RWL189: Future of Online Workshops with Jakob Knutzen, CEO Butter

Ever wondered how the world of remote collaboration could be smoother and more intuitive? Jakub Knutzen, the trailblazing CEO and co-founder of Butter, joins me to answer just that, as he reveals the ins and outs of creating a game-changing platform designed to make remote workshops as rich and interactive as in-person ones. 

His journey from strategy consulting to tech entrepreneurship is not only a narrative of personal growth but also a testament to the power of remote-first business practices. We talk about how Butter integrates tools such as Miro, Mural, and polls, ensuring that your next virtual meeting is not just another tab on your screen, but a seamless experience of productivity and engagement.
 
As Jakub unpacks the essential role of a facilitator, we also touch on the future of AI in enhancing our remote interactions, hinting at a world where technology not only connects us but elevates the quality of our exchanges.

As we wrap up our enlightening conversation, Jakub opens up about his personal strategies for keeping the scales of work-life balance even in a remote setting—because after all, we’re not just our jobs. He shares how he stays active and grounded through hobbies that rejuvenate his mind, a gentle nudge for us all to remember the importance of disconnecting. Inspired by Jakub’s insights and Butter’s promise, I invite you to join us on this journey to redefine what it means to work together, apart. Embrace the possibilities and discover more about how Butter is setting the stage for tomorrow’s online collaboration.

SUBSCRIBE__________________________

Apple Podcasts

Spotify Podcasts

Click here remoteworklife.io to get a free list of > 100 businesses that hire remote talent.

SOCIALS ___________

Subscribe On YouTube

Connect on LinkedIn

Alex:
0:00

Hey, it's Alex once again from the remote work life podcast, and I have a great guest with me today. I have Jake, who is a CEO and co-founder of a business that I've been following for a while. In fact, I've been following him for a while on LinkedIn because I'm just fascinated to hear about Butter. Butter is a great product we see on product Hunt, I believe as well a product which enables facilitation. It's very much a visual product. I'm going to let Jake describe it a bit more in more detail. First, for most people, I love video products. I love products that allow remote workers or anybody who is working virtually to be able to facilitate, to ease that whole process, to bring people together. I think that is the essence of Butter for me. Of course, jake, we'll be able to describe more. I just want to say, jake, thank you so much for joining me today. You're very welcome.

Jakub Knutzen:
1:04

Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Alex. I'm excited to be here.

Alex:
1:08

Excellent. Tell us then, please introduce, but to tell us what Butter is all about, for those of us who have not seen it or are not familiar with it.

Jakub Knutzen:
1:17

Yeah. So Butter is like Zoom, but laser, focused on remote workshops and trainings, more complex collaborative sessions where you need to prepare the session, you need to actively facilitate the session and you need to get the main takeaways of the session as well. That is what Butter is all about. It enables you to prepare everything before a session takes place. So set up an agenda, set up all the different tools you might want to use in that particular session, such as Miro, mural, whiteboards, polls, music you name it Then run that session with all of those tools directly into one product, into Butter, without you having to share any, share your screen or share any links or whatever. Everything's in one place and then it allows you, to what you say, have significantly more engaging sessions with lots of interactive tools directly in the product. So that's very much what Butter is all about.

Alex:
2:16

And don't we all want more engaging sessions when it comes to those sorts of events, because over the last few years, we've been bombarded, I guess, with, I think, people still learning, in fact, how to have sessions, the most productive sessions that they possibly can, whilst having that engagement, and it sounds like Butter is a real solution for that. And I want to dig a bit deeper into how this all came about for you, jacob, because, as I said, you have a really interesting background, so I want to yeah, let's dive into that, in fact. So tell us about you. How did you come to be CEO? Co-founder of Butter.

