Round 2: The Core SaaS New Techstars Companies Should Consider

Note: This article is long. Here’s how you should use this article, read the first five paragraphs first, then scan the table below. Any SaaS products you don’t recognize in the table, see the justification for why we used them below. Why is this article long? Because I refuse to do listicles for clickbait. I’d love your feedback.

Mashable Presents: A Cleaner Future featuring DroneSeed

When DroneSeed was accepted to Techstars, we knew our next three months as a small team would hold more opportunities than we could physically manage.

In order to Do More Faster, we identified what we call internally our Core SaaS tools to optimize and reduce time on setting up meetings, calendars, mail, expenses, and task management. Primarily for the purposes of a startup on fundraising, sales, and product development. (This is called an ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning, by large businesses).

This is as an update to an open letter I wrote a year ago to companies that just got into Techstars, another program, or any others that have just a few months of runway to crush it or fail. It took us time to figure these out the hard way. We’ve taken feedback from Techstars Seattle 2017 and our own learning to update this list. Below are the services we found essential based on those experiences.

But first…two principles you’ll see throughout the article:

1. Reduce clicks to get better results

Our philosophy to using SaaS products mirrors Amazon’s analysis of purchasing. The more clicks required the less you or your investor will do it. Amazon famously pioneered this by relentlessly reducing the clicks required to purchase an item. Sales went up. Here’s how that works in our startup: If every time I send a link to our promo video I have to look it up in my Gmail from Lauren, the more I’ll get distracted by new emails and not get that extra email sent or I’ll send it way after its relevant. Opportunity lost. See below how we use Streak’s clips feature to solve for this.

2. Don’t suck at email

Communication is lifeblood. Interest is fickle, especially with investors. It’s not acceptable to suck at email. See Principle 1: Reduce Friction. Reply fast, hit inbox zero (if you can tell me how), hyper-communicate. See first steps here from Do More Faster on how NOT to suck at email. We work on this daily like you do. See below for the SaaS we use to be better.

The Core SaaS DroneSeed uses. We employ the following. I’ve covered the non-obvious first:

Name

Group

Description

~Monthly Pricing

Boomerang

Email/CRM

best email followup tool

4.99 per user -CEO/sales

Streak

Email/CRM

CRM via email, clips

39.00 per user

MixMax / Calendly

Online Calendar

Frictionless scheduling

9.00 per user -CEO/Sales

Conspire

Intro tool

Intros better than LinkedIn

free

CrunchBase Pro

Intro tool

Wikipedia of Investors/Co’s

29.00 per user -CEO only

Expensify

Accounting

Robots log expenses

5.00 per user

DocuSign

Contracts

Frictionless signing

10.00 per user -CEO only

Trello

Tasks

Task and team managing

free

GitHub

Tasks

Code and task managing

8.00 per user

Quickbooks

Accounting

Clean books

18.00

Google Drive

File Management

Docs in 1 place

9.00 per user up to 9

DocSend

File Management

Send decks for review

free

Total We Pay

~$300 / month all company

Seems like a lot of SaaS, eh? Well, in total, we pay about $300 per month. We think this is reasonable and has better features compared to the alternative of SAP, Oracle, Salesforce or even Microsoft products.

Note: If you just got into Techstars, nearly all the core SaaS products we use have Techstars connect perks with yearly discounts, sometimes 1-year free, etc. Get ahead by getting access to Techstars Connect as soon as possible before beginning program and getting organized. Your first two weeks are your craziest.

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Our Reviews & Why We Use These Products

Disclaimer: Some of these are Techstars companies. We don’t know the teams (but would like to!). These reviews are our own and we’ve received no compensation for them.

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EMAIL

BOOMERANG

Second Contact reminders via email

You will make connections to awesome people. They will be busy. 25–50 percent of the time they may require a second or third email to remind them to send something, make an introduction, etc. We haven’t found a better way than Boomerang to track these opportunities.

If no one responds to your email, you set boomerang to put the email back at the top of your gmail as an unread email in two to four days (you define the time period). Task management by inbox — done right. We don’t know of comparable products. Oh yeah, it’s got a lot of other features to.

STREAK

CRM System — Pick a CRM and use it. We use Streak.

We needed a CRM system. You will need one too. We suggest tracking three pipelines: Investors, Customers, and Potential Hires.

