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Announcing Pillars.io, an exclusive community for technology managers June 26, 2015

Posted by Brian Link in startups.
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If you are a manager of any kind in the software and technology world,Pillars.io please take a look at this new startup, Pillars.io. They’re building something that will have a huge impact on how technology managers go about finding their next job, even if you’re not actively looking today. Pillars knows how to accurately describe the important and subtle differencs to the breadth and depth of your skills and experience and will help you define exactly what kind of technology manager you are so you can stop getting spammed with inappropriate job inquiries and set yourself up to land the perfect job. Here’s a quick blurb from their site. Please read the full text at Pillars and complete the survey to help them as they build out this product! Thank you!

Pillars of a Great Technology Manager

We believe all manager roles in technology are amazingly complex and to be truly great, a technology manager needs to be extremely well-rounded and an expert in many things. We call these things the Pillars of a Great Technology Manager. So whether you are a first time tech lead, an experienced software development manager or any kind of technology manager in the field of software, IT, mobile and the Internet, you need to have incredible breadth and depth to your skills and experience across these pillars:

  • PEOPLE: the ability to manage a team, hire, fire, mentor and coach; be a career guide and the culture advocate;
  • PROCESS: the owner of all processes, the agile change agent or scrum master, obstacle remover and facilitator;
  • TECHNOLOGY: the master of many hands-on skills, tech strategy, scalable architectures and solver of the team’s toughest problems;
  • PRODUCT: the lean thinker, visionary and roadmap planner, subject matter expert and end-user advocate;
  • EXECUTION: the owner of budget, risks and on-time delivery; the coordinator, expectation setter and controller of operations and logistics.

Read more about Pillars

And don’t forget to give ’em your email address if you’re interested in learning more later when they launch

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Columbus Geek Night January 14, 2014

Posted by Brian Link in Internet culture, startups.
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There’s a lot of events in town, but it’s rare to find a good cross-section of passionate technologists in a purely social meet-up. There are many places software developers come together and interact, but it’s often in the context of something else: Startup Weekend, Code Mash, Code and Coffee, startup pitch events, Tech Columbus or individual meet ups for smaller groups on their own like agile, PHP, ruby, hadoop, etc.

We have a lot of great talent in Columbus and I’m hoping to introduce something interesting I found while living in Providence, Rhode Island. A no-agenda, completely independent casual get-together for software engineers. If this sounds interesting, please check it out and join us: http://columbusgeeknight.wordpress.com. The first event will be Jan 22, 2014.

I’m also hoping that some subset of us can drive this thing forward, not just me or any one company. Please let me know if you’d like to get involved.

See you there.

What do you really *love* on the Internet? June 29, 2012

Posted by Brian Link in agile, Internet culture, startups.
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There’s a few things that I have come across on the interwebs recently that have inspired this blog post. And I post pretty rarely, so this feels like a momentous occasion.

First, I clicked through the fun little app called “Fish – a tap essay”. It’s a great summary in poetic dramatic fashion of how we are overwhelmed by liking and sharing online and asks the question “what does it mean to love something on the Internet” when most sharing is fleeting and forgotten (reminds me of the business case for Toobla, a previous startup I worked with, which everyone has surely forgotten.) In short, the stuff you love is the stuff you come back to over and over again. Or share with multiple people over time. The apps on your phone you use everyday, those great reference sites or blog posts or articles that you repeatedly refer people to. These are the things that shine above the everyday “like”.

That little “Fish” app encourages us to think about what really matters when you share online and I like that. So I think I’ll publish a few of these things that I think matter.

Here’s a few of the things I’m most often referring people to are on entrepreneurship and building Internet startups. Here’s some resources I hope you find useful.

* Early Stage Startup Advice and Funding:

This blog post I wrote last week covers a lot, and I’ll keep adding to it over time just for fun

* Books for Entrepreneurs:

Here’s a few different sources of good books on Quora.