Jakub Knutzen:
3:07

Yeah. So you see, in the more immediate, in the more immediate, let's say history. We started Butter a little around three years ago now, so it was right during the height of COVID, my co-founders and I we'd shut down a startup before. That didn't work out started within game streaming, but we started that as a remote company. So we built that as a fully remote company and learned a lot of good things about that. and right after we shut and company down in January of 2020, we thought, hey, we want to build something. We want to build something together. We're great together. So let's look for an opportunity within the space of remote work, which is where we were passionate about. That was right when COVID hit. So we thought, okay, let's figure out a problem within remote work that's really, really burning for a lot of people, something that's really problematic for a lot of these organizations that have suddenly been pushed remotely by COVID. So we started doing online workshops and trainings for these companies, teams that didn't know how to work together remotely to figure out, hey, what are they? What's the real pain that these guys are facing? And that's when we experienced it ourselves that doing remote workshops was tremendously difficult. We had issues with technical overload. We're focusing so much on the tools, so much on the actual setup of the workshop, that we ended up not focusing on the participants themselves, and it was incredibly hard to get people engaged, to interact with people, to get them to lean forward when we were doing these sessions remotely. So that was what kind of became the origin to Butter almost three years ago, as launched the first version in June of 2020, the very first version of Butter.

Alex:
4:56

Sounds good and, yeah, these are things that I talk to. A lot of people not. Yeah, lots of remote teams, lots of remote workers who experienced those pains that you talk about, and the tools, the regular tools out there you know, microsoft Teams, being one of them, is not, is not, is not all that when it comes to bringing teams together, enabling an easy, easy process or a streamlined process for all the things that you just just mentioned there. But for you, one of the things that you mentioned previously or in your introduction just now, remote work, as well as being a passion for you, or is a passion for your previous business as well, was a remote business. What made you start? Apart from wanting to bring those people together? Was there anything specific about remote work which appealed to you? Why you thought yourself I want to set up a business as a remote business?

Jakub Knutzen:
6:01

That's a good question. So I guess that begins a bit of a bit more background about myself. So I started my career in strategy consulting was what's now Bayneam company in the Nordics for close to four years. Then got the opportunity to work in Indonesia to start a digital marketing agency or the local arm of digital marketing agency in Jakarta. So went out there, build it up, sold it off, but met some really great and extremely talented people in Indonesia, and that was when I then came back to Denmark to start a tech business in 2018. That was when I thought, hey, like some of the people that I worked together with in Indonesia, they're awesome people. I want to work with them again. So started reaching out to them and we started basically setting up the business as a remote business, because some of the people were in Indonesia, some of the people were in Denmark, and then, when you already had some people in Indonesia and some in Denmark, you might as well recruit elsewhere as well, because you suddenly realized that distance was not an inhibiting factor. So what initially drove me to start that started remote business before was the fact that I realized that talent is everywhere. Denmark is a very based now is a very small country of just 6 million people. Right, talent is. Although it's recently been talent dense, the absolute number of talented people is recently small because of the size of the country. So recruiting good people is difficult, and if you suddenly have the world as your playground in terms of recruiting, then it's way more manageable. So that was kind of what initially brought me to remote work was access to talent and a knowledge that talent is everywhere. That stemmed from me having worked abroad, in Indonesia, for quite a few years.

Alex:
7:49

No, it sounds good and yeah, it's. More and more businesses are beginning to realize that the world is full of talented people. One of the things that I one of the backgrounds or the backstory in terms of remote work like podcast is is to really show that people of talent all over the world are such a diverse mix of people with a diverse range of skills, opinions, thoughts, which can help to grow businesses, can help to you know and really connect. I think that the whole idea of connecting with people across the world is something that drove me. It sounds like that's what has driven you as well, right?