Example with investors: You need to record what their investment check size is and if they prefer convertible notes or SAFE’s. You should be meeting a LOT of investors and you cannot forget their check size and terms preference. If on the second meeting, you pitch a 100K investment and they only make 500K investments or more, you’ve just lost the opportunity or severely damaged credibility.

We like Excel because we can customize it to do anything. We also like management by inbox. Thus, we like Streak because it does both these things.

Another reason we like Streak is it has Snippets. Over and over you will need to send a forwardable describing your business. Same with the links to your promo video and relevant press articles or white papers. Reduce the friction by using clips. Set snippets to paste your list of links. It hangs out in your gmail next to the formatting icon. Click it, click the snippet you’ve saved such as “101 — investor links” and snippets then pastes your list of links into your email. Go pro and use hot typed phrases to trigger the same.

Lastly, we use ‘send later’ in Streak. We use this to time emails so they reach recipients when they’ll be read. Techstars companies send weekly updates to mentors and potential investors. All nine companies in our class did this, mostly on Monday at 8am. We sent on Tuesday or Wednesday at 7am so ours would get the most time and consideration. Also, not everyone is impressed by your work ethic and 3am emails. For some, it’s a red flag. See the book ReWork here on this topic. Use ‘send later’ instead.

Competitor CRM’s that are also loved:

HubSpot. From Victor at CuePath: I switched from Zoho CRM to HubSpot. Really loved their deal feature, which is like Trello column pipeline. Pro-tip: Pin the note with key info about the investor/customer, so it always pops up first when you want quick access to info before your call.

ONLINE CALENDAR

Make appointment times a one-step process, not “go-fish.”

Ever traded three to four emails just to find a time to meet? We couldn’t afford that. We also didn’t want to pay for an executive assistant. Each additional email that says “are you available between 2–4pm Wednesday?” increases the chance of losing the connection.

Instead, send an email with MixMax or Calendly. We haven’t used MixMax but hear great things. In both, everyone can see when you are available including VIP’s executive assistants who will love you. You can fill up your schedule quickly. In MixMax, there’s a slight advantage as your calendar is sent in the email and this removes one click and sends time slots in email (but this can go out of date). With Calendly, you follow a link to the online availability and the calendar is up to date.

Pro tip: When pointing people to your schedule link in emails, include language that says: “my schedule is accessible at the link below to find a time that works for us both.” Don’t act like a programmer primadonna. You’re asking people that are likely higher in the social strata than you to do executive assistant work. They’ll do it to maximize their time and avoid trading three emails, but keep it humble.

Pro tip 2: Block-off work periods each day. It’s not sexy to have a calendar that looks WAY too available.

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INTROS

CONSPIRE

Use it to ask for intros. It’s better than LinkedIn. It’s my #1 recommendation to startups fundraising. It’s a superpower.  

Here’s why: You’re looking for warm intros to investors and customers. You don’t know who in your network can make the intro or is the best warm intro. Use Conspire.

Conspire requests access to your emails and then analyzes who you email and how often. Yep, that’s invasive. But so is Gmail (which we love).

Using Conspire tells you everyone in your network who emails the contact you’re trying to reach and how frequently. For example, based on the signal bar on Conspire, I can see that I email Jenny Fielding at NYC Techstars a lot, and she’s in touch with Duncan. In addition, it looks like my fellow Techstars CEO Claus talked to Rob for fundraising or was invested in, and I might ask them how that process went for advice on Bullpen’s thesis.

Once you’ve found who you’re most comfortable asking, send a forwardable. If you’ve never written a forwardable, here’s how from Alex Iskold. This method is now standard etiquette in fundraising and reduces the clicks and increases the odds you’ll get a response.

DOCSEND

DocSend is amazing. We learned about it by participating at Jason Calacanis’ Founder University. It’s my #2 recommendation to founders fundraising.

Every investor asks for your deck and videos of your product prior to talking. Your deck will have valuable competitive intel. Investors DO send these to their competitive investments. For these reasons, we don’t like our deck or videos floating around. However, what we REALLY don’t like is NOT having investor conversations. We tried a one-pager to get meetings and it hurt us. We got fewer meetings.

Therefore, we now use DocSend with an expiring link and don’t allow downloading as a default. We send a “teaser deck” in a forwardable email prior to talking. We send a follow-up deck that’s longer after the meeting if advisable. DocSend tells you if a sent deck was opened, and gives you feedback on how much time investors spent on each slide. That’s amazing feedback to improve a deck. Don’t be surprised that investors spend less than three minutes per deck.

