Interview with Luca Mastrorocco and Lorenzo Rossi, CEOs and Founders of REPLUG
- Future of Work
- 31 May 2023
- 9 min
For the fourth installment in our office series, Setting sat down with the magic duo: Luca Mastrorocco and Lorenzo Rossi, CEOs and Founders of REPLUG Mobile Marketing Agency.
Founded in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, REPLUG Mobile Marketing Agency is a Berlin-based 360° app marketing consulting agency that helps mobile-first and traditional companies launch, scale and optimize their mobile app growth through transparent and actionable frameworks. The company has quickly established itself as a leading mobile app marketing agency internationally, winning multiple awards and working with worldwide known organizations.
With the sun beaming down on a balcony overlooking one of Berlin’s glorious parks, the two talked about going remote-first, defining company culture, and the perks of being a remote agency.
Q: Hello gentlemen! Let’s get right into it. What does the office space mean to you?
Luca Mastrorocco (L.M): In our minds, the office space has always been a place where you can meet and connect with teammates. In our experience, the office has been where relationships have been formed, and friendships born. This meant that the office was central to the work experience and companies used it as a way to promote a specific company culture.
Lorenzo Rossi (L.R): However, after COVID, things have changed in our minds. We think of the office more as a space to actually work, rather than a culture-making space. Culture is not made with a foosball table or a few free beers, but rather by consistently engaging and respecting your employees.
Q: So let’s start with the office space you’re currently at. It’s interesting you work in a space with several lawyers. How did you end up here?
L.M: So this is the first spot we got.
L.R: Well, no. The first spot was his kitchen.
L.M: True. My living room, actually! For around 6 months, 7 months or so. After that, we decided to look for a place. It was just the two of us, so we started looking at coworking spaces here in Berlin, and to be honest with you, it was way too expensive. The thing is that a lot of these places were offering flex desks—or hot desks—and it didn’t suit us. We needed a place to make calls, talk to each other, and be social.
L.R: So we found this space during the incorporation process of founding our company with our lawyers. We needed an address for the whole process, so we actually asked him straight up, “Can we use your address?” It turns out they had a spare room!
L.M: It’s actually been super easy. It’s flexible and they gave us super easy terms—like a 1 month notice period if we want to leave. Then, 10 days after we signed, everything closed, and the world wasn’t the same forever.
Q: Wow! So REPLUG was borne out of the ashes of COVID. How has that affected your office policies regarding remote work?
L.M: We’ve been actually questioning ourselves on whether to go fully remote, hybrid, commit to an office here, and so on and so forth.
L.R: But right now, everyone can do whatever they want, basically. Most of the time, it’s just Luca and me at the office. I always come every day. The team in Berlin likes to come once a week, sometimes twice a week—but it happens that for a few weeks in a row, nobody comes.
L.M: The thing is that part of the team is not in Berlin. We’re currently 10 people, plus a few additional freelancers and other staff. So, I think we’re in this unique type of situation where we’re trying to make sure that we don't create two different types of work culture for those in Berlin, and those abroad—you know to ensure that everyone, whether in Berlin or outside, has a consistent experience and doesn't feel like they're experiencing something different.
L.R: I’d say that we’re really hybrid. You know when companies say they’re hybrid, but they’re not? Well, we really are. Because we have people in Italy, Turkey, Serbia, and of course, here in Berlin.
Q: Very international! That must have transformed what the office means to you. How did COVID change your idea of the function of the office space?
L.R: It changed dramatically. For us, we were about to take a bigger office to stay all together. And now, since nobody wants to come, and we want to hire remotely, we started to say, “why?” why do we really need an office space? In that regard, it was a big shift.
L.M: Look, we come from Berlin start-up culture. So we originally had this idea of hiring everybody in Berlin, having an office here, blah blah blah. And then I think COVID killed that idea! [laughs]. Now, nobody wants to come to the office. Apart from that, we love the flexibility–I travel, he travels, and I like to work remotely for 2-3 months a year. We don’t want people to feel like they can’t do the same.
L.R: Simply put, we cannot force people. And we don’t want to.
Q: Here at Setting, we find this kind of set-up fascinating. It’s a topic many companies are currently facing, and a lot of them fear a productivity shortage. I assume that hasn’t been the case for REPLUG?
