Alex's Tech Thoughts

How Twitter Can Solve Its Onboarding Problem

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Today’s post is one I’ve been meaning to do for some time. I’ve been publicly pretty vocal on Twitter’s onboarding process. Well today I put my money where my mouth is and wrote a post on how they can take a step in making onboarding better (i.e. turn more people into active users). I also got help form the talented Zhanna Schonfeld, as she mocked up a bunch of the ideas I share.

You can find it here on Medium where it shall live and (hopefully) flourish. 

If you enjoy it, recommend it on Medium and/or send it to a Twitter employee!

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Medium Twitter Onboarding
Making Progress At Your Startup - Public vs. Private

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Startup progress is a funny thing. Sometimes progress is in form of an outward-facing product. Sometimes its in form of raising money to give your business more oxygen. Other times it is in form of putting time into fixing your infrastructure to scale to millions, something that is not so public facing in terms of the progress (as your product is expected to “just work”). I’ve thought a lot about the concept around progress at startups and what a good balance to have is.

Public and private progress is tantamount to startup success. Having a well-oiled machine and churning out product improvements (whether it be adjustments to an existing product or fully new product offerings), revenue or user progress, and more is key for public perception (which is reality). At the same time making non-public advancements at your startup are great and needed. The problem usually arises when you focus too long on one over the other (public vs. private).

For example, if a company focuses all their attention on advancements that are press-related (big partnership, new funding, new product, etc) they may get all this inbound and excitement around them while the non-public things get pushed to the side (the biggest one I see is product infrastructure). So while you have all this hoopla, you are building a house of cards that will ultimately collapse.

On the flip side, if you focus all your attention on private advancements that the public will never see and never know about you may go a long time without the public caring about you. “Public” could mean new and existing users (if you are a consumer-facing company) or new and existing clients (if you are B2B or B2B2C). Both scenarios are not good - striking a balance of public and private is important.

From my experience (and I’ve seen companies do both) - public progress should be seen at minimum once a month or once every six weeks. This could be in the form of a new product, funding announcement, partnership announcing, new key hire or even just a some small feature updates on your existing product. At the same time you should be getting all the private advancements in order in order to get to bigger public progress.

How do you handle public vs. private progress at your startup?

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Startups Private Public Announcements
Slow Dripping News

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I’ve been interested in the dynamics around press and startups since joining Aviary back in 2010. One of the co-founders took me under his wing, teaching me some of the ins and outs of putting together a story, pitching, and generally getting someone covering tech to be interested in covering a product launch. I’ve taken the knowledge I’ve learned there and applied it to all my endeavors as well as with helping other companies get out there publicly.

I’ve been involved with announcements on everything from fundraising and product releases to partnerships and new hires. Sometimes it is an exclusive and other times it is embargo’d with a bunch of outlets covering. One thing I haven’t tried yet is slow dripping news. What I mean by that is having enough news or content that even if someone gets an exclusive, there is still so much “stuff” that is interesting and exciting that the shelf life is long and there is a lot more opportunity for coverage. We (@SocialRank) have some things coming out before the end of the year and I think one of them really fits this criteria, so I’m excited to try it out.

Have you ever had news you could slow drip? How’d it work out? Hit me up here or on email (Ataub24@gmail.com)

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PR Press Startups
Profiles and Founders: Where Are They Now? Part V

Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/YAlCac.

Let me know your thoughts!

Part I can be found here.

Part II can be found here.

Part III can be found here.

Part IV can be found here.

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Forbes Profiles Founders Series Where Are They Now
Founder Disagreement

If you have ever spent some time with me and Mike you know we have a healthy amount of disagreement (to say it lightly). We bicker here and there. It is always about product or technological capabilities of what we are doing. But no matter how much we argue about this or that we always end the day in a good place.

I don’t remember where I read it, but there was a post or article that said that Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz argue all day at work. Mostly about what the future looks like (which makes sense considering they are trying to invest in the future). This is good arguing.

But when is arguing bad? I think it gets bad when you start fighting or disagreeing about things that don’t matter or when you don’t really care about something and just argue to argue. Now, one side might find something important while the other side doesn’t. To resolve, you need to respect the other side and play out the issues in a mature manner.

Disagreement is good, but respecting the other side is paramount.

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Founders Disagreement
The #1 Quality In A Startup Employee

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There are a ton of qualities you look for when recruiting for your startup. Everything from problem-solving and previous experience to creativeness and getting previous work recommendations. They are all important. But I think, for startups particularly, there is a #1 quality and it is the ability to self-start.