And an excellent condensed list here for startup entrepreneurs.

* Must Read Startup Resources Online:

http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/

* Lean Startup:

http://leancanvas.com/ – this one piece of paper is more powerful than any 20 page business plan

* “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” – First time I saw the phrase ambient awareness:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07awareness-t.html?pagewanted=all

* My Favorite Awesome Apps:

Amazon Mobile – price check anything anywhere. and order stuff you know, whenever you think of it.

Evernote – this app is my brain so I don’t have to keep things in my brain

Pandora – addicted to the discovery and familiarity at the same time

PocketPedia3 – bring your DVD catalog with you anywhere so you don’t buy dupes!

Scrabble – nothing beats the real thing with words, friends

Starwalk – augmented reality astronomy interactive guide. shows the stars’ names and constellations, locations of planets as you hold it and rotate it over your head at night

Zite (iPad) – this is my secret news source. only tool that gets me and my passions (startups, entrepreneurship, particle physics, cosmology, apple, disruptive technology)

Image credit: Joe Stump

Early Stage Startup Advice and Raising a Seed Round with Crowdfunding June 20, 2012

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, startups.
Tags: , , , , ,
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Many of the entrepreneurs I meet ask about how to get funded. It’s the inevitable first hurdle every entrepreneur must cross. And it’s often the first place they fail and return to their cubicle jobs… for good Imagereason, it’s pretty hard. Here’s a few basics I assume everyone knows already:

  • Build a compelling product with a compelling business model. (Know your market, build the MVP first, price it appropriately or use an appropriate business model. Revenue beats users, IMO. But read this too.)
  • Show some kind of traction. Attract a team. Win your first paying customers. Get enough users or downloads of your app. Whatever is relevant. (And more is required typically the higher amount of money you’re trying to raise)
  • Build your own relationships with investors. Find all your local people. Get on AngelList and follow investors. Research investors that are in your space. Follow them on Twitter. Read everything you can. Leverage LinkedIn to build connections. Meet them and ask for advice first, not money. Get introductions through strong connections. Investors invest in friends and friends of friends first (they’re human too).
  • Build a killer pitch deck. What problem do you solve? What’s the solution? Make sure it’s a pain killer not a vitamin. Keep it simple. If it can’t be said in a sentence or two, your pitch is too complicated. Tell everyone about your pitch. Take advice from your wife, Mom, advisors, and guy at the bar until it’s perfectly clear and says something compelling. Consider putting a professional 2 minute video on your site.
  • Seek out advice proactively. Have coffee multiple times a week with helpful people. Make new connections. Be just as giving in helping others. Engage in local meetup groups. Startup weekend. Conferences and events. But don’t overwhelm yourself networking, it should be a constant but limited amount of your time.
  • Share your idea. When talking to advisors, peers, investors, friends, etc. please don’t hesitate to discuss your idea. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they don’t get critical feedback early enough. If you’re asking people to sign NDAs, you’re doing it wrong. Consider patents if you need to.
  • Have an expert. No matter what industry you’re in or how much you think you know, it’s always better to have someone on your team who has specific, credible experience in your space. If it’s not a core team member, they should at least be a dedicated advisor or board member.
  • Give away your equity. At very early stages where you’re most likely to fail, it’s important to build the right team. If you don’t have a technical co-founder with skin in the game, you will fail. If equity will entice someone to work on your project as hard as you are, for heaven sake, give it away. If you haven’t landed your first seed round of funding and you’re afraid to give away 1% or even 10% for some critical resource/advisor/service provider/technology partner, you’re doing it wrong. Be smart, and seek advice of those who have done this before, but definitely don’t be stingy. 100% of nothing is still nothing.

Bootstrapping is best possible solution, if you can afford to fund your own startup. Plenty of great success stories start here, but it’s a lot slower and harder to build a startup while working a full-time job. Friends and family is where most entrepreneurs go next. And if you run a Lean Startup as you should, raising $100K or less can go a very long way to getting a new startup off the ground.