Above: whatever is on slide 23 got more time and attention than slide 7 and Jason was either interested or confused (and on slide 24 someone on his fantasy team probably scored and distracted him).

Pro tip: Load a presentation, then for every new investor create a new link with the investor name so you’ll know who is viewing. That’s why the above shows as “Jason.” This helps you follow-up shortly after they’ve read it. Super paranoid – put a footnote on each slide pg with the investor name and VC and Confidential (lots of effort).

CRUNCHBASE PRO

Crunchbase is the defacto way for startups to lookup investors, as well as track investments made in other companies. It’s like the Wikipedia of investments and info is crowdsourced so expectations of accuracy should be adjusted. Pro makes this easier and was beloved by Techstars Seattle 2017 across the board.

Use it to build a list of investors to contact. Lookup companies adjacent to your space and see who their investors are. Build a list of 50 or so investors by tracking if they’ve made multiple investments in companies adjacent (but not direct competitors).

Also use it to find investor references, see a pattern in their check size, or determine if they’re a fit at all (have they ever done a B2B investment? Do they say in their description “software only”).

DroneSeed used the free public version. The Pro version is loved because you can add more complex searches and there’s additional scripting to parse the outputs offline.

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Why I’m not including a section on Trello/Asana/Github.

Everyone has an opinion on Trello/Asana/Github. Your opinion may be correct. It may be ridiculous. Either way, you already know about it and if you don’t see this.

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EXPENSE REPORTING

Let the robots log expenses.

Nothing screws up team dynamics more than payroll and expenses. Seriously. People are regularly fired over expenses, OR employees walk away with serious misgivings. Companies regularly misstate their accounts because someone had 15–100k in expenses they hadn’t submitted yet. People are reluctant to put things on credit cards and slowing down product development because they feel they always forget to log the receipt.

Our favorite expense software is no longer (they were too good). Your options for photographing the receipt and turning the data entry into ‘not my problem’ are: Expensify and a few others detailed in a Quora post here. Make sure it maps to Quickbooks expense categories or your chosen accounting software. There’s far fewer friction points. The expense manager gets accurate cash position. The employee doesn’t spend hours sorting through a shoebox of receipts and tracking down visa statements for the one’s they lost.

QUICKBOOKS

You need Quickbooks.

If you raise from venture capital you will at some point get asked for 3 months of financials in the due diligence process. We use Quickbooks. So does nearly everyone else on the planet it seems (although there are alternatives). Keep your accounting costs low by using Quickbooks. Use it to track a budget versus actual.

Consider an accountant. If you struggle with your personal taxes then you need a business accountant. They will keep your books “clean” and at least semi-standard so you check the box in diligence. Also, if you have budget you can create an invoices@companyname.com like we did and have contractors send all invoices to the accountant to be paid by wire on the 1st and 15th.

Pay people on time. Trust is just like a bank account, earn a balance by doing simple things on time. Like us, you’re a startup, you’ll need that trust in the bank at some point. You’re already going to be VERY different than most businesses.

DOCUSIGN

Documents Signature Service. We use DocuSign.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about friction points? Printing, signing, scanning, and attaching are four physical steps. DocuSign is usually about three digital ones. We make it dead simple for investors, employees, and customers to sign things. We believe this increases success.

Bonus — all your signed documents are in one place for when diligence starts. We suggest picking one service and sticking with it. You will be tempted to churn the 30 day trials from DocuSign, HelloSign, and SendDoc. Don’t. If you do that, you’ll then have to piece all the docs together from each platform later. This isn’t doing more faster. This is rework.

Competitors that are also loved:

Zoho Docs. For due diligence docs. Like DocuSign but it keeps track of who accesses your shared folder and when. The con is that the recipients need to register as well.

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FILE SHARING

DRIVE

Put stuff in one place.

We TRY to put stuff in one place and keep it organized. If you succeed in doing this, tell us how. Google drive is awesome for internal docs and sheets, large files, etc.

Pro tip: use numbering first in a file name to order folders and keep the order constant. i.e. 100Finance, 200Sales, 300HR etc. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your file access will be due to location memory.

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CONCLUSION

We hope this is helpful. We hope you don’t have to struggle through what we did setting this up. We hope you Do More Faster (we now owe David Cohen and Brad Feld another dollar).

