Our 8 Favorite Tools We'd Recommend to Any Startup
We’ve been planning this post for a while. On the one hand because it’s a common question we get from other entrepreneurs, on the other because we are so enthusiastic about some tools that we simply want to share them.
Since our start we’ve been working in a lean manner, with a small team and often working remotely. Our specific setup required a great set of tools to make things work. We’ve tried out many of them, some we disregarded, others we’ve fallen in love with. We’ll share our true business tool romances, the ones we couldn't do without.
Asana is a team collaboration tool that we’ve been using from our start in 2011. The tool was developed to improve the internal workflow of Facebook, but it soon became clear that any company can benefit from it.
In Asana you can add to-do’s, group them under projects, and communicate about them with your teammates. The great thing about communicating within Asana is that it happens relevant to the task/project at hand, so the context is right there. Next to that, it's easy to organise your tasks, and to get a quick overview of what the rest of the team is working on as well.
Asana has a very lenient free plan, so it's recommendable for any startups or small company. In our team everyone has their asana to-do page as their browser’s starting page. We recommend our team members to use asana in a different ‘workspace’ for their private life as well, with the idea that those who have their private life in order also make better and more focused workers.
Although we’ve abandoned Socialcast for Slack last year, it is still worth the mention because it’s been a great tool for us for many years and will be useful for many companies. The best way to describe Socialcast is as “Facebook for business”. You have a similar stream where team members can post things, which other team members can like and comment on.
Socialcast is a great tool for discussions on a certain topic, before it's been translated into specific goals or tasks. The one function I really miss since abandoning it is the overview of different discussions and the fact that comments are clearly connected to a certain post. We never planned on abandoning it, but once we got hooked on Slack (upcoming) it simply died out.
Slack is so hot right now, it hardly needs an introduction. It’s an instant messenger team communication tool, allowing you to communicate through chat with your teammates one-on-one or in groups through channels.
No one is really sure what exactly caused Slack to grow so fast while there have been comparable solutions on the market before them. The founders can't seem to explain it either. All we can say is that they offer a truly great experience in all areas we can think of. We basically tried them out because of the hype, got hooked, and never let go. I can imagine it has worked like this for most other users.
One feature we especially dig are the channel integrations with automated updates. We set up dedicated Slack channels for #Twitter (updating on messages related to our account), #Userlike (updating on chat activity on our website), #Zendesk (updating on customer service tickets), and #Github (updating on technical developments). This allows everyone within our team to stay updated in a non-intrusive manner.
On the decision between Slack and Socialcast, I would say Slack is a tool for teams, while Socialcast can be relevant for larger companies consisting of many teams. This comes back in the fact that some larger companies have multiple paid Slack accounts. Since Userlike currently counts 12 members, the company basically is a team. I can imagine though that Socialcast is a valuable tool to create unity within a company consisting of different departments.
GitHub is the tool used to discuss about features and to develop our software. It’s a webhosting service for software-development projects. Advantages include the visual display or projects, the option to fork with a mouse-click, the option to follow developers, and the fact that it's a social network in which ownership is maintained over what is uploaded.
Well this is our own tool so bringing it up feels a bit like bragging, but keeping it out while it's such an important part of our day to day operations wouldn't be right either.
While we have dedicated service people behind the chat, everyone in our team takes service shifts from time to time. We think this is important for everyone to ‘keep it real’, to stay close to what is important to the customer and to stay knowledgeable about our product.
This is an RSS Reader we use to follow blogs and websites. It arranges content like an online magazine, prioritizes popular content, and allows you to group the different resources to your liking. Together with PocketApp it's our most important tool to stay informed about our fields and industries of interest.
As an internet working you run into so much interesting content on a day. Stopping to read these articles is however killing for your workflow. PocketApp allows you to easily save these articles into your own collection and read them at a moment when you have time.
If you get the PocketApp on your mobile phone it becomes even nicer, because you can read the articles when you’re in idle time, for example in public transport.
A Soft Murmur
If you’re lucky your workplace is located right next to the ocean. Where nothing but the sound of smoothly breaking waves hit your ear. Most of us aren’t this lucky, working in hectic city centers and noisy offices is pretty much standard. This app’s natural sounds will drown all distracting sounds and put you into the focus zone. It also prevents nagging about the weather throughout your entire company.