You likely don’t have a dozen rich friends you can borrow 10 to 20 grand from each, and will therefore be looking for funding. You can try to find those angels: in your backyard, in a local ACA group, or on angel.co. Or you can even try to find Venture Capital. But unless you’re a rock star, are looking to raise an A/B/C round or have a personal relationship, that’s extremely unlikely.

What’s left is crowd funding. There are many new crowd funding options emerging for entrepreneurs, especially as the JOBS Act becomes a reality. I’m not sure how well each of these will work today, but I suspect going forward they become one of the more popular options for early stage startups looking to raise initial rounds of cash. You might first look at the National Crowdfunding Association to learn some basics: http://nlcfa.org/crowdfund-101.html

Startup Fundraising Options in America

  • 40billion.com – Raise money. Build dreams. Since 2008, early crowd funding platform.
  • CrowdTilt.com – Group funding, designed to raise funds for a group of people to do stuff together.
  • EarlyShares.com – Equity based crowd funding platform.
  • EquityNet.com – Business plan software and Angel Network.
  • Fundable.com – Designed for startups. Built by people I know in Columbus, Ohio.
  • FundaGeek.com – Crowdfunding for technical innovation
  • Fundrazr.com – Reach more people, raise more money.
  • GoFundMe.com – General fundraising platform for individuals.
  • GrowVC.com – Global startup fundraising plus nurturing ecosystem, raising up to $1M
  • Indiegogo.com – Fundraising for more than just films.
  • Invested.in – Helps anyone raise money for anything
  • Kickstarter.com – Perhaps not originally intended to fund startups, but has been used as such.
  • MicroVentures.com – Connecting Angel investors and startups.
  • OnSetStart.com – They have a free crowd funding bible available too if you help promote it
  • PeerBackers.com – Funding entrepreneurs to raise funding from peers
  • RocketHub.com – Launch, Fund and Fly!
  • SoMoLend.com – Lend. Borrow. Grow. People investing in people.
  • Start.ac – Crowdfunding platform with mentors. US based.
  • TechMoola.com – Project fundraising in the technology space

Nonprofit and Charitable Fundraising Options

International Fundraising Options

There’s plenty of resources out there. A few worth reading on the topic:

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/

An Entrepreneurial State of Mind March 12, 2011

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, startups.
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This week is the big South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX where every well-known geek (good definition here) in the country converges to mingle, party and play with the latest tech and apps. Some even attend the conference and learn something. I’ll miss hanging in the blogger lounge meeting all the luminaries I’ve come to enjoy keeping up with online.

And not being there at SXSWi makes me feel a little like I’m ignoring that entrepreneurial part of myself I enjoy exercising occasionally. I’ve also recently removed myself from the startup ratrace, having worked for one startup or another over the last 5 or 6 years. My new job is with a company called KACE owned by a big stable company, Dell. And I gotta say working from home with a great job with great benefits is an awesome thing – stability goes really well with families 🙂

But the point of my blog post today, and what I’ve recently started to reinforce and remind myself of, is that you don’t have to give up stability and join the ranks of startup enthusiasts full-time to be an entrepreneur. There’s plenty you can do on the side to keep that entrepreneurial dream alive.  In fact I know plenty of people that do great startup work on the side: like the guys from Big Kitty Labs, my friends at weBuild, students who build some killer iPhone apps and web apps and plenty of people from TechLife Columbus.

What you really need to do is just start doing something.

Picture credit: Baltimore Studios

Great Business and Agile Books for Startups January 26, 2011

Posted by Brian Link in agile, startups.
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I keep running into great sources of information.  List of books I should read that I rarely find time for.  I’ll post a few great lists I’ve found. I’ve been wanting to build myself a list of must-reads that I hope you’ll find helpful too.

Here’s a list of Agile related books that I recommend.  Please add more in the comments – I’m interested in finding new books too!