Startups are fairly hectic, with improvisation happening often. Once plans are laid out you want your team to ask themselves one question: “What do I need to do to make this successful?” Then to go out and execute.

Having the ability to self-start and not always needing to ask what to do next adds value to the team. At an early stage the last thing you want on your team is someone weighing it down because they aren’t using their mind to figure out what needs to get done.

This goes both ways. The management team needs to be able to express what is coming and outline the roadmap for the employees to be able to self-start.

So what do you think? Is this the #1 quality? What other qualities should you look for in a prospective employee?

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Hiring Qualities Startups
Heading To SF 10/5 - 10/7

I’m going to be in SF for three days at the beginning of October, 10/5- 10/7 with Michael. If you want to sit down or catch up, hit me up at Ataub24@gmail.com. 

If you think I should sit down with someone- also hit me up!

See you in SF.

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SF October Business Trip
Recruiting Mode

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We are in recruiting mode at SocialRank. We finally put up a Jobs page for SocialRank and have a bunch of roles we will be adding. There is a lot we hope to accomplish and need the right team in place to get there. We have a unique opportunity right now to become the “Hootsuite for followers” (i.e. central location/dashboard to help brands manage their followers) and to get there we need the best people.  

The first position is a Full Stack Engineer to work with Michael and Zhanna. This is a key role at SocialRank with lots of responsibilities. This is the only job on the Jobs page right now.

The next job we will be adding is a Data Scientist. We have a ton of data and we need someone to create and apply models that organize this data. It is a bonus if they are a good writer as well :)

After that we will be adding an account manager to work with all the brands that have come in and use SocialRank. This person will be the point of contact for brands, identify interesting brands that come in, figure out creative ways to highlight brands, know what to track, and ask for those things.

If you like working with a small team that moves at lightspeed and gives you the flexibility to OWN your thing, then we are your company. If you have an interest in joining the SocialRank team or know someone that would be a good fit, please send them my way (Alex@SocialRank.com)!

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Recruiting SocialRank
My iPhone Homescreen (2014)

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I’ve never done a post about my iPhone homescreen. Given that the new iPhone is coming out in a few weeks, I thought it was time. I think I want to do a yearly post on it going forward. Let’s get to it.

Above is my personal iPhone homescreen. These are the apps I use the most. I want to go through each one and explain how I use them.

Let’s start with the dock:

Phone, Mail, Chrome, and Messages.

Everything here is standard except Chrome. I find it 100x better than Safari.

Let’s go top —> bottom by row.

Contacts, Calendar, Settings, and Google Maps.

Again, all standard except Google Maps replacing Apple Maps. I also find it 100x better.

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Tumblr.

All different networks. All immensely popular and used for different things. Instagram for photo sharing. Facebook for life. Snapchat for fun stuff. Tumblr for my and Bart’s respective blogs.

Clock, Uber, Pocket, and App Store.

I use Clock for all alarm-related activities. I use Uber multiple times a week since UberX is now cheaper than a NYC cab. Pocket is used to catch up on articles I want to read but don’t have enough to do at that moment. And the App store is the App store.

Often-Used Apps (In #1: Square Cash, Aviary, Swarm, Netflix, and Kindle; In #2: Vine, JustUnfollow, FB Messenger, and TwoDots; In #3: Lyft, WunWun, Flashlight, Comixology, and Product Hunt) and WhatsApp.

Here is where things get fun. Let’s start with “Often Used” #1. I use Square Cash to send money. It is the cheapest and fastest way to send money on your phone. Load up your debit card and you are good to go. I use Aviary to edit photos. I use Swarm when I have the desire to check-in somewhere. I use Netflix to watch content on-the-go. And I use Kindle for books.

"Often Used" #2: I use Vine for short clips. I use JustUnfollow as a great tool around tracking Twitter-related activities. I use FB Messenger for FB chat. I use TwoDots on my subway ride to and from work. The game is very, very addictive (shout out to my old boss, P.B.Z.).

"Often Used" #3: I use Lyft when in SF and Uber isn’t working. I use WunWun when I need something now. I use the Flashlight when I can’t see. I use Comixology to read the new issue of The Walking Dead once a month. I just added Product Hunt to the homepage as it is a website I check at least once a day.

The last app on this row is WhatsApp. My entire family uses WhatsApp for communication. So that’s why it is there.

