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Foo Fridays

Hunter McKinley
April 1, 2020

Going into my conversation with Zohaib, I thought we’d talk about how they are changing industries with their state of the art AI synthetic voice creation platform. To my surprise, Zohaib Ahmed, Founder & CEO of Resemble, was far more interested in discussing how their nimble remote team was innovating outside of work. One of the ways his team has built strong relationships is a day dubbed “Foo Fridays”. The idea, stolen from Hipmunk, inspired by Google’s legendary “20 percent rule” encourages engineers to work on passion projects on the company’s dime.

Empowering employees can be rewarding in itself but paid time towards passion projects can have an astounding effect on innovation within a company. For example, Gmail was one of the first projects that came out of this policy and now boasts over 1 billion users.

Zohaib has had his fair share of Foo Fridays and he was able to share the top 4 that came out of Resemble so far:

  • Resemblyzer
  • ~An open source speech recognition toolkit to help detect fake speech to help spot fake videos from circulating online
  • Melnet
  • ~An open-source model for generating audio from Facebook.
Open-source model for generating audio
  • Resemble’s Employee Handbook
  • ~A transparent look into a fully-funded, remote-first company’s handbook that’s building the future of voice.
  • 3D Printer turned into drawing tool
3D printer turned into a drawing tool

Benefits of Foo Fridays

Before I hop into our own Foo Friday experience, there’s an important rule you need to know about.

  1. You may work on anything you’d like as long as you report what you worked on at the end of the day

That’s it!

This past Friday I tried our first Foo Friday with one of my employees, Emilio.

He’s been working on an innovative record label to shift the power back to artists. He wanted a way to drive organic traffic to his site through a deals and discounts site, similar to our deal site for startups but for indie music artists.

Emilio’s day started with a poll.

Poll on "Making Syrup for music artists"

His idea was to make a website similar to our Syrup for Startups but for indie music artists.

The entire team got in on the action

Music deals for artists: Conversation 1

As former designers and branding specialists, we enjoy the naming phase almost too much. We spent a while brainstorming names and business strategies. 

Music deals for artists: Conversation 2

Eventually Emilio ended up building Soundproof Deals - Unmuted Deals for Artists.

Unmuted Deals for Artists Concept

He says he will keep working on it and learning the basics of Webflow to get it just right. Not bad for a Friday evening!

I wanted to do something related to remote workers and solve one of the biggest issues- loneliness. First I found the perfect template on Webflow which was modeled after the AirBnb website.

The idea initially was to just build a virtual coffee shop for your remote team. As I was writing the copy, I realized that it would be more fun to have several virtual coffee shops that you could join and meet other nomads. Sort of like a Chatroulette for digital nomads but voice based and less sausages. 

In the end I made a logo and a (mostly) functioning website that I called “Very Basic”. The name was mostly a joke saying that everything was basic - the app, the coffee, and the people.

Noteable Nomads Website

I even riffed on the Airbnb logo, which many digital nomads know and love.

Noteable Nomads Logo

Overall the experience was quite eye opening. It’s amazing what a team can accomplish in such a short amount of time. It’s exciting to think where these skills will take the company in the future!

Convinced your team is ready for Foo Fridays? From Zohaib’s experience, the experiment works when you’ve implemented the day the correct way.

Here’s a few tips he shared with me before our first Foo Friday.

  • Works best for teams 5 and above
  • Tell everyone what Foo Fridays is and have no expectations. It is important to explain that the best engineers work and develop skills on their own time. However, if they are working 40 hours a week, how could anyone expect them to do that on during the week? Foo Fridays are their opportunity to do their own thing. Finally, explain that the only catch is to share what they’re working on
  • Send out calendar invites for Foo Friday
  • Remind everyone the day before your Foo Friday that it is coming

Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear about your Foo Fridays experience. Shoot me an email and let me know how it went to be featured on our next blog - Hunter@yac.chat