Telecommuting

A French Entrepreneur Tries Telecommuting From a Desert Island, Robinson Crusoe-Style


A French Entrepreneur Tries Telecommuting From a Desert Island, Robinson Crusoe-Style

Photograph by Sakis Papadopoulos

Could you manage your company remotely from a desert island? French entrepreneur Gauthier Toulemonde is about to find out. Starting in mid-October he’ll spend 40 days on an uninhabited Indonesian island, where he’ll live in a tent and run his publishing business via satellite phone and an Internet connection powered by solar panels.

Toulemonde, 54, a veteran adventure traveler who has joined expeditions to the North Pole and the Amazon, says his Robinson Crusoe-style telecommute will be “a kind of laboratory, to test whether it’s possible to work when you are very far away from civilization.”

A former banker, Toulemonde since 2003 has been a co-owner of Timbropresse, a nine-employee Paris-based publishing group, and editor of two magazines the company puts out, one for stamp collectors and another for real estate professionals. “I’ll try to continue my work as if I were at the office in Paris,” he says.

Toulemonde plans to blog daily on his website throughout his sojourn and make regular postings on his Facebook (FB) page, as well. (For now, the website is in French only, but he says he may start an English version of his blog.)

Raphaël Domjan, a Swiss adventure traveler who has piloted a solar-powered catamaran on a round-the-world trip, which Toulemonde joined, will accompany him during his first three days on the island. He will help set up the solar panels that are to power Toulemonde’s computer and satellite phone connection.

Working on a tropical beach might sound enticing, but Toulemonde’s surroundings will be a far cry from Club Med (CU:FP). His tent will be on a raised platform to protect against the island’s large population of snakes and scorpions, he says, and he’ll have to sleep under mosquito netting. He’ll have a few bags of rice, but otherwise will fish and forage for his meals.

Toulemonde isn’t disclosing the exact location of the island for security reasons. He says it has no fresh water, so he plans to collect rainwater and desalinate seawater with a portable device. The solar panels will provide enough power to run his electronic devices for a maximum 8 hours daily, he says.

Despite the primitive conditions, Toulemonde says he’s had “quite a number of business owners who’ve contacted me who are interested to see how this could function.” Forty days in solitude, he says, “is the time necessary to detoxify from modern life.”

Matlack is a Paris correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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