Jakub Knutzen:
8:26

100%, 100% actually that I can see two, two separate things, that the first thing is diversity as a like in the team, like we're, I think, seven different, with 70 people across seven different countries at the moment. I believe, and one of the things that we've seen is that by having people from diverse origins, we end up building a product that's way more, almost inclusive, but it's broader than that. It's just like the world is taken into consideration when we're building the product at different internet connectivity speeds, different UX, behavioral patterns, all of these different things. They get taken into account when we're building the product. So diversity has had that effect on building butter. The second thing is more of a personal thing, and that's I mean I've I've personally lived in six different countries, I believe. So it's also China, China, US, Austria, Hong Kong and Chicago separately, but it's been like that adventure of living abroad and meeting people from lots of different international internationalities is on. That nationalities has been so amazing, Alex, and it's one of like that's what really gives spice to life. So working in an organization that is super international is something of an absolute personal pleasure of mine.

Alex:
9:49

Yeah, it just, it just. And again, I think I keep I'm an avan, I don't know if I'm an avan, it's a remote work but I just love to to just to share stories like yours, jay, because it just to me it just instigates the collectivity. The remote work and the great business that I've highlighted on the podcast have just just all had a very similar story of being able to sort of bring, like I said, bring people together and help to build great things and make great collections as well. And for you as well, it sounds like you had great reasons just to establish a remote business. I mean, how did you begin to? Because there's lots of people, I guess, out there who are still trying to figure out how to to build their business or want to know how to build a remote business. How did you establish your business? Just briefly, from from ground zero?

Jakub Knutzen:
10:41

Yeah, that's a good question. I think it's not an easy question. No, no, it's not an easy question. So it was established remotely because we were two Danish co-founders, one Malaysian co-founders, so we already had to work remotely as co-founders from the very beginning. And then when we started recruiting people, it was just it was defined that hey, this is going to be a remote business, people are going to work remotely anyways. So the first people we recruited were acquaintances or people that we knew through either ourselves or through connections, and they were in what you say, in pockets around us. So some of the first people who recruited were in Denmark or in Malaysia or in Indonesia, were already new people. But then, as we began establishing the business to become larger and we saw that we needed skills that were not in our initial or immediate circle of acquaintances or immediate network. We said like, hey, we've a remote business anyways. Like let's just try recruiting from anywhere. So we started getting super strong people in from Nigeria, from India, different other locations. We now have people in Portugal and in the Netherlands as well. So that was kind of it just started with us being remote by default and that opened up to getting people in from various different countries. On top of that, one of the things that we started establishing from the very early days was a very conscious culture of documentation and conscious culture of communication. So on documentation side, like we have a notion headquarters where we document a ton of things and it's written by default or async documentation by default. It's very heavy on that and that we did from the very early days. Secondly, on communication styles and not just styles but also communication channels we established a guide on what do we do sync and what do we do async. Which channels do we use? How do we use like we have a reasonably sizable document and how we use Slack, for instance, that people are here to. So there's a lot of these different things and we were just very conscious about establishing from a very early stage.

Alex:
13:05

It sounds good to you, remote from day one, which I guess makes it in a bit common, a little bit easy. I don't know the user with ease. Nobody does. It does come easy.

Jakub Knutzen:
13:15

The decision is not as hard I mean it just is Whereas I know a lot of startups and struggle with should we be remote? Should we be remote that whether co-founders are co-located to begin with, but then they start hiring remote employees and you start establishing a second tier citizen setup with people that are remote, who aren't really priority but they kind of are? So that's way more difficult than hey, if we're all remote, then it's much easier. It's also I heard the saying that if the CEO is not remote, then the company is not remote. So it's super important how you deal with that from the very beginning.

Alex:
13:56

No, it sounds good and I think well, you mentioned as well with notion in terms of async. But where do you stand on the whole sync async debate? Because you know there's in my mind there's so many different. There's a broad spectrum of remote work and across that spectrum, each team, each business operates might operate sync, might operate async Somewhere in between. But then there are those online that are strong advocates of async and others that say sync is the best. Where do you stand? Yeah?