  1. Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum – Mike Cohn
  2. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash – Mary and Tom Poppendieck
  3. Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change (2nd Edition) – Kent Beck
  4. The Art of Agile Development – James Shore
  5. Agile Web Development with Rails – Sam Ruby, Dave Thomas, David Heinemeier Hansson
  6. Agile Project Management with Scrum (Microsoft Professional) – Ken Schwaber
  7. User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development – Mike Cohn
  8. Agile Estimating and Planning – Mike Cohn
  9. Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development) – Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle
  10. Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products (2nd Edition) – Jim Highsmith

Must-read books for startups (and general business books) great list from Quora:

  1. The Four Steps to the Epiphany Steven Gary Blank
  2. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development: A Cheat Sheet to the Four Steps to the Epiphany Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits
  3. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers – Yves Pigneur and Alex Osterwalder
  4. Founders at Work – Jessica Livingston
  5. Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur – Pamela Slim
  6. My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley Ben Casnocha
  7. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
  8. Crossing the Chasm – Geoff Moore
  9. The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
  10. Getting to Plan B – Randy Komisar & John Mullins
  11. The Art of the Start – Guy Kawasaki
  12. Venture Capital and the Finance of Innovation – Andrew Metrick
  13. Viral Loop – Adam L. Penenberg
  14. The Monk and the Riddle – Randy Komisar
  15. The PayPal Wars – Eric M. Jackson
  16. The Facebook Effect – David Kirkpatrick
  17. Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good – Sarah Lacyhttp://amzn.to/gd0sJ4
  18. Made to Stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath http://amzn.to/eo6ndK
  19. Landing Page Optimization Tim Ash http://amzn.to/gYpVPY
  20. Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity Avinash Kaushik http://amzn.to/etvEZe
  21. The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene http://amzn.to/h5oiYa
  22. The Non-Designer’s Design Book – Robin Williams http://amzn.to/hXtbyL
  23. Getting Real – Jason Fried, David Hansson, Matthew Lindermanhttp://amzn.to/gdY3VX
  24. Dreaming in Code – Scot Rosenberg http://amzn.to/dX5MSq
  25. Do More Faster David Cohen, Brad Feld http://amzn.to/fwdbH5
  26. RockStar Business – Adriaan Pienaar http://amzn.to/dKipra
  27. Crush It – Gary Vaynerchuk http://amzn.to/fz2e2b
  28. Fascinate – Sally Hogshead http://amzn.to/i9wgEY
  29. The Theory of Fun – Raph Koster http://amzn.to/dEt2n1
  30. Lincoln on Leadership – Donald Phillips http://amzn.to/fmLeC9
  31. The Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz http://amzn.to/gwpAkd
  32. How We Decide – Jonah Lehrer http://amzn.to/gRYTUr
  33. Courage: The Backbone of Leadership – Gus Lee http://amzn.to/gzEUVV
  34. The E-Myth Revisted – Michael Gerber http://amzn.to/glZPcE
  35. Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug http://amzn.to/eiKUIC
  36. The Mythical Man Month – Fred Brooks http://amzn.to/hhKTR0
  37. Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most – Doug Stone et al. http://amzn.to/f9Xkeg
  38. Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy – Carl Shapiro http://amzn.to/hn4Wbj
  39. Only the Paranoid Survive – Andrew Grove http://amzn.to/ev5Z6d
  40. Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh http://amzn.to/dJNO2X
  41. Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure – Jerry Kaplan http://amzn.to/fTnqHe
  42. The Nudist On The Late Shift – Po Bronson http://amzn.to/eCtiAV
  43. The Microsoft Way – Randall Stross http://amzn.to/ekJ8P3
  44. Inside Intel – Tim Jackson http://amzn.to/fhVS0w
  45. Accidental Empires – Robert X. Cringely http://amzn.to/gf0hTa
  46. Wisdom Of Crowds – James Surowiecki http://amzn.to/ekOH0A
  47. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell http://amzn.to/eIM0Cx
  48. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson http://amzn.to/fVFgdi
  49. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Coveyhttp://amzn.to/e3Z1Yp
  50. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant – W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgnehttp://amzn.to/dV0Upi
  51. The Deviant’s Advantage – Ryan Matthews, Watts Wackerhttp://amzn.to/dMlpko
  52. Good to Great by Jim Collins http://amzn.to/e5oALJ
  53. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pinkhttp://amzn.to/hnmyz
  54. Crucial Conversations Kerry Patterson et al. http://amzn.to/hhQ41Y
  55. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweckhttp://amzn.to/eygzLp
  56. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything – Kerry Pattersonhttp://amzn.to/dYpyAM
  57. Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace – Gordon MacKenzie http://amzn.to/fH5AYj
  58. Hope for the Flowers – Trina Paulus http://amzn.to/icpQHb
  59. Finding fertile ground – Dr. Scott A. Shane http://amzn.to/guIkjN
  60. Making Ideas Happen – Scott Belsky http://amzn.to/dUSmUk
  61. Rework – Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson http://amzn.to/gZI8wW


