There we were on Friday morning in Durham, NC, the members of the Board of Directors of CloudFactory, immersed in the types of things boards of VC-backed companies talk about. It was all sales pipelines and strategy about the best way to think about a next round of funding. It was the excitement of real traction with brand name clients, the challenges that this growth inevitably brings and a desire to do more, faster, with all of it. The three hours flew by as we sat looking at the horizon with its seemingly unlimited opportunity but aware of the true distance between here and this horizon. There is tension in this knowledge of the “we’re there, but not yet” — but it’s a tension that makes you feel alive.
Less than 24 hours later, as the tweets and pictures began rolling in from Nepal, a different set of feelings came like a tidal wave; the one-two punch of fear and the unknown, crashing with thunderous force.
What do you do when your world shakes?
As it turns out, you run. That’s what I learned from John Snowden, CloudFactory’s VP of Solutions who was at Kathmandu’s famous Patan Durbar Square with his young family when the earthquake hit. As he recounted on a series of Facebook posts, the first sign that something was awry was the dozens of birds that flew off a few seconds before the ground started shaking.
Then the rumbling. The scream to his young sons to run to him. The clouds of dust. Buildings crumbling.
Then there’s realization that you’re safe and immediately thoughts turn to the more than 100 full time staff of CloudFactory who work in the Kathmandu office. Over the course of the next several days you use every means possible to simply find people. Power is gone, cell phones work sometimes, if they still have power.
Amazingly, you look up two days post quake and 109 of 110 full time CloudFactory staff are safe and accounted for. More than 50% of the 1200+ active cloud workers are accounted for, and massive outreach teams and plans from co-workers are ongoing. There is a shift from the immediate response of flight to survive to the ominous reality of a new normal — a new Nepal that is unlike the one that existed a mere days ago.
The focus, of course, is on making sure everyone is safe. There are workers’ homes that have been destroyed and dozens sleeping in makeshift tents for fear of spending a night inside when there may be aftershocks. As power and connectivity return, the localized relief efforts need organization and process in order to be effective. And there is, deep in the back of your mind, the knowledge that someday — not today, but someday — the company has to get back to work. Not for the company’s sake, but for everyone’s sake. The work needs to be done for the customers, sure, but for Nepal too.
But today the office becomes ground zero for the rebuild. The same work spaces where the platform was built which allows the cloud workers to complete microtasks for some of the world’s most innovative companies is being used today for different tasks. There is an assembly line of people in need packing relief bags for other people in need.
It’s beautiful beyond description, the juxtaposition of the pain and destruction with the simple display of a company’s mission playing out in real time:
“CloudFactory exists to connect 1 Million people in developing countries to computer work while raising them up as leaders to address poverty in their own communities.”
CloudFactory exists for such a time as this.
It is now that the power of the small teams of cloud workers who have worked together over the last couple years will be seen. These are teams that have performed thousands of community service projects together already.
The seeds of leadership and impact were planted over many months, long ago; it is today, and in the days ahead, that the fruits of this labor will be seen.
There is a new Nepal, one that is quite different from a few days ago. She is blossoming through the labor of her people, like the people of CloudFactory, who care deeply about each other and will see it through to completion. And part of this process will be the continued growth of the company itself, which will provide meaningful jobs and community at a time when it’s needed most.
It is a privilege to serve from afar alongside these brave people, and I hope you will join me in prayer for them as they rebuild. To follow along with their journey, you can visit the CloudFactory blog, donate to their fund for employees or support an aid organization which is helping in the efforts.