If you have your own Core SaaS setup you’ve found to be awesome, write up what the combos are, how much you spend monthly, and post it on Medium, we might link to it.

Thanks to Victor at CuePath and the Techstars Seattle 2017 class for their input.  

Interested in joining the Techstars worldwide network? Applications are now open – Apply








Startup Pitching and Adrenaline Management: An Athlete’s Tactics

“How does one get into shape for public speaking?” I was sitting in McMenamin’s Bar, sipping a guilty-pleasure Coke, when I became phenomenally obsessed with this question — “How does one get into shape for public speaking?”

At that moment, I was waiting to go on stage to pitch our startup, and became quite aware of my heart rate. My Fitbit registered 145 beats per minute(bpm) — super high — like I had been jogging a few minutes. I felt my body was betraying me, amping up my adrenaline when I didn’t want it to- today’s pitch wasn’t even that important.

In that moment, I embarked on a journey to get in shape for public speaking, particularly startup pitching.

Adrenaline is an issue. Along with anxiety, it can cause anyone to jitter the first few words, nervously step back and forth, talk too fast, feel like their vision just came out of warp speed or forget what they were going to say. I love the adrenaline that comes with kiteboarding, wakeboarding, snowboarding, skydiving — but my bad public speaking habits were also coming from adrenaline.

At that bar, I was grappling with the question that every Techstars founder grapples with during the entire program: In three months, how am I going to deal with the stress and give an amazing presentation on Demo Day? In other words, if my heart rate was 145 bpm now, it would be even higher for the high-stakes Demo Day pitch I was going to give in three months. That wasn’t going to be good.

To maximize our raise and — let’s be honest- for pride, I needed to knock Demo Day out of the park. I’ve always been an athlete, so naturally, I wanted a training regime. Over the next three months, I built one on top of what Techstars provided. The practices I tried are what I intend to share with this post. Some things were conscious. Some things were serendipity. Some things worked. Some things didn’t.

So here, in all their glory, are the 7 tactics that comprised my training regime.

Heart Rate

As you’ve gathered, I landed on heart rate as a proxy metric for the combination of adrenaline, anxiety and flight or fight programming.

When I was a swimmer in college, it was something I regularly checked after finishing a set. Hitting 200+ BPM was a badge of honor (so was vomiting due to lactic acid buildup). Both were feedback loops indicating that as phenomenally in-shape athletes, we were working hard.

In the case of pitching, however, I identified high heart rate as a negative. Using my Fitbit, I monitored my heart rate prior to going on stage for different pitches leading up to Demo Day — just and as I would for swimming. The lower my heart rate, the more progress I felt I was making. This was my North Star.

Practice Makes Permanent

This was one of my baseball coaches favorite expressions. Over the three months, I tried practicing my pitch in cars, to friends, to colleagues and to cameras.

I created a rule for myself during these practice sessions. No matter what happened I would NEVER stop the pitch and say ‘let me start over.’ I realized that doing this would train me to want to do this in the middle of every pitch. That was a dangerous training practice.

Instead, if I made a mistake, I rolled with it or acknowledged it. If there was an interruption such as someone walking in late to a pitch practice, I asked them to take a seat and continued until I finished the pitch. In my best cases, I made a joke out of any interruption which put the test audience at ease.

Note: Pitching while driving didn’t work for me. The theory was that it would simulate a distracting environment. In practice, it’s amazing how much attention an unprotected left turn takes.

Win the Crowd, Win your Freedom

I identified early on that getting a laugh in the first three lines put me at ease and (presumably) lowered my heart rate. This isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Most public presentations have low entertainment value and even lower presentation quality. Commenting on virtually anything that was said previously that is not a verbatim cliche such as “I love this city” or “let’s put your hands together for [previous speaker]” will get you a laugh or applause. It must only show the slightest wit, tweak, or that you were listening to previous speakers.

An example: In my Demo Day presentation, I listened to the entire 45-minute keynote speaker simply to find my hook. I keyed into one segment particularly when the speaker talked about hiding emotions and not to believe anyone who said “they were killing it.” When she said that, I looked at my friend and made a joke. He laughed. I had my hook.

What did I open with as a Drone company that sprays and kills invasive plants to protect trees? “DroneSeed. We are killing it” (1:19). The audience loved it. Was it original? Yes. Was it brilliant wit? Meh. Maybe. Did the audience give a big laugh? Yes. Was I MUCH more comfortable on stage after a laugh? Hell yes.

techstars-7842

Pro tip: If you’re in a series of speakers, listen to every other person’s hook. If they use what you were going to use, you have to find a new hook or your funny line is going to go over super poorly.