Bootstrapping Startups For the Win February 5, 2010

Posted by Brian Link in bootstrapping, entrepreneurialism, Internet culture.
Tags: ,
2 comments

Here in Columbus there have been a few Internet startups, and each entrepreneur if you asked them would tell you that getting started is the hardest part. Many people think they have a great idea, maybe even have written it down and dreamed of turning it into something big. But taking those first few steps of talking to other people, committing your own money, finding a team to help build it and figuring out how to tell the world about it is where you need great strategy (and some luck).

One strategy, if you’re lucky enough, is to borrow a million bucks from your rich uncle. You might also find an angel investor or venture capitalist and beat the one in a million odds and get funded before you have a product or revenue. The much more likely scenario and the smartest strategy is much more difficult, if you can pull it off. It’s called bootstrapping.

The term comes from a saying that started in the 1800s: “to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” which implies an impossible task. As a metaphor, it means to better oneself by one’s own unaided efforts. And today it often refers to starting a business that is self-sustaining and created with little or no external help.

Bootstrapping is hard. You need to stick your neck out; quit your job; have some money to spend; have a great network to lean on; and have a lot of confidence and guts. It’s certainly not for everyone. But for the brave who have a great idea, the reward can be huge. The best practices for bootstrapping can fill volumes of books, but here’s a quick summary of some ideas and strategies:

1. Equity. By bootstrapping, you can control your own stake and your partners’ equity percentages better. Equity is your most powerful tool to attract big talent. But be careful, there’s great need for balance here. Don’t dole out too much too soon and conversely don’t hesitate to share your equity for the right reasons. Many entrepreneurs fall into the stingy founder’s trap – they refuse to give up equity and because of that, they never get the help they need to launch the company.  In that scenario, they have 100% of a company that’s worth nothing.  Instead, offer equity to those who can dramatically move your business forward, but get advice about what percent makes sense at your current stage of growth. Equity, they say, is the most expensive compensation you can dole out (1% of your company when it becomes a $100MM company will be worth a million dollars!).

2. Partners. Choose your partners and co-founders wisely. They should complement your skills and pass both the beer and elevator tests. (Is this person someone you’d want to hang out and have beers with?  If you were stuck in an elevator with this person for 24 hours, would you murder them?) You’ll be spending more time with your co-founders than you might with your family, so best to have a great relationship and high level of trust and respect.

3. Business Plans. Don’t dwell so much on the format and length of your plan, but rather on the concepts of the business, the product or service and your competitive advantage. You should know exactly what your customer looks like, what alternatives they have, what the value is of what you’re offering and where you’re going to find those customers. And if you don’t have all those answers, get yourself some partners or team members who can. An executive summary of 1-2 pages is best. It should explain the big picture as concisely as possible. Don’t drag anyone through the details of your product until you’ve completely nailed it at a high level. Also prepare a Kawasaki 10/20/30 presentation and the two sentence and three paragraph versions. You’ll need those for marketing and email conversations to get people interested in having conversations with you.

