Seeing as how it’s the end of another year, I thought I would take a shot at a 10 best list of my very own. But instead of focusing on just one category of thing, I am going to mix it up and make it about various resources any entrepreneur might benefit from. Tools, blogs, Twitter personalities, magazines and newspapers, conferences – any should be fair game for this particular list.
This is a subjective list (as all such lists should be) and I can’t claim that what I find useful, you will too. So I considered resources that I use on a regular basis, that provide real value to me in my own life as a startup co-Founder and that I think others will benefit from. I hope that you will feel compelled to comment and add to the list with other resources that bring you value or joy.
1. A great blog for entrepreneurs should be like a wonderful novel. Not that it is fictional in any way; it should be at once intriguing, provocative, and entertaining. This is what I get when I read Paul Graham. Graham is the founder of Y Combinator, the leading startup incubator, and the essays on his blog providethought-leadership on topics as varied as startup funding, marketing, and life lived well.
2. My favorite business section of any newspaper is the one I read daily in The New York Times. The columnists cover everything from media to finance to advertising to economics and I benefit from them all. The coverage of breaking news is as in-depth as can be found anywhere and the analysis is provocative and thorough.
3. An awesome online tech news resource that I visit on a regular basis is (of course) TechCrunch. If it impacts our industry, you can count on it being covered on this site. Gossip you say? Sure, TC publishes its fair share of rumor and innuendo, but hey, we deserve a little fun every so often, don’t we?
4. Computer applications are our lives, right? We spend more time gazing into the screen than we do gazing at our own children and the software we use says a great deal about us a s people. Do we spend more time on WordPress than Excel? Are we more likely to fire up Google Docs or QuickBooks? Our small team collectively uses dozens of applications on a daily basis, but (outside of our browsers) the one we all have in common is Basecamp, 37Signal’s collaboration and project management tool. Wherever we find ourselves, whoever is collaborating on a given project, whenever we need access, Basecamp is there – easy to use, simple interface, powerful features. Like a good roasted marshmallow, what’s not to like?
5. Drive-time radio can be infuriating – ceaseless noise, annoying commercials, bad music, meaningless local news updates combine to make me cherish some good old silence. Dependent on traffic, I spend 30-60 minutes driving home, and most evenings I am fortunate to leave the office around the time that my local NPR station is airing Marketplace. This 30 minute show is a shining light in the world of business radio; smart, incisive, funny, and creative, Marketplace covers stories that no one else seems to be aware of. Where else can you hear a story on how to a person who is $50,000 in debt does their holiday shopping followed by another on how gold Krugerrands have been showing up in Salvation Army collection kettles? The website is an invaluable archive of past stories, any of which you can listen to via mp3 or read via the transcripts provided.
6. The best tweets I read come from @benkunz. Always funny and quirky sometimes thought provoking, but with an edge of sarcasm, I find his 140 character output to be entertaining, informative, and ultimately important to my life.
7. A really nice travel rewards program is vital for startups on limited budgets. I have one piece of advice when it comes to credit card awards: use the damn card! The more you spend on that card, the more points you’ll earn towards airfares, hotel nights, meals, and car rentals. Charge your subscriptions to the card, pay your phone bill with the thing, set up your Google Adwords account to charge it automatically. Then pay the balance off every month and you’ll see how quickly the perks add up. We have CapitalOne Visa card which comes with a straightforward and fairly generous reward program, no annual fee, and a simple to use website with online redemption functionality. In 2010 it paid for several airfares that we would have otherwise come straight off the bottom line.
8. A cool iPhone app that I use when planning trips and when traveling is TripCase. This free app allows you to input your trip details such as flight itineraries, hotels, car rentals and it quickly looks up all of the pertinent information in it’s extensive database giving you a convenient repository for your trip information. You can save multiple trip itineraries and enter the information on your iPhone or on the TripCase website where it will synch automatically with your phone. You can share your itineraries with friends and family, upload photos, and keep travel journals. TripCase sends you automatic notifications on your upcoming trip and will notify you of flight time changes, departure gates, and luggage carousels. Sweet.
9. A handy spreadsheet functionality can save hours of time. At least for those of us who use the program with any regularity. My favorite obscure Excel function is the phenomenal VLookup! With this (admittedly complex) feature, you can compare data between worksheets, allow for powerful sharing and updating of data, and generally reduce the time it takes to perform everyday tasks
10. Netflix streaming. Hey, what can I say? I love great movies and television. Plus everyone needs to relax sometimes, even when we work 60 hour weeks, right?
Feel free to add your own favorite entrepreneur stuff to the list, starting with number 11… Happy New Year!
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