“Ain’t Nothing but a Peanut.”

That’s the famous phrase of bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman as he does lift repetitions over and over. I found I similarly needed reps for my pitch in the two weeks leading up to Demo Day.

As we received feedback from mentors, we were making changes to slides and the script to incorporate it. I had to stay on top of all the activity and figure out how I would naturally say the new lines.

Most nights before going to bed, I flipped open my laptop, assigned myself a certain number of pitch repetitions, and recorded myself doing each one using Quicktime. When I felt I nailed it, I would transcribe a script from the video.

Embrace the Script

I personally don’t believe in scripting a pitch first. It doesn’t work for me and it feels fake. What I do believe in NOW, post Techstars, is pitching something from an outline repeatedly and seeing how my natural inflection lands with the audience. Once I have that, I write the script — but only for a Demo Day-caliber event.

Here is why: Before Demo Day, I fought the script. I fought it hard. Then I hit a point where I realized that I had my pitch 90% down but couldn’t get that last 10% to come off clean. The remaining stutters, stalls and hesitations were caused by the recurring need to make a choice about what words to use.

I was at that point 3 days before Demo Day. I took one of my Quicktime videos and wrote down every word. I removed some clutter and then committed to the verbatim version. It came out clean. Holy crap, is this what actors actually do? I never knew.

Like it’s your Job

I haven’t yet addressed the adrenaline. How did I drive my heart rate down? The answer on how to deal with adrenaline came to me after presenting at McMenamin’s.

I recalled a conversation I had with a skydiving instructor. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked him how many jumps he did as an instructor before the adrenaline didn’t kick in and it was a ‘job.’ His answer was about 100 jumps.

That was my answer for adrenaline. My thesis is that overcoming adrenaline is as simple as doing something so many times that it’s routine (though hopefully not boring).

By the time Demo Day rolled around, I’d pitched to a live audience for feedback multiple times per week. I had also added 10 pitches a night for two weeks. I’d embraced pitching as my job. It was routine. It was having less of an affect on my heart rate each time.

I would say that is one of Techstars’ secrets and why they have so many flawless pitches on Demo Day. Does everyone need this? Maybe not. I did.

Staying in Shape

I was really pleased with our pitch. Go on, judge me here. However, after Demo Day, I had a question, what do I do to stay in pitching shape and keep pushing my boundaries?

To broaden my abilities, I enrolled in an improv comedy class with Jet City Improv to up the ante. Realistically, today I pitch all the time to evangelize our company. I use our Techstars pitch as a base. However, improv ups the game. I have no idea what my partners will do. I have no message or point to deliver, my objective is to be funny for people who are expecting entertainment. Luckily, there are rules and even an ethos that messing up can be just as funny.

So what was my heart rate prior to a live improv performance in July? It was a nice 115 BPM. I interpret that to mean I’m having fun — but it’s not boring.

How do you prep for public speaking? What’s your training regime? Is heart rate your best indicator or have you found something better? Have thoughts on this post or just found it helpful and want to drop a line? Email me. I love feedback. Also, try finding an improv place near you. 








The Core SaaS Products New Techstars Companies Should Consider

Grant Canary is the CEO of DroneSeed, a Techstars 2016 company, which uses drones to automate and dominate the forestry services vertical.

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This is as an open letter to companies that just got into Techstars, as well as any others that have just a few months of runway to crush it or fail. When DroneSeed was accepted to Techstars, we knew our next three months as a small team would hold more opportunities than we could physically manage. Fire hydrant, meet mouth.

In order to Do More Faster, we built our own personal operating system as some call it (called an ERP, enterprise resource planning, by large businesses), by cobbling together SaaS specific products to optimize and reduce time on setting up meetings, calendars, mail, expenses, and task management. Some of these things worked, some didn’t. It took us time to figure this out the hard way. Below are the services we found essential based on those experiences. We call these products our team’s Core SaaS.