Jakub Knutzen:
14:35

I think overall. I think when remote work started kind of going into the mainstream due to COVID a lot of the old guard of remote work, the get-laps of the world, you know the safes of the world they came out with their best practice guides which were very heavily focused on async work and said that async is the only way that you can really work remotely, and 95% of the communication needs to be async, and so on and so forth. So overall, I believe that the world has been too much too focused on sync traditionally, like the whole. Too many meetings is definitely true. A lot of people have found that meetings and synchronous conversations are the path of these resistance, which has just made a lot of processes incredibly inefficient in traditional businesses. That being said, I think that, due to these remote organizations focusing so heavily on async, the narrative has been skewed to the other side, especially on the remote, that, oh then, async is the savior of everything. So where I stand is, I think that traditionally we've been too much sync. I think the traditional remote companies have been too heavily async. I think that there's a very heavy, there's very specific balance that one needs to strike when you are operating remotely and that balance needs to be dictated by why or what you're communicating about or what you're collaborating about. So you need to be conscious on whether you want a particular thing to be sync or async and you almost need to have written down like okay, when we do this it's sync, when we do that it's async. Like example, one thing that works super great async is one way communication. Like if I have a company update or something like that, it works super well if I either communicate it out in written format or I record a loop and send it out to the team. No need for everyone to sit in a synchronous session and listen to me drawing on. But if we need to brainstorm about a particular complex topic or if we need to make a particular, a pregnant decision, a lot of those things are better done synchronously, that being said, with a lot of async preparation before either of those sessions. So everyone's kind of at the same baseline before you enter the session. But the actual brainstorm or the actual decision-making session is way more often than not, way better to do sync than async.

Alex:
17:01

Yeah, which, again what you just said. It just there's not one size fits all by any means at all. Not at all. This is why I want to Again this podcast is all about sharing different opinions, viewpoints, working practices for the betterment of everybody. And yeah, I respect the async advocates, I respect the sync advocates and the ones in between, but there's no one size fits all, but one skill in terms of remote work. It requires, apart from the collaboration and the communication side of things and in some cases over communication and understanding of how different practices and processes work. You have an interesting take on a specific skill, which, a specific core skill that you believe can help to optimize. I guess remote teams Tell me about that.

Jakub Knutzen:
18:03

Yeah, so thanks for asking, Alex. One of the things I've been banging on about in the remote work space is the fact that facilitation is an incredibly undervalued but incredibly important skill in remote collaboration. And this comes back to my belief that there are a lot of sessions that need to be done synchronously, but if they are not well handled, if they're not actively facilitated, they will fail. So in the physical world, if you will, in the traditional co-located work space, I think the facilitation has also been incredibly important. In the past it's been super important to actively manage a meeting and again, by facilitation I mean the fact that you define what a meeting should be about. It could be a workshop meeting or it could be a training, it could be a team meeting, but you set up the agenda clearly beforehand, you define what the objectives and outcomes should be, you define the roles of each individual person in the session and then during the session itself, you actively facilitate towards this particular outcome that you pre-defined. So in co-located space, that's been important, but a lot of people have been able to kind of navigate around that through almost like subliminal or cues or physical cues that they might have had that have made it easier to operate. In the physical world, in the remote world, you don't have a lot of those extra cues. If you're sitting in a video conferencing court, you can only talk one person at a time without it being overwhelming, whereas in a physical meeting you're able to kind of have side conversations, you're able to pick up cues from people, that kind of stuff. So active facilitation of that meeting, active facilitation of that session, becomes incredibly important in getting the most out of that particular session, and I think that that's also why a lot of people have been suffering through, you know, endless back to back video calls, especially during COVID, but still these days, and many of them haven't been actively facilitated, there hasn't been established clear agendas or clear outcomes of the meetings and hence a lot of them have been superfluous and a lot of hatred or a lot of hate has been been pushed on them. So that's why I believe that active facilitation of any type of meetings is a core skill, or is being fast becoming a core skill, and it's something that any leader or any project manager or anyone that that kind of hosts any meetings online need to learn.

