How to Throw a Kickass Startup Retreat Abroad

Like our friends at Skillshare and Buffer, we at AngelHack are big fans of the company retreat, especially for tech startups.

In the last few months, we’ve planned 2 retreats for our HQ team (one in Lake Tahoe and one in San Luis Obispo) and 1 abroad for our community of 100+ current and alumni ambassadors in Bali, Indonesia.

We wanted to share a little bit about why we love retreats and how you can use them effectively in your startup.

The 1st AngelHack Global Community Retreat

We were so stoked that 11 ambassadors came to our first-ever, four day international AngelHack community retreat in Bali, Indonesia. Hailing from three continents, six countries, and seven cities, this group was diverse and fascinating.

From the AngelHack HQ side, we had Sabeen (our CEO), Diana (our VP of Operations), Jessica (our VP of Client Relations) and Kamrin (our Community Manager) for a grand total of 15 people.

We offered financial coverage of room and board, but travel costs and incidentals were covered by each individual.

This budgeting structure was necessary for us to make the trip a reality at this scale, but much like your product, you should always experiment with different pricing models to find the right fit.

Remember: when colleagues are invested financially, they’re invested emotionally – they’ll be more committed and engaged with making the most of the experience. This works pretty much the same as filtering users or clients with your product.

Why We Love Retreats

In-person, face-to-face interaction always means more

Some companies have the luxury of granting employees permission to live and work abroad. What we do demands that we have a distributed team, all over the world, hosting and promoting our events locally. Some of us have worked together for years and never met in person. We hate this.

There’s a reason why programs like Y Combinator stay powerful, because in-person experience (details like non-verbal communication, body language, group dynamics, etc.) play a huge role in creating healthy, fruitful relationships. The more we can get our team together in one room, the better. It’s always worth the investment.

Travel encourages execution, creativity, teamwork, and problem solving.

“For some persons there exists an organic harmony between all matter and all activity, whose discovery is the purpose of their lives and whose evidence, being inexhaustible, can only be selected by the good judgement and perpetual curiosity of the individual… These persons are the traveling species.” – Robert Byron

The greatest thing about travel is that it forces people to see world as an infinite expanse of opportunity, rather than a finite bubble. When you’re outside your comfort zone, you have to reconcile that there are experiences, ideas, and philosophies besides your own. You have to learn how to smash those new, often times unexpected things together in creative ways in order to build something innovative, whether it’s simply crafting a plan to figure out how to hike a volcano or how to navigate a conversation with someone of a different language and culture. Travel and innovation go hand in hand.

3 Things We’ve Learned from Startup Retreats
(which, incidentally, aren’t that different from things you learn building new products)

#1: Leave (a ton) of room for spontaneity

“There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living; there is nothing harder to learn.” – Seneca

In the gaps between the agenda, you’ll usually find your most inspiring and fun moments – the same way you might stumble into your best feature unexpectedly. Give the team the time and freedom for curiosity and discovery. Not planning everything might make you feel uncomfortable, but that’s why you know it’s important.

#2: You can’t please everyone

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

Some people woke up at the crack of dawn to do CrossFit. Some people stayed up all night schmoozing at bars. Some people enjoyed being in tiny groups of 2 while others wanted to do all the activities as an entire group. There’s just no pleasing everyone, and trying to please everyone might not even be the point. At the end of the day, it’s about the experience that you’re trying to create and your colleagues will find a way to appreciate whatever happens.

#3: Think local, act local

Wherever you go, find a way that you can plug in your ideas, skills, or resources to support the local area you’re visiting. This doesn’t have to be as formal as a volunteer trip, it can be as simple as throwing a party with the local coworking space. That’s exactly what we did. It ended up being the highlight of the trip for most of us, making connections between companies and friends and sharing ideas over good food, drinks, and company. Shout out to Hubud for being such amazing, welcoming hosts!

We love our ambassadors! This retreat was our way of showing our appreciation and gratefulness to this amazing team from around the world.

You can become an ambassador, too – find out more and sign up today. Hope to see you at the next retreat!