Before reading on, understand two principles

1. Reduce friction to get more done. Our philosophy to using SaaS products mirror’s amazon’s analysis of purchasing. The more clicks required the less you or your investor will do it. Amazon famously pioneered this by relentlessly reducing the clicks required to purchase an item. Sales went up. Here’s how that works in our startup: if every time I send a link to our promo video I have to look it up in my Gmail from Lauren, the more I’ll get distracted by new emails and not get that extra email sent or I’ll send it way after its relevant. Opportunity lost. See below how we use Streak’s clips feature to solve for this.

2. Don’t suck at email. Communication is lifeblood. Interest is fickle, especially with investors. Its not acceptable to suck at email. See principle 1, reduce friction. Reply fast, hit inbox zero, hypercommunicate. See first steps here from Do More Faster on how NOT to suck at email. We work on this daily like you do. See below for the SaaS we use to be better.

Table: The Core SaaS DroneSeed uses. We use the following. I’ve covered the non-obvious first:

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Seems like a lot of SaaS, eh? Well, in total, we pay about $200 per month. We think this is reasonable compared to the alternative of SAP, Oracle, or even Microsoft products.

Note: If you just got into Techstars, nearly all the core SaaS products we use have Techstars connect perks with yearly discounts, sometimes 1-year free etc. Get ahead by getting access to Techstars connect as soon as possible before beginning program and getting organized. Your first two weeks are your craziest.
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Our reviews & why we use these products

Disclaimer: Some of these are Techstars companies. We don’t know the teams (but would like to!). These reviews are our own and we’ve received no compensation for them.
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EMAIL

BOOMERANG
2nd Contact reminders via email.
You will make connections to awesome people. They will be busy. 25–50% of the time they may require a second or third email to remind them to send something, make an introduction etc. We haven’t found a better way than Boomerang to track these opportunities. If no one responds to your email, you set boomerang to put the email back at the top of your gmail as an unread email in 2–4 days (you define the time period). Task management by inbox — done right. We don’t know of comparable products. Oh yeah, its got a lot of other features to.

STREAK
CRM System — Pick a CRM and use it. We use Streak.
We needed a CRM system. You will need one too. We suggest tracking three pipelines: Investors, Customers, & Potential Hires.

Example with investors: You need to record what their investment check size is and if they do convertible notes or SAFE’s. You should be meeting a LOT of investors and you cannot forget their check size and terms preference. If on the second meeting, you pitch a 100K investment and they only make 500K investments or more, you’ve just lost the opportunity or severely damaged credibility.

We like Excel because we can customize it to do anything. We also like management by inbox. Thus, we like Streak because it does both these things.

Another reason we like Streak is it has Snippets. Over and over you will need to send a forwardable describing your business. Same with the links to your promo video and relevant press articles or white papers. Reduce the friction by using clips. Set snippets to paste your list of links. It hangs out in your gmail next to the formatting icon. Click it, click the snippet you’ve saved such as “101 — investor links”, snippets then pastes your list of links into your email. Go pro and use hot typed phrases to trigger the same.

Lastly, we use send later in Streak. We use this to time emails so they reach recipients when they’ll be read. Techstars companies send weekly updates to mentors and potential investors. All 9 companies in our cohort did this, mostly on Monday at 8am. We sent on Tuesday or Wednesday at 7am so ours would get the most time and consideration. Also, not everyone is impressed by your work ethic and 3am emails. For some it’s a red flag. See the book ReWork here on this topic. Use send later instead.

CALENDLY
Make appointment times a 1-step process, not “go-fish.”
Ever traded 3–4 emails just to find a time to meet? We couldn’t afford that. We also didn’t want to pay for an executive assistant. Each additional email that says “are you available between 2–4pm Wednesday?” increases the chance of losing the connection. Instead include a link to your schedule in your email signature using Calendly. Everyone can see when you are available including VIP’s executive assistants who will love you. You can fill up your schedule quickly.

Pro tip: When pointing people to your schedule link in emails, include language that says: “my schedule is accessible at the link below to find a time that works for us both.” Don’t act like a movie-god. You’re asking people that are likely higher in the social strata than you to do executive assistant work. They’ll do it to maximize their time and avoid trading three emails, but keep it humble.

Pro tip 2: Block-off work periods each day. Its not sexy to have a calendar that looks WAY too available.

Request to Calendly — give us the option to by default put 5–15 min between each appointment?
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INTROS

CONSPIRE
Use it to ask for intros. It’s better than LinkedIn.
Want an intro to anyone within 2 degrees of separation? Use Conspire. If you’ve made a list of everyone who has invested in your space in the past and want an intro to Ben Horowitz, then conspire is your best bet.

