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A List of Checklists for Startups

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

tl;dr: Checklists for Startups

I’m falling in love with checklists. Specifically, a new service called Checkmarkable, which makes it easy to create re-usable checklists for any purpose. My Daily AM Checklist is proving super effective in helping me change my habits and maximize my productivity. I fill it out every day before jumping into the unique tasks of the day.

Checklists mean you don’t have to spend mental energy remembering the details of a complex workflow, they are all just right there in front of you. They also mean that people who do complex jobs in high stress environments (pilots, surgeons) are less likely to forget to do important things. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Checklists are themselves like technology, aren’t they? They do work (the work of coming up with a plan), through automation, which saves time and lets the user start their work from a higher level of abstraction. Once you’ve got a good checklist, you’re no longer a person figuring it out cold – you’re someone who’s just taking care of business, getting it done, and then moving on to more creative work.

At Plexus we’re realizing there were some basic things we should have done before starting the company, or as we started it, and we wish someone had told us about those things. So we’re working on a checklist to share with others, particularly our class-mates in the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE).

One of the things we did in the meantime though was survey (using our own automated technology) all the top tech startup incubators we could find for checklists they had made or shared already. A first iteration of that list of checklists is here: Checklists for Startups. Included are checklists for CEOs, for salespeople, developers and designers.

Checklists for Startups

Can you point us to some other good startup checklists? Please do and I’ll add them to the list!

Related: this 40 minute video from Joe Stump about things to do when starting your startup. Joe told me a few days ago when he came into PIE that was probably his favorite presentation he ever gave.

If you want to track the incubator community day in and day out, PIE’s Rick Turoczy has a list of 400+ Twitter accounts associated with the leaders in the field.

Enjoy!

We’re entering a golden age of news geekery

Filed under: Blogging — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Jason Calacanis announced a new proof-of-concept site called Launchticker today. At first glance it’s just an overloaded Google Doc with a bunch of tech news summaries and links streaming down the page. Look at the blog post explaining the site though and you’ll see there’s a lot more going on here. It’s an attempt to improve on the fabulous half-human/half-machine edited tech news site Techmeme. Specifically, by limiting the areas of editorial coverage to startups, technology and features – excluding a lot of financial news, hardware and maybe enterprise stuff. It’s the tech news Jason Calacanis cares about and his taste is probably reflected in a lot of other peoples’ tastes too.

Just like Calacanis’s tech news site Launch helps pull in traffic that converts to promotion of his startup conference Launch, so too will this new tech aggregator serve as content marketing for other money-making business concerns.

In the meantime…what a lot of fun! The Google Docs delivery is just a stop-gap until Calacanis can hire an engineer to build a Content Management System for the site, but the basic idea is awesome. He’s hired two really experienced, worldly looking women to do the story discovery, curation and summarization: Megan Rose Dickey and Kirin Kalia. (Incidentally, I think it’s a little distasteful that neither of these women are named but their salaries are made explicit in the announcement blog post in order to prove a point that an experiment like this doesn’t have to be expensive.)

Kalia and Dickey will apparently work around the clock racing to find the best news originally reported elsewhere, to summarize it on the web and then also deliver it each day at 3:00 in an email. How many of us have fantasized about building and running a system like this? Original reporting is of course essential, and maybe some of that will come through the Launch Ticker as well – via the Launch blog at least – but the adrenaline of competing to get one step ahead of other aggregators to find and then pack as much added-value as possible into an alert about the news is a different, if related, experience.

European news editor Robin Good used to write all the time about a concept he called Newsmastering. He imagined it becoming an essential role inside of every company. A little like what we call Content Marketing, but focused on curation and pointed inward, not outward to the public. I still think it’s an awesome idea, it may prove ahead of its time, it may be right around the corner, I don’t know. Below, from Good, to be read aloud in his captivating accent.

Newsmastering is the ability to identify, select, aggregate, filter and distribute/publish news and informatiom streams on very tight, specific themes/topics.