4. Investors. You’re going to need investors at some point. Hopefully later instead of sooner. But as CEO of your company, your role is chief fundraiser, so start building great relationships. Find a trusted few to be part of your inner circle to give you honest and direct feedback. It’s never too early to plant seeds and start conversations. But be sure your message is polished enough before you request the face to face meeting. It’s not as hard as you think to get meetings with investors. But it’s very hard to build a compelling enough story to make them part with their money. Practice your pitch a dozen times on friends and friendly investors before you start talking to your big target investors. Also, do not assume that the big VC is your only option. Angel investors and chunks of 10-20K are extremely viable. It’s a lot easier to find a dozen people or more with 20K than it is to ask for large fractions of a million dollars from any investor.

At weBuild (http://webuildstartups.com), the Internet company accelerator where I’m a Principal, we are seeing more ideas and hearing about great things getting started in Columbus. One such idea came to us from an entrepreneur named Dave Cherry, previously of Limitedbrands. His idea was simple: help sporting teams and events sell more tickets. How? By offering deep discounts for seats that would normally go unsold. We brainstormed with his idea and helped Dave narrow his focus into something commercializable. TiXiT is now one of our portfolio companies and is launching today at http://www.tixitbox.com

I wish you the best of luck getting your own startup going. weBuild would like to hear about your best ideas. Submit them here at http://webuildstartups.com/apply.

On Being Efficient in the Startup Internet Culture September 22, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, Internet culture, socialmedia.
Tags: , ,
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Coffee and a LaptopI’ve recently cut back the number of hours I’m working during an average day. Time with my family is very important to me. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got a huge appetite for being involved with the high tech Internet startup culture. Being involved with startups often means you’re doing more than the average person in corporate America. That’s not meant to be a competitive statement – just a fact – startup entrepreneurs need to wear multiple hats. The CEO is often the product guy, the finance guy, the technical guy and HR rolled into one. It begs the question of how to keep up and stay efficient with all the context switching you need to do. This isn’t a new problem; it’s just exacerbated in the startup culture.

If you’re in San Francisco, you can witness said culture in any Royal Grounds, Peet’s or Starbucks from Fillmore to Sausalito to Palo Alto and everywhere inbetween. But here in Columbus, Ohio – I carry that culture with me everywhere I go. Sometimes like a badge of honor but usually like a cheerleader, trying to get the crowd here on their feet. (Somedays I feel like I’m begging them to participate, but that’s an entirely different blog post.) It’s too bad the Internet and social media aren’t closer related to OSU Buckeye football, I’d have a better chance of getting the crowd roaring here. But I digress.

My plate is extremely full: My fulltime job is the CEO of Toobla.com (which *will* be something I blog about soon because I seriously need to grow users fast). But I’m also a public speaker with thoughtLEADERS, LLC and a partner in weBuild, a web accelerator for mobile and Internet companies. I’m also on the board or an advisor or part-owner in 5 other companies: MobileXpeditions, Tixit, Innogage, 2CheckOut and eSoluTech.

I don’t recommend taking this much on. But if you do, or if you find some parallels between your life and mine, you might find the following tidbits of advice and tool recommendations helpful.