Conspire requests access to your emails and then analyzes who you email and how often. Yep, that’s invasive. But so is Gmail. With Conspire you get max value in this trade for privacy. It tells you everyone in your network who emails the contact you’re trying to reach and how frequently using a Wi-Fi signal. It does this up to two degrees of separation. Once you’ve found who you’re most comfortable asking, it helps you send a forwardable using a handy template.
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NOTES

WORKLIFE
Do meetings with agendas, notes, follow-ups. We use Worklife and send to Trello.
Have an agenda. Take notes. Follow-up. Simple best practices, right? Yet few people do it, just the best people. Be the best. After you have that amazing meeting, you’re buzzing, and everyone agrees to do things, write it down and for you and them. I use Worklife because of it’s format. It provides 3 sections, one to have an agenda, the second to take notes, and the third to follow-up. Follow ups export to Trello. The format is clean and delightful and uncluttered like Medium and Google Search.

Pro tip — know that your notes are public if you add people to the meeting. Take notes accordingly.

Why I’m not including a section on Trello/Asana/Github.

Everyone has an opinion on Trello/Asana/Github. Your opinion may be correct. It may be ridiculous. Either way, you already know about it and if you don’t see this.
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ACCOUNTING

EXPENSE BOT
Let robots log expenses.
Nothing screws up team dynamics more than payroll and expenses. Seriously. People are regularly fired over expenses, OR employees walk away with serious misgivings. Companies regularly misstate their accounts because someone had 15–100k in expenses they hadn’t submitted yet. People are reluctant to put things on credit cards and slowing down product development because they feel they always forget to log the receipt.

For all these reasons we use expense bot. Photograph the receipt and all the data entry is done by them. Approvals are easy. It maps to Quickbooks expense categories. There’s far fewer friction points. The expense manager gets accurate cash position. The employee doesn’t spend hours sorting through a shoebox of receipts and tracking down visa statements for the one’s they lost.

QUICKBOOKS
You need Quickbooks.
If you raise from venture capital you will at some point get asked for 3 months of clean books in the due diligence process. Have clean books. We use Quickbooks. So does nearly everyone else on the planet it seems. Keep your accounting costs low by using Quickbooks. Use it to track a budget versus actual.

Consider an accountant. If you struggle with your personal taxes then you need a business accountant. They will keep your books “clean” and at least semi-standard so you check the box in diligence. Also, if you have budget you can create an invoices@companyname.com like we did and have people send all invoices to the accountant to be paid by wire on the 1st and 15th.

Pay people on time. Trust is just like a bank account, earn a balance by doing simple things on time. Like us you’re a startup, you’ll need that trust in the bank at some point.

DOCUSIGN
Documents Signature Service. We use DocuSign.
Remember what I mentioned earlier about friction points? Printing, signing, scanning, and attaching is four physical steps. DocuSign is usually about three digital ones. We make it dead simple for investors, employees, and customers to sign things. We believe this increases success.

Bonus — all your signed documents are in one place for when diligence starts. We suggest picking one service and sticking with it. You will be tempted to churn the 30 day trials from DocuSign, HelloSign, and SendDoc. Don’t. If you do that, you’ll then have to piece all the docs together from each platform later. This isn’t doing more faster. This is rework.
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STORAGE

DROPBOX
Put stuff in one place. Expiring links for investors.
We TRY to put stuff in one place. If you succeed in doing this, tell us how. We chose Dropbox over google drive for three reasons: Price, video in browser, and expiring links. Google drive is awesome due to sheets and docs for collaboration. However, at the time we chose it was expensive.

Every investor asks for your deck and videos of your product prior to talking. Your first decks will suck. Your deck will have valuable competitive intel. Investors DO send these to their competitive investments. For these reasons we don’t like our deck or videos floating around. However, what we REALLY don’t like is NOT having investor conversations. We tried a 1-pager to get meetings and it hurt us. We got fewer meetings.

Therefore, we now use Dropbox with an expiring link of 7–30 days. This works for our deck and videos because Dropbox allows in browser viewing for both.

Pro tip: use numbering first in a file name to order folders and keep the order constant. i.e. 100Finance, 200Sales, 300HR etc. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your file access will be due to location memory.
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CONCLUSION

Conclusion, we hope this is helpful. We hope you don’t have to struggle through what we did setting this up. We hope you Do More Faster (we now owe David Cohen another dollar).