L.R: I still have my personal opinion about the office: if you’re in the office, you don’t work more. You just work differently. People talk, and they do things together—someone thinks out loud, the other one answers. They help each other.
But for our team, it’s simply not like that. They’ve never experienced the office together. It would be stupid to force them—and not possible—to change this. Really, it’s up to us to create programs and processes for easier communication and team bonding.
L.M: In my previous experience, I always hated companies putting up values saying “the company is your life,” and never really following through on it. I don’t want to say we don’t have culture. I think we have a different type of culture. At the end of the day, our people see work like work. There is a life outside of work.
Q: A lot of founders view the office space as emblematic—or a showcase—of their brand, mission, and values. Many want to use their space to attract talent. Do you see it that way? Or is there another way to evoke company culture?
L.M: It requires more time to achieve than when you have an office space. If you have an office space, people are there. They live and breathe the culture.
L.R: …and the values on the wall, the PlayStation, the free beers…
L.M: So I think for us now, it’s about making sure that the people get what they need. There needs to be alignment in terms of what your expectations are with the company and with your employees. Right now, we are 10 people—and Lorenzo and I are doing everything: the HR, the team activities, the onboarding. We’ve come to realize that people also need different things. Take junior people, for instance. They may need additional support than senior people, and we have to meet them where they are.
L.R: We’ve all been interns before. I remember my first day as an intern was shadowing people all day long, logging what they were doing—learning by doing, essentially. Now, we have video calls.
For it to be successful, we need to be good. It’s up to us to make the process smooth and effective. And we need to get better. For example, a couple of weeks ago, we had a successful day at the office. We had acquired some new clients that we wanted to celebrate. Towards the end of the day, it ended up being just the four of us in the office, enjoying champagne and beer—but we didn't think about reaching out to other remote team members. It was our mistake.
Q: You almost run the risk of having two completely different company cultures, as you mentioned earlier. How do you avoid this?
L.M: I think it's about processes, ensuring people are clear about what they need. Again, when you came to the office every day, you didn’t have to focus on processes because you could just walk by and say, “hey, how's everything going?” Now, it's more about planning activities, making sure that you check off the list, and doing it. Then, if you work 6 hours, 3 hours, 10 hours, I really don't care at the end of the day. They’re your tasks, and if you deliver them, it’s done.
L.R: Yeah, exactly. I’d add that the important thing is to get feedback from people. Real feedback. It’s more than just asking, “how are you?” It should be precise questions about what we do. We have a set of questions we ask, including: “Do you think we're following our company values?” Some people say, “we’re not aware of our values” flat out. And we say, “okay, we need to do a better job”—even if they’re written on Confluence or whatever source of truth you have.
Q: And what about the idea of company and team growth?
L.M: This is an area where we’ve also been forced to rethink too. In the beginning, like every other company based here, we were thinking about hiring people only in Berlin. First of all, that’s very difficult: competition is very high in startups, and smaller companies often don’t offer as many perks as larger companies.
But since the pandemic, we’ve hired people around the world. We’ve hired people from Serbia, Turkey, Italy—you name it. It’s totally given us a completely different approach in this sense. Why do we need to hire only in Berlin? That’s the question we’ve been forced to answer.
Q: A perfect segue to the last question for you two. How do you see the future of work?
L.M: My opinion is that offices will just be more like co-working spaces. And I expect the people that we hire somewhere else might want to go every now and then to the office just to also socialize and meet people. And even then, it’s probably not about the office anymore. It's about creating those situations where people can actually meet—and that's it.
L.R: If we don’t have any more pandemics, I think everything will go to normal. There’ll just be a higher distinction between people who want to work remotely and people who want to go into the office. And the people that stay at home will keep missing out on office flirting!
This is the fourth interview in our “What Does the Office Space Mean To You” series. Stay tuned for more exciting stories about the office space over the next couple of months!
We’d love to hear your office story. Drop us a line at [email protected] if you’re interested in sharing your office experience.
For more information on Luca and Lorenzo’s business, REPLUG, click here. And don’t forget to follow both Luca and Lorenzo on LinkedIn! They’ve also just released the first edition of their e-book, designed to help you master the mobile onboarding experience.
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