Alex:
20:36

And that's the thing actually. I mean, you don't, when you look at job descriptions, whether they're remote or not remote, because obviously there's there's more and more online meetings these days, whether teams are remote or not, but especially remote job descriptions you don't really see. You see collaboration, but collaboration is quite nebulous, isn't it? It's quite, it's doesn't necessarily, it's not specific, it doesn't. Whereas facilitation is not something that you see on the job descriptions enough as a core skill, and I'm wondering why, what? I wonder why that is, but by the fact that it needs to be there.

Jakub Knutzen:
21:12

it definitely needs to be there and I think we're seeing that it's coming from a kind of a niche skill that hasn't been super recognized. It has been super important but it hasn't been very recognized. Do we come way more of a mainstream skill? And we're seeing that increasing like in butter. We have a community of, I think, 1500, 1500 facilitators and we've been nurturing that community very heavily as a community of practice, with the focus of bringing to light facilitation as a mainstream skill on the side of project management, for instance, and that's something that we'll be able to see go upwards very heavily in the next five to ten years.

Alex:
21:52

So I'm just interested to explore that a bit more in terms of facilitation. I know you've talked around facilitation where regards what is concerned and the importance of it, but what if you're in a meeting? I mean, I've been in meetings, obviously, where people have they're going through an agenda and they're picking the points of an agenda and then you know, somebody else starts talking and then it kind of goes off track a little bit. What are the key things that the facilitator is doing? And yeah, what are the key things?

Jakub Knutzen:
22:26

Yeah, I mean I think of Sylthe Hader has say, a role before, during and after the meeting. Right Before the meeting, it's about basically setting up the confines of the meeting. Being very clear on like agenda is a traditional thing of seeing it, but I think it goes way beyond that. A gender is just one way to achieve a goal. The way more important thing is establishing the outcomes of the meeting and the roles and responsibilities of each individual person in the meeting. So that's what a facilitator should do. They should set up the confines of the meeting beforehand, during the session. It's about. During the meeting, the facilitator's role is to get the participants or the rest of the people in the meeting from point A to point B and basically the point B is the established outcome of that have been established, the pre-established outcome of the meeting that the facilitator set up beforehand. And, like you mentioned, going off track on the agenda, one person talking a lot that kind of stuff. It might be okay if it goes towards solving or goes towards the objective or the outcome of the meeting and if that's the case, then the facilitator should allow it. But it might also not be okay. It might be totally off track and then it's a facilitator's role to kind of keep to narrow people in and get people on track again. So during the session, it's a facilitator's role to make sure that people they keep going towards the outcome, that the pre-established outcome. And then, lastly, after the session, it's very much the facilitator's goal and I think this is something that's often forgotten to collect all the materials from the meeting, to collect the decision that we've made in the meeting and make sure that these are not implemented but at least remembered and documented and sent around to the participants of the meeting. So essentially, a facilitator is the person that makes meetings successful, if that makes sense.

Alex:
24:22

No, it certainly does and, like I said, I've been in far too many meetings where there doesn't. There's somebody there who's chairing the meeting, but it's not necessarily effectively. Even from the whole process that you just mentioned. It's not always there, it's a bit somebody else might send notes or you know. So you go ahead, yeah, yeah.

Jakub Knutzen:
24:43

And I think it's often because someone will or may take part of the role up during the session. That's why facilitators it's not a job title, it's a role in this particular session. We are all facilitators in various different meetings. But then we need to make sure that we don't just chair the meeting. We take over full responsibility of the meeting and we don't drop that responsibility throughout the middle of the session. Right, and that's what I'm seeing often that someone just kind of steps in, but then they're afraid to step in the hallway and then things get rubbed on the ground.

Alex:
25:14

No, I hear you. I hear you and I mean it sounds like. I mean you've obviously your learnings as a founder, you're passing them on through butter and you're sharing a lot of stuff online. Did you see yourself being in this position, you know, say even you know a few years ago? Is this something that you envisage as part of your career, or is it just accidental? Because the reason I say that is because I think we need people like you in the sense that, like I said, people are still trying to figure out remote work, even those that are doing remote work, and especially those that are trying to do it better. We need people like you in terms of being, you know, sharing skills, and that's one of the key traits of remote work is sharing skills, sharing knowledge. Did you see yourself being in this situation, say, a few years ago?