If you have your own Core SaaS setup you’ve found to be awesome, write up what the combos are, how much you spend monthly, and post it on Medium, we’ll link to it below.

This post was originally published on Medium








Mentoring Startups, Fostering Talent and Using Technology for Good

Grant Canary is the CEO of DroneSeed, a Techstars 2016 company, which uses drones to automate and dominate the forestry services vertical. Grant recently interviewed Jenny Fielding, the Managing Director of Techstars IoT. Applications for the IoT program close July 10th, 2016. Apply here. 

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GRANT: Explain a bit about your startup and your background.

JENNY: In 2006, I was working at a big bank. I had a personal pain point and started brainstorming on ways to solve it. I wound up teaming up with some technical people and we founded our company — Switch Mobile, a voice-over-IP company. It was a big thing for me leaving corporate to launch a startup, especially since I didn’t come from that world at all or have an entrepreneurial background. It was pretty amazing, traumatic, awesome — you know all the words for building a startup. Then three years of hard work, luck and a little bit of magic pixie dust, we sold the company and we had a really nice exit in 2009.

GRANT: Now, you’re the Managing Director of Techstars Barclays NYC and IoT. Help us make the connection. From startup to Managing Director — what got you interested there and how’d you make that leap?

JENNY: After I exited my company, I was trying to think of the next big idea. In the meantime, I started angel investing as a mechanism to give back to the community that was so helpful and supportive of me when I was running my startup. Along the way, I developed a taste for mentoring and helping startups. Instead of founding another company, I wound up going to the other side of the fence and investing in companies. For four and a half years, I started and ran a venture group at the BBC. The best thing I did at the BBC was launching an internal accelerator called BBC Labs, which is still going strong today. In that moment, I realized that big corporates need to be investing in and learning from startups. An accelerator is a great way to do that.

So I was sold on the accelerator model and had an exciting opportunity to join Techstars. Now I run two programs for Techstars: our FinTech program in partnership with Barclays and our Internet of Things program. We have five corporate partners that support that program.

GRANT: I want to dig into that a little bit. I had an interesting conversation with The Nature Conservancy recently. They were looking at massive organizations as holders of forest land and how startups could help those organizations get access to new technology faster. How has working with startups and their technology benefitted BBC and Barclays, as it could The Nature Conservancy?

JENNY: In the last few years, companies have realized that everything cannot be built and conceived internally- it’s too expensive and it’s too slow. The counterpart to that is that startups move really fast and they can be ahead of the curve. If you put those two things together, great things can happen. Yet, there’s a cultural divide that makes it difficult for startups and corporations to work together. If you can be the bridge between those two worlds, as Techstars often is, then a lot of innovation can happen.

GRANT: What else is Techstars insanely good at?

JENNY: Techstars is amazing at identifying and tapping potential. Over the course of the three months, Techstars helps startups tell their story in a way that is super concise, sharp and compelling. When startups come in, they are not ready meet with corporate partners or VCs, but at the close of our program, they are shined up and impressive.

GRANT: I would second that. It’s been a world of learning for us as far as how we tell our story. As far as identifying talent, how do expectations differ for investing in a hardware startup versus a software startup?

JENNY: At Techstars, we really look at founders. Whether investing in hardware or software — who are the founders? When we’re evaluating companies across the spectrum, we look at the foundational team and the skillsets they bring to the table.

GRANT: Let me shift and ask about the industry side of things. A lot of people are seeing drones as a fad. Other people see it as an entire revolution that’s going to impact society in very interesting ways. Where do you sit on that spectrum?

JENNY: I’m much more towards the revolution side! Drones have so much potential and can do so much. Everyone loves to talk about delivery and being a Jetsons-like society, but space exploration, security surveillance and transportation can all be enabled by drones. As the technology develops, we’re going to see some real game-changing use cases, so I’m pretty bullish.

GRANT: You see a lot of applications in Internet of Things. Where have you seen drones intersecting with IoT that excites you?

JENNY: Right now, I’m really interested in smart cities and the way that technology can transform smart cities. I think drones are a big part of that. I recently saw a drone that fights pollution by cleaning the air. Many use cases go beyond one drone and an operator, scaling to impact cities and mass numbers of people. I’m hopeful that there can be more drones for public good.

GRANT: What do you say to someone who’s a skeptic of that position?

JENNY: Think bigger.

This post was originally published on Medium.