  • First of all, you need to pick your primary area of focus. For me, it’s my full time paying job: Toobla. When any conflicts come up, Toobla wins.
  • Next, and this may sound very idealistic, you need to know what your goals are. If you’re going to dabble, decide why. Maybe you just want to learn Ruby or Python and are going to tinker on weekends. Maybe you want some excitement to complement your cubicle job. Whatever it is, be aware of it and let your goals guide you. Without goals, you can meander and just end up with a clutter of things to do that aren’t helping you.
  • Make sure you work on your own personal brand in parallel with whatever you do. Social media is not a job, in spite of how many people are trying to be social media consultants out there. It’s so easy to learn and master, everyone should at least try it on their own. Read the blogs of the people on my Luminaries tab and try things out yourself. Be active to some degree daily on Twitter and Facebook and weekly on LinkedIn and you’ll make great progress very quickly and figure it out as you go.
  • Centralize your contacts if you haven’t already. One single repository. Whether it’s Outlook, Gmail or the Mac Address Book, do it. Add every new connection to your address book of choice. And sync them to some online source (I recommend Gmail) every week or two (if not real-time) so you can keep your online world synchronized with your desktop and/or email client. Gmail does a great job as the source for importing into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so you can be sure to establish connections there with people you’ve added recently to email.
  • Follow people on Twitter that you aspire to be like. Find them on WeFollow or look closely at the people you do know and see who they follow.
  • Use TweetDeck, Tweetie or Seesmic or some tool that helps you get comfortable with keeping up with your closest friends and business sources and influencers. I use TweetDeck because I like how it lets me create groups of friends; there’s only so many people I really want to read every tweet from. Everyone else is my virtual cocktail party: I pop in and out, learn something, bookmark something, comment on something, retweet something or just occupy time at stoplights browsing 🙂 Find a client you like for your main computer as well as your mobile – there’s a ton of great apps for iPhone and Blackberry.
  • Let me focus on Twitter a sec. If you do it right, it finds its way into your normal routine and doesn’t take over your day. If you concentrate and stay focused on what you’re doing, you’ll get good at finding 15 seconds every 15 minutes. Twitter is the filler for me – I visit my cocktail party every time I get a chance. Walking, driving (carefully), while getting ready in the morning, waiting in line somewhere, and probably 20-50 times throughout the day. But in such small chunks, I try hard to not let it be the distraction – but rather where I go when I am distracted.
  • In order to stay focused during 9 to 5 on Toobla, I schedule my other meetings outside that window, often meeting with startups once or twice a week at 7 or 8AM and sometimes over lunch. To make it easier to schedule meetings with multiple people from multiple companies, we use TimeBridge to find good timeslots. We used to meet on early morning weekends but that’s gotten more challenging to do. Maybe we will again once the weather gets nasty. And all my calendars are integrated and up to date with iCal on my Mac and wirelessly through MobileMe to my iPhone (Google Calendar works well to consolidate calendars too)
  • Google Apps.  Add instant enterprise email capabilities with Google Apps, on your own domain. Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Analytics are critical to many of the businesses I’m involved with.  Amazing free stuff.  I have 4 gmail accounts consolidated by gmail into one mailbox on my iPhone and laptop.  Use IMAP wherever possible instead of POP so items are perfectly synched no matter whether you read them on your iPhone or laptop.
  • DropBox. Share files seamlessly with distributed groups. Auto-synchronizes your files in the background with whomever you’ve invited. Much better than clogging your inbox with lots of big files.
  • PBworks. Collaborate with disparate groups with a wiki. Everyone contributes, everyone wins. I’ve created more dozens of wiki’s for various projects and brainstorming efforts.
  • 37 Signals. Basecamp is a great tool for managing projects and tasks with people across company boundaries.
  • Things. On Mac, this is my favorite ‘Getting Things Done’ task manager. There are many GTD clients – find one and break up your task list by project, or by company and prioritize ruthlessly what’s absolutely critical. Now, if only I could keep up with all the little things…

One of these days I’ll finish my eBook on “Utilizing Best Practices in Social Media for Small Businesses”. If you’re interested, send me an email – it might encourage me to finish sooner 🙂

What do you do that helps you stay focused and productive while working on multiple projects or companies?