Jakub Knutzen:
26:06

That's a good question, like I think, as a founder, yes, I wanted to be a founder for very long. I wanted to be Ever since I started the agency business in Indonesia back in 2014,. I must admit, I really enjoyed the act of creating something. There's something amazing about that, right? And I mean you've created this podcast as well, right? I mean the act of creation, of willing something in from nothing, is amazing, and that joy is something that I've found and I've almost clung to.

Alex:
26:49

So yes.

Jakub Knutzen:
26:49

I saw myself that way. I think I didn't see myself as being a heavy and remote work advocate as I've become. That's something I've only realized over time, I think again with the realization like again, this kind of early realization that talent is everywhere, which was what really got me on this path. And then I've just realized so many other positive things about remote work that have let me even further down that path. And, of course, since building butter, like again, I've been heavily integrating tooling that makes remote work even more fluid and possible. So, no, I didn't see myself going this heavily into remote work, but man, am I wonderfully glad about being here.

Alex:
27:39

No, we're glad to have you. The other thing is as well. I mean, apart from the, you know your role as a co-founder, as a CEO, as an entrepreneur. You're able to affect so many people across the world with butter, with the advice that you share online, the learning out loud, as Tyler would say. How else has remote work affected your life? Or has it affected your life in other ways? Oh yeah, heavily many ways.

Jakub Knutzen:
28:09

I think the number one thing is just flexibility. Both my wife and I were remote workers, so there's a tremendous amount of flexibility both in terms of time and location, which has changed our life significantly. Time, in terms of being able to there's almost been times on independent rights. We're able to work whenever we want to work a lot both of us but we have a huge amount of flexibility in terms of when and then location. We've always been travelling a lot, and remote work has allowed us to travel even more, so I think from that perspective, it's done a lot to my personal life. That whole level of flexibility has been absolutely amazing.

Alex:
28:54

And what are you excited about for the future? That could either be personally or with Butter. What's exciting you? What do you envisage for the future?

Jakub Knutzen:
29:05

Oh man, so many things. Future is glorious With Butter. One thing I'm very excited about is, honestly, what AI enables in terms of synchronous and asynchronous kind of flowing together. We're launching, very soon AI summaries of our sessions, and others are doing this too, through pure transcriptions. But what we're leaning into is all the different things that have been collaborated on and Butter, all the documents that are being shared, all the notes that are being taken. All of those are being consolidated into summaries, and I'm really excited about the opportunities or possibilities of taking that full process from set up to running the session and then debriefing the session into a total knowledge base. That would make synchronous and asynchronous work flow so much better together. So that's, I think, is something that I'm super excited about in terms of Butter going forward.

Alex:
30:05

Excellent, now it sounds good. And just one final question when you're not working because I know you said, you and your wife you work a lot and that sometimes can be a bit of a temptation with remote work, because there's nobody there to kind of like get you to fuck off what are you doing when you're not working?

Jakub Knutzen:
30:22

Oh, I do work out quite a lot to make sure that my mind kind of blanks. Then I read quite a lot and I play a lot of computer games. So those would be my three biases.

Alex:
30:36

Well, we would have to have something else that we do outside of work. Jake, I just wanted to say thank you so much for coming on the podcast. We'll be looking out for what you're sharing online. We'll share some details in the show notes of where people can find you. We're looking out for Butter as well. And, yeah, I just want to wish you all the best for you and your team, for the future.

Jakub Knutzen:
30:56

Yeah, thank you so much, Alex. It's lovely to be here. Pleasure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


© 2019 remoteworklife.io by Remote work life

Learn secrets to Earning An Income and thriving While working Remotely