Azra Games is a blockchain games company building the first modern, web3 AAA game studio in the world. Azra was founded by virtuoso game designer Mark Otero, best known for Electronic Arts’ top-grossing Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, serial-entrepreneur Sonny Mayugba (COO), and “crypto degen” Travis Boudreaux (CTO). Azra Games is backed by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and NFX.
Working with Remotely, for the second time
Travis Boudreaux, Azra’s Co-founder and CTO, met the Remotely team prior to founding Azra. While he was Head of Engineering at Swimply, the “Airbnb for pools,” Travis partnered with Remotely to scale his engineering team, bringing on several senior software engineers.
After co-founding Azra Games and raising a $15M seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz (from both their games fund and crypto fund), Travis knew he really needed help attracting engineers – and knew that partnering with Remotely had already “worked once” for him, so he reached out and got the ball rolling.
Better, more efficient hiring
Travis is no stranger to hiring engineers and building teams. He has 20+ years of experience as a software engineer and has spent time at Elance, Upwork, and Waitr (now ASAP) where he grew his team from 4 to 50, prior to Swimply and now Azra Games.
Finding the great engineers who will be a net positive for the team is a challenge, and a time-consuming one at that. “It’s really hard finding someone who is technical, and is willing to make business trade-offs, and you know, has the experience to scale a product. And can communicate with you and the team because software is very collaborative. Just because you are a great individual engineer does not mean you’re going to make the team better. If you don’t have a great team mindset, if you can’t communicate with the rest of the team… you could actually become a net negative for the team itself.”
His partnership with Remotely, both at Swimply and now Azra, has helped him build teams of engineers who are not just talented developers, but also have a broader set of skills (including communication) that enable them to have a net positive impact for the team.
The last offer we made [through Remotely]… he’s one of the best engineering interviews I think I’ve done in the last five years… Strong technically, crushed it on the coding exam, phenomenal English, great communicator… when I did the architecture interviews with him, he launched Miro and basically drew out the whole system as he talked through it with me
Hiring in other geographies poses an additional challenge
“I’ve hired engineers in South America and globally distributed before – and it’s always difficult,” Travis explains. “I have no idea if the person is going to be great at speaking English, communicating a lot of soft skills, and that kind of stuff."
Travis shares that, independently, he might go through ten candidates on his own and like only one or two of them…"whereas like every, every candidate that [Remotely] brings to me that I ended up interviewing, really checks those boxes."
"It ends up being really difficult for me because I have to make some really tough decisions…I have the budget to be able to hire ten people, but you brought twenty-five and I wish I could hire all of them! You know, so that's, that's generally been my experience working with Remotely. And vetting sort of the talent that you guys bring to us.”
When I’ve hired by myself and am sourcing through other methods, the hit rate is a lot worse for me [than with Remotely].
Treating remote engineers as first-class citizens
Broadly speaking, companies can take two different approaches when hiring engineers remotely (whether direct, or through an agency, freelancing service, or another alternative): the engineers are treated like first-class citizens – or they’re not. Travis explains that “[Remotely] is very strongly committed to saying that [their] engineers are not second-class citizens; they’re not here to be code monkeys or bug bashers. They’re here to be extensions of your full team. You need to treat them like they’re W2 hires sitting next to you in an office. And I love that…"
Not treating remote engineers as first-class citizens comes with a lot of risk: "you sort of build-in opportunities for resentment and frustration and friction when people are working together – and not the kind of good, creative friction that results in product improvements, but the kind of friction that results in deadlines being missed, and communication that’s important not happening."
From the jump when we met - [Remotely] really outlined that philosophy well for me, and it aligned with what I wanted.
Building Azra’s engineering team – and first game
Azra’s seed funding is being used to accelerate the development of their first game: an epic, sci-fi/fantasy collectibles and mass combat RPG game, Legions & Legends. Azra now has an 11-person engineering team, three of whom were brought on through Remotely who Travis reports are “all doing phenomenal.”