Camera, Spotify, Twitter, and Foursquare

I use the camera to take photos. I use Spotify for music. I pre-load some songs to listen to in the subway (i.e. when I don’t have internet). I use Twitter for news and interests, and I use Foursquare to find places in the area.

These are the apps on my homepage. What am I missing?

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Apps iPhone Homescreen
Profiles and Founders: Where Are They Now? Part IV

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Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/1vT3C5s.

Let me know your thoughts!

Part I can be found here.

Part II can be found here.

Part III can be found here.

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Forbes Profiles Founders Series Where Are They Now
My Skillshare Class: What To Do With It?

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I began teaching on Skillshare back on November 16th, 2011. First I taught an Introduction to Business Development class. It was quite long, so I made a Part I and a Part II. Then I added a “Practical Business Development” class (less high level and more ready-to-use-today skills). These classes were all given in person and it took a lot out of me to teach them each once a month. I felt it was good to share what I’d learned to help others break into the business side of early-stage tech companies and I actually made a significant amount of money (enough to make me go “oh sh*t” when tax season came along and I hadn’t put away the proper amount owed in taxes).

Once Skillshare moved their business to focus on virtual classes, I made an Intro to Business Development called “Make Deals that Matter: Business Development & Partnerships for Startups.” I took the slides from the Intro I class and made a video course. Skillshare featured the class when I put it out and I had a few hundred people take the class.

But that was when it came out in 2013. It did really well then but I never updated the content, it was never really interactive (as other successful ones were), it was just my voice over slides and I think the positive reviews took a hit because of that (only 70%, as opposed to my in-person classes that were 90% or higher and 95% overall). The class gets next to no new sign ups now. So I’m wondering what I should do with the class.

Should I make a new class around the more practical business development skills? (i.e. reaching out, intros, making a pitch deck, etc.) Should I work on making my old class more interesting? Is it not even me, and rather that the virtual Skillshare classes are too complex?

Any ideas? It would be nice for people to learn in the same way I felt people learned when it was an in-person class.

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Skillshare Book Pitching and Closing
Platform To Tell Stories

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This past week I almost tweet-stormed. I didn’t, but it got me thinking about the places online where you can talk about things. I think there’s still an opportunity to build the go-to platform to tell stories. The closest thing now may be Medium, but it doesn’t completely feel like a platform for “story-telling” exactly. I think pieces of what I envision exist on Reddit. But Reddit is a little bit of something for everyone.

I think a combo of Reddit + Medium would make an interesting site. Organized by short, medium, and long posts, and having the ability to have a subreddit-like experience but with different genres of stories (i.e. happy, funny, scary, sad, uplifting, etc.)

Does anything out there look like this?

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Stories Platforms
Writing as Networking

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Many people talk about writing, blogging, and contributing content as a way to get their thoughts out there. The thought process is that if you write enough about something, you will be seen as an expert in that. This is great but I think there is another reason to write and that is networking.

I used to go to 3-5 events a week. Some events were good and maybe I would meet 10-20 new people. Other events would be a waste of time and I’d meet no one. As I got more and more involved in the NY tech scene I went to less events. Now I maybe go to one every two weeks. Instead I use writing as networking.

What I mean by “writing as networking” is that if I write four short posts a week and have a few hundred people read each one, my voice and ideas are reaching many more than I could ever reach or connect with by physical networking. I post each article to all my social networks and for every post I write I receive a few emails and comments. This is the perfect way to continue networking without the laborious running around from event to event.

If you aren’t writing right now, maybe start with “writing as networking” in mind.

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Writing Networking
Profiles and Founders: Where Are They Now? Part III

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Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/1kY8RQd.

Let me know your thoughts!

Part I can be found here.

Part II can be found here.

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Forbes Series Profiles Where Are They Now Founders Recap
Initial Step In Building A Roadmap For A Small Team

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On the heels of the last two posts, one of the big things we did at the offsite was set ourselves up to build out a roadmap. It is an easy task to build a roadmap when you are a small company; it is not an easy task to stick to it. The reason being that things change so much at early-stage companies that what might have made sense three months ago now has changed.

So what we are doing, instead of building a proper roadmap and sticking to it, is listing out all the things we want to do as a company and perform a Bang/Buck analysis on it. This allows us to figure out the level of impact it will have on our business (Bang) and what it will cost us in time (Buck). We listed out 20+ things we want to do and are now figuring out in what order we will do them.

While we generally know what is next, doing this exercise helps us clarify. I think it might help you too if you are in a similar situation.

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Startups Roadmap Small Teams