Newsmastering is a new emerging and much needed network function allowing the huge news flow to be categorized, filtered, de-spammed and re-routed and contextualized in one one thousand and more ways.

The output generated by a skilled and qualified newsmaster enables a great number of individual to avoid needing to subscribe to tens of RSS feeds or to having to visit multiple sites daily to keep themselves on top of the latest relevant news to their specific field of interest. The newsmaster aggregates and compiles very high-quality news feeds which completely replace the need to visit or subscribe to large number of RSS feeds, suddenly providing those same individuals with much greater time available to them and much higher quality up-to-date news available to them at all times.

People are doing a lot of this publicly now, not inward facing. It’s not just Huffington Post aggregating and advertising. Some examples to check out:

  • Evening Edition, just announced by Mule Design, a single human editor summarizes the day’s political news each evening. Thanks Todd Barnard for finding this, as he finds so many things I’ve never seen before.
  • Reuters now curates and comments on financial news at Counterparties.com, edited by the fabulous Felix Salmon and powered by content discovery startup Percolate.
  • Remember real-time search engine Collecta? Serial smart-guy Gerry Campbell is now working on a high-end financial news curation as a service startup called VitalBriefing.
  • Laughing Squid has been capturing news of the weird and wonderful for years. Traffic gets converted to web hosting customers!

How many of these can prove as awesome as Techmeme? Gabe Rivera’s site has been using machines melded with human minds for more than 3 years and is going to be tough to beat. He’s got such a consistent format though that I think there is room for other startups to come in and challenge that site, or co-exist, with very different methods and presentations. See, for example, the incredible story of the 19 year old who created Breaking News Online.

It’s an incredible time to be a news geek. Who can be fastest, smartest, best, add the most value, exercise the most compelling editorial judgement, capture social experiences and build a loyal audience? The game is on!

How do we at Plexus Engine relate to this? Besides jealousy that all these people have actually launched their products, someday they’ll all be our customers.

What a tech blog post about a startup should include, according to me

Filed under: Blogging — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

I just read a really good post about a startup that felt unfinished, because there was no mention of critiques of the company’s product or business. I’m not blogging about startups these days, I’m building one, but in the bloggers’ spirit of telling other people how to do their jobs, here are some things I believe every post about a startup should include, if possible.

  • Info about the founding team’s relevant background. This is something Michael Arrington taught me was an important part of every startup’s story. Reading Roger Ehrenberg’s thoughts years later about how a founding team’s background illustrates what skills they won’t have to spend the time to learn from scratch helped me understand why all the better.
  • Mention of the company’s business model. They say business is the ultimate sport, would you report on a game pitched full of curveballs without mentioning that?
  • Discussion of the market and competitors. Who else is in this space? It’s one thing for a blogger to make an assessment of a company’s viability, but I think it’s important to point the reader towards enough information about competitors that they can make their own informed decision, too. Many people have said over the years that tech blogs are so poorly written their only value add is in discovery of cool companies to follow the links to – in that case let’s link to more than one per article!
  • Thoughts on a company’s meaning, its place in larger trends and what it points to in the future. Richard MacManus taught me about adding that kind of value.
  • Links to previous coverage, on your blog and on other blogs. It’s a good value add for readers and it’s fair play to recognize those who wrote before you. I always use a Custom Search Engine made up of the archives of the top tech blogs to search for previous coverage of a company I’m covering, as well as to learn about competitors.
  • Critiques. Every product and company has its critics. If you’ve used the product yourself and can talk about it from personal experience, all the better. I don’t think blogging/journalism has to be objective or balanced but if there’s not some inclusion of critical perspective, I don’t think the post is finished.

That’s my list, off the top of my head, of near essentials. Some blogs do better than others at including this kind of information – and I certainly haven’t included it all in all the posts I’ve written either. Sometimes you just run out of time and have to press that publish button.

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