Brian

Dare to Fail Greatly May 22, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism.
1 comment so far

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly” — Robert Kennedy

fail whale

It’s such a simple little life lesson wrapped up in that quote.  But, especially during trying times like these, many people tend to curl up in a ball and hope for the storm to blow over. Instead, if you’re even the slightest entrepreneurial in spirit, you should use this time to experiment and innovate. If you have an idea to build your own company, consider it. If you have the next greatest Internet startup idea cooking, dammit, go talk to people about it and figure out how you can make progress on it. You don’t need to quit your job, just find a way to dabble.  Find people to collaborate with.  If you have the skills, just start coding!

Now somedays I think I’m a little insane because I take this concept to the limit of what I can endure.  But I love it.  I have a fantastic job with a funded Internet startup. But I always find a way to keep the wheels turning.  Don’t ask me what my side projects are unless you have some serious time to spare.

Some of the most brilliant and passionate people I know are finding ways to build their dream. Whether you’re a stay-at-home-Mom or a financial analyst or a high school or college kid working in a fast food restaurant.  Dream big.  Follow your heart and find a way to do something you’re passionate about.  You may not end up being one of the lucky ones to stumble into something great but I guarantee you that you’ll be happier for trying.  And if you fall short and end up with a nice little side business that keeps you happy and helps pay the bills, well damn, good for you.

Timeslicing like a Banshee May 5, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, socialmedia.
5 comments

3387189144_955030cc27_mThere was a time when I worked my job all day then went home.  In consulting, I often worked 60+ hour weeks. But, back then (in the 90s), I wasn’t so obsessed with Internet startups… and there were periods of time where I could clearly say I was working and times when I wasn’t working.  Now, I don’t know about you dear reader, but I’m sorta glad I don’t count exactly how much time I spend working. There are only about 5-7 hours a day you can send me an email or text message that I’m not aware of.  But if you catch me before about 2am, I’m pretty likely to send you a response right away.  I often keep my email up to date even when I’m on “vacation”.  The line between work and personal time is increasingly blurred thanks to technology.

So, while I may trick myself into thinking I only work 9 to 6 or something.  The reality is my iPhone is under constant surveillance all day long.  And after my son goes to bed, I often find time to get some more work done – dedicated bursts of work, not just quick email checks.

But the opposite is true as well. We all sneak some personal time during the day don’t we? How else are you going to survive with all the silly banks and customer service jokers that only stay open 9 to 5, right?  And writing this blog post reminds me I need to continue to be diligent with my time. I’ve got way too many things going on.  But my family time is more valuable than anything else.  So I make sure to carve out time every day and if my son wants to chase me around the house and tell me to pretend I’m a gorilla and play with Darf Vader and Formfroopers, that’s what I’m gonna do.  My schedule may be sporadic and unpredictable in general, but we make sure to have dinner as a family almost every night.

If you’re an entrepreneur you’ll understand.  There’s no such thing as a predictable work schedule anymore.  My schedule is rarely planned beyond a few days in advance. But it fills up quick.  I’m running an Internet startup Toobla (www.toobla.com), in the process of launching an Internet company accelerator called webuild, working with a team to launch another Internet startup in the small business productivity space, writing content for a thoughtLEADERS social media leadership course and writing an eBook on Social Media for Small Business.  Life gets *real* busy.

The point of the list isn’t to brag, it’s to illustrate that I, like many other people, juggle multiple “jobs” these days.  And because perhaps I’m addicted to multitasking, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But with timeslicing and overclocking ourselves, these kinds of things are more than just possible, it’s pretty normal.  I use ‘Things’ for to-do list tracking, based on ‘Getting Things Done’ on both my iPhone and MacBook Pro, which helps me keep track of everything.

Who knows, 5 or 10 years from now it may actually be strange to have just one job.  One thing’s certain, entrepreneurs are paving the way to the future.  And the smart people I find myself hanging around with are embracing new and creative ways to get more things done in a day.

How much are you juggling? What do you do that helps you multitask?