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A simple way to develop and pitch your next company (the CVFB method)

I work on lots of new ideas for companies. I've developed the following tool that helps me (and it seems many others) to quickly develop and evaluate these ideas. In the simplest form, it helps create an elevator pitch, (e.g. for www.gist.com - We focus on relationship-centric professionals (sales, PR and recruiters) (Customer) and, save them time (Value Prop) as ...

The Startup Calendar - my best way to plan for success

        In a startup, you are always racing against a clock. Most of the time this is "when are we going to need to raise more money" but can also be working toward key milestones or trying to outpace key competitors, which is often when you need to raise money. And, as you racing toward these ...

6 steps to finding the right beta users

Finding the right early users can make or break a startup. If you find the wrong people, they will either waste your time with irrelevant suggestions or could easily send you off in the wrong direction. Here are a few suggestions on strategies to find the best early users. 1. Articulate the real target customer in ...

Good advisors (and investors) want to be managed

I get asked for my advice on new startups alot and I like to give it.  I have also been very fortunate and had great mentors, advisors and investors.  So, I can say that the best relationships are ones where the entrepreneur works hard to manage his advisors.  This generally includes; very regular updates - I ...

Perfecting your startup pitch

Over the past month I have had the privilege of attending or speaking at a StartupWeekend in Boise, TechStars "for a day" in Seattle, TechStars New York,  Microsoft Kinect Accelerator in Seattle, TechStars Boulder (with Jason Mendelson) and finally mentoring at a Startup Weekend in Medellin, Columbia.  It's been great to meet so many ...

Startup partnering - 10 do's and don'ts that make successful partners

I work with a lot of startups as a mentor, advisor and as a CEO on my own.  I am often asked about how, who and when to partner with other companies.  Here is what I usually say; Don't partner until you have product/market fit - It is very easy to be distracted by partners early ...

Making great creative work takes lots of time…

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The quick startup – done with a mind map

We are well into the Techstars Seattle season and I have been spending lots of time with many of the teams. As part of our discussions, we have been talking about how to simplify the pitches as well as capture all the different ideas and put them into context. One good way I have used to do this is with a mind map. I use Mindjet Mindmanager, but you could use others. Here is a template that I have developed that focuses on what I believe are the core elements of any startup – Customer, Value Proposition, Feature Set and Business model. In a perfect world, each of these concepts relates to each other in a cohesive story.  For example, if your value is saving someone time, are you charing them more for features that save more time, are you communicating that your features save them more time than the competition, does your customer have a way to