Q+A: Marcelo Eduardo, Work & Co

Work & Co is a design and technology with an interesting organizational structure and an amazing client list, including Apple, Lyft, IKEA and Dumbo's own Etsy. With such a list comes epic growth: in six years, they’ve expanded to six global offices. We chatted with Marcelo Eduardo Co-Founder and Technology Partner at Work & Co about how they do what they do, and why they love Dumbo.

Success in this space requires having the technical expertise to translate smart ideas into tangible products that actually launch and are used by the masses.

Tell us about Work & Co. What’s the founding story? What sets it apart?

Work & Co is a design and technology company. We partner with companies like Apple, Epic Games, Lyft, IKEA, Mailchimp, Etsy, and Aesop to make digital products and experiences. By that I mean the apps, websites, e-commerce platforms, chatbots people use every day. These are things we increasingly all of use to make our lives easier and better.

We started the company six years ago with the goal of being the first firm focused entirely on making digital products at scale. When you look at the landscape of the kinds of partners that brands historically have looked to to fuel their businesses and resonate with consumers, it’s usually been in the marketing or branding space. For example, Pentagram is known as the gold standard for branding or Wieden & Kennedy is considered at the top of the list for advertising.

Work & Co is set up to be the first great digital product company. And the biggest differentiator there —and this is really my personal passion area too— is that we’re not just great at design. We’re also killer at development. Success in this space requires having the technical expertise to translate smart ideas into tangible products that actually launch and are used by the masses.

And what is your role at Work & Co?

I’m one of the founders and am also a Technology Partner. Before opening Work & Co, I spent time working at brands, such as Nokia, and at digital agencies. Compared to most companies, we’re organized rather simply around just a few core disciplines that encompass everything that’s needed to make a great digital product: technology, design, strategy, and product management. People are often surprised to hear that we have grown to almost 320 people now. They’re even more surprised when they learn that a third of those people are engineers! One of the best parts of my role is being part of growing a healthy tech community here in Brooklyn.

we focused on creating a company with fewer layers that lets us take more ownership over work and partner really closely with clients. We basically form a single team.

From what we can see, Work & Co has an interesting organizational structure with a highly collaborative methodology. How did the company develop this model?

Myself and the other founders of the company learned from past experiences that a common thing happens as you get more senior. We were getting promoted out of what we loved to do the most. That led to a less-than-satisfactory feeling in our careers. Basically, what typically happens when people get more senior in their careers is they tend to ascend into pure management roles and no longer hands-on creators and strategists. So we focused on creating a company with fewer layers that lets us take more ownership over work and partner really closely with clients. We basically form a single team.

What are some of the tools you use to collaborate with your clients on a project?

I’d say the top three tools would be Slack, Zoom, Github. Frequency matters. We try and talk multiple times a week — even every day if possible. Informality is important in our client relationships too. We don’t spend time on making a lot of fancy presentations. We’d rather invest that time back into actually designing and coding, testing concepts with users, or having our quality assurance team ensure we’re ready for launch. It’s worth saying that collaboration isn’t about tools alone: meeting in person is necessary. Some of our clients even choose to colocate and sit inside our offices, like our Epic Games client.

Can you give us an example of a project you recently completed that you are particularly excited to have brought into the world?

Epic is one that’s been really interesting, especially when you think of the ability to reach people at scale. Fortnite is now one of the biggest games in history with 250 million players. We’ve partnered on several projects, but a really cool one was building Epic's first digital game store, which focused on addressing pains for developers. What was baked into the model was sharing more of the profits with individual developers. Our work is best when we can partner with companies who share our values and drive creativity within the tech community.

Scale matters but I should note: we’re not on a mission to be the biggest. We’re on a mission to uncover and hire all of the best experts in our field.

You chose DUMBO as your headquarters but you have several offices around the world too. How do you decide where you want to open a location?

We’re deliberate about investing in opening office spaces in the markets where the best talent lives. Our people are the most important thing. The name Work & Co actually means "the work you do and the company you keep."

In six years, we’ve expanded to six global offices. While Brooklyn is our headquarters, with about half of our team based here, we also have an office in Portland, two in Europe —in Copenhagen and Belgrade— and two in Brazil, where I’m from, in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Scale matters but I should note: we’re not on a mission to be the biggest. We’re on a mission to uncover and hire all of the best experts in our field.

Have you had a chance to work with any of your neighbors here?

Yes! A few. Early on one of our first clients was baby brand Aden & Anais, based in Brooklyn. Right here in Dumbo we’ve had a great relationship with Etsy. One big initiative was helping them elevate their branding to bring the distinctiveness of Etsy to life across their digital experiences, inspiring users to come back to the site again and again. And our newest local partner is Airtime, the video-chatting platform. That’ll be a fun one.

And finally, and we ask everyone this, what’s your favorite place in the neighborhood?

The area has evolved a lot in the time I’ve worked here and there’s some really incredible and upscale food options, especially over by Dumbo House, where I do like to spend time on the weekends. But if I have to pick an absolute favorite, I’d say I have a special fondness for Los Papis, a small, no-frills Latin restaurant on Bridge Street that’s nearby our office. Their empanadas fueled the first year of our company. If you don’t know it, check out the Yelp reviews and you’ll be convinced.