Tag Archives: takeaways

Takeaways: ‘Managing Startup Teams: Building Culture’ with Anne Libby at GA

12 Mar

Class: Anne Libby of Anne Libby Management Consulting on “Managing Startup Teams: Building Culture”, via GA

Date: March 6 2012, 18:00 – 19:30

When it comes to building teams – especially when those teams consist of people in far-flung offices around the world – I’m yet to be persuaded that anything is more important than culture*.

And by culture I mean the shared stories, the common values, that explicitly articulated and implicitly understood characteristics that inspire people to rally around that cause, that product, that service. The why-you-want-to-work-here-when-X-would-pay-you-twice-as-much. The-this-is-why-I-get-up-in-at-dawn-on-a-day-when-I’m-not-even-supposed-to-be-in-because-the-team-needs-me-and-hey-they-didn’t-even-have-to-ask factor.

I’ve worked on two projects that I may claim to have helped build and shape; both of these projects had quite distinct cultures.

But what they had in common was excellence über Alles. And yes, that included being excellent to each other (or put another way, jerks need not apply).

Two of my favourite blogs both recently featured culture-as-it-relates-to-startups as a theme, and I thought I’d highlight them as the lesson is relevant to the takeaway from the General Assembly class (which was, not surprisingly, all about culture). Continue reading


Takeaways: Jason Schwartz’s ‘How Product is Built’ class at GA

11 Mar

Class: Jason Schwartz of Matchbook on “Introduction to Product Management: How Product is Built”, via GA

Date: March 5 2012, 20:00-21:30

[This session was the third in a series of four; I missed the first two due to travel and schedule madness, but I’m attending the fourth on March 19]

Jason Schwartz, a product manager/UX specialist and the founder of Matchbook (a location-based app), offered a high-level and useful overview of the science of product management. Some highlights from the class are below.

Continue reading

Takeaways: Alex Taub’s ‘Intro II Business Development & Partnership for Startups’ Skillshare class

4 Mar

Class: Alex Taub of Aviary on “Intro II Business Development”, via Skillshare at Aviary HQ

Date: February 29 2012, 20:00-21:45

If you comes from a traditional journalism background (caveat: I don’t), “business development” (BD) is a dirty word, right up there with “sales”.

And in fairness, if you come from a traditional journalism background, you’re unlikely ever to have to engage in either.

But for all those newsies making the leap from working in a newsroom to working for themselves – and yes, that includes freelancers – or in a startup environment, understanding business development (what it is, and why it’s important) is crucial.

Alex Taub, who leads business development and partnerships at Aviary, defined BD thus:

BD is about building and maintaining relationships, developing your company, and finding a point of transaction and turn them into repeat occurrences.

(For the difference(s) between BD and sales, see this post at false precision, this pithy explanation by Lincoln Murphy and this Q&A at Quora)

Continue reading

Takeaways: GA’s ‘Making life easy with algorithms’ class

25 Feb

Class: General Assembly session on “Make Life Easy With Algorithms“, led by Adam Levine of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Date: February 22 2012, 20:00-21:00

This was my second class at GA (the first covered mobile strategy). This session, only an hour long, would best be described as “thinking about thinking about algorithms” – it was a high-level overview of the history of algorithms, what they are, their modern applications and a short “how-to” of writing them. Continue reading

“In the context of startups, project management tools will always suck”

19 Feb

On Friday 17 2012 the CUNY EJP12 cohort attended a session on product and project management hosted by Nancy Wang and Jeff Mignon of RevSquare.

Both Jeff and Nancy stressed the importance of having a clear project plan, of communicating effectively with your team (and especially your developers), and of prototyping (more on which in another post). And Jeff admitted to being something of a convert to the Project Management Way.

Back in the FT Tilt era, both Ranjan and I spent a lot (a lot!) of time “optimizing our process”. In the end (and indeed, toward the end) I settled on Trello as a way of keeping the globally dispersed editorial team briefed and engaged on where we were up to in terms of sales and development; our London-based developers used Redmine for bug ticketing; and Ranjan and I used a combination of email, Google Docs, Skype and shoulder-tapping/coffee meetings for everything else. I, of course, am a total iDoneThis evangelist, so I also used iDT to keep a running log of what we’d accomplished (or not, as it were).

But along the way we tried (and abandoned) Teambox and Basecamp, and I tested at least a half dozen other options. The issues were always the same: fiddly interfaces; too many emails and checkboxes and lists, not enough “doing”; team objections to yet-another-login/thing they have to use.

(For what it’s worth, I’m using Asana these days and quite like it)

Having been on both sides of project management – i.e. as the manager and the manage-ee, and sometimes both at the same time, I agree with the RevSquares that clear objectives and communication are essential.

But I also agree with the sentiment expressed by “Handsome Code” in a post about project management:

In the context of startups, project management tools will always suck. If you are using a PM tool then you are not designing, coding, or communicating with customers. You are not even communicating with your team. You are putting an abstraction layer between you and your team, effectively saying “I prefer to engage with this UI which makes me feel valuable and productive because I make lists and assign tasks” instead of actually engaging with the people building the product…Getting e-mails that say “UserName has assigned you task: XXXXXX” sucks.

The post also included some strong words about developers not being robots.

But not having any system at all – or heaven forfend, relying on email – is arguably the worst of all possible worlds.

Sure, getting notifications that you’ve been assigned X, Y or Z has never ranked high on Maslow’s hierarchy. But not shipping because no one has any sense of priority or ownership? Epic fail.

Takeaways: GA’s ‘How to build a mobile app’ class

17 Feb

Class: General Assembly session on “How to build a mobile app“, led by @peterbell.

Date: February 15 2012, 18:00-21:00

This was a useful session which focussed (for the better, I thought) more on how to think about developing a mobile strategy than on the technical nuts and bolts of building a specific application.

Peter Bell, CTO of Go Pow Wow and a lean startup coach, divided the session into five sections:

  1. The importance of mobile
  2. Do you need an app? (or will a “mobile site” do?)
  3. Native apps vs ‘web’ apps
  4. Stepping towards mobile
  5. Testing

Continue reading