. It took me time to build that belief.
“People are different, and what will give you that belief is different for different people. For me, what gave me that belief was de-risking and saying, ‘well, I know how to hire and build a team, I know how to run a finance function, I have a really good background in the legal stuff, I know how to raise investment. I get the startup thing, I have a network’. So for me, all of those things were de-risking.
“It is still so bloody hard. When you have that background and experience and you have all of those things, I’m constantly in awe of people who are new to tech or very young founders. I’m just like, I have no idea how you do it. But for me, building and having that arsenal of tools was me de-risking, and that was what allowed me to go, ‘yeah, I can do this’”.
Episode title inspired by ‘Sure Shot’ by the Beastie Boys