Over the last year I have either started mentoring or joined the advisory board of several technology startups. These are technology led businesses with a team of both techies and non-technics. For every startup its important to set the tools early on as it influences the culture of the business and also the pace of the business growth. Selecting the wrong tool delays development as everyone has to learn it or even stops the business as no one wants to use this tool.
There is no one tools I recommend and it depends on the team members and then the project attributes, such as the size of team, selected coding platform, use of third party plugins and also the length of the creative cycles. So below you will find at least two options for each core tool. The tools selected below all start off with a freemium model which is ideal for startups.
Another factor in selecting the tools below was they should work on multiple devices (mobile, tablet and PC) and also with multiple people (sharing, editing and also distribution).
Criteria: Need to share, edit and collaborate on documents. Multiple people should be able to view documents at any time.
I have been a fan of Evernote since it was first launched. I use it in several ways:
- Research – I use the Web Clip extension to save web pages which then allow me to develop a collection of articles very quickly and then index them against tags and within notebooks. For early stage startups understanding what competitors are doing and how certain technology works is important. This can then be shared with everyone on the team, ensuring a similar knowledge base.
- I have multiple notebooks that I use for all sorts of things including my task management, goal setting, lists of all kinds, photos and random notes.
Its taken me some time to get happy with Google Docs and still don’t put documents I want to be secure on it, but as an editor which multiple people can use to generate a shared vision its the best tool out there.
- Collaborative Documents – The document editor is better than MS Word and has a better spell checker, it also loads faster.
- Save As function, especially to PDF and Website is worth using as it allows you to email and share document very quickly.
- Google Forms is the best way to create surveys. Since I found this I have stopped using Survey Monkey which has got too expensive.
Startup Internal Comms & Project Management
Criteria: A place where everyone can state what they are doing and when, any issues are discussed and logged.
This is a must have tool for collaborative teams.
- Team Chat – To have a open chat box which everyone can contribute, add files and also URL links is extremely powerful. This always on and open team collaborative culture is extremely important to generating momentum for the business.
- Team Calls – Every team has to go through the storming/norming phases and chatting on Skype for hours on getting the vision/mission/strategy right is the only way. Most of my team members use Skype of their mobile/tablet for this, so they can walk around the house, trying different rooms during each stage of the meeting.
This provides a digital kanban board for project management, allows the team to contribute and on one page see the entire set of tasks.
- Great way to show projects, tasks and business mapping on one page which everyone can buy into.
- The graphical interface provide a simple way to get the team to contribute and set/agree their tasks
Startup Cloud Storage
Criteria: Always on and backed up to the cloud. Low cost.
Keeps my working files available to me wherever I am, synched across multiple devices.
- For one startup all their large images are shared through dropbox with all documents shared through Google Docs.
- I also backup google docs and websites to Dropbox
- For another startup they use this for their business plans and external funding applications
This is a cloud-to-cloud backup provider which enables you to draw down these resources and also edit and repurpose.
- So backing up what’s on Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, Zoho, Google Apps/Docs, WordPress, Basecamp, Gmail, Facebook, Google Calendar…
Startup Code Management
Criteria: Version control for multiple developers
This is the default repository for any startup source code plus task lists for developers.
- It offers as standard distributed revision control and source code management functionality you need.
- The Wiki and bug tracking features are important once development has started. A wiki can help track the outcomes of those conversations you have about “Should we do it this way or that”. As you know you one of these will be wrong and you will need to reserve this decision.
This feature rich version allows expansion and future proofing.
You can get this free on the “www.microsoft.com/bizspark/” programme
- As with a lot of Mircosoft products they are very well designed, (sometimes too over engineered), so choose the options carefully to start with and then open up additional features later on when needed. This way you can grow into the product and not be over “controlled” by the tool.
Startup Social Media
Criteria: Simple tools to tell the world of your progress during development. Management of multiple channels during launch.
This is my default social media management tool, as it has Instagram, Youtube and others.
- Management of multiple streams
- The fact you can see all tweets from a particular Search and interact with these is very powerful
A simple and elegant way of scheduling tweets and posts.
- Easy to get started and set a scheduled tweet or facebook feed
- The sharing and timing when these posts go out is very powerful
There is lots of research on how startups work and the process. The vast majority of it states that time, finance and commitment is limited within the team. Therefore a simple limited set of tools is more powerful than having a expanded and more complete solution. The startup process to MVP and Alpha testing is a non perfect process and therefore over engineering the need for support tools just over complicates the project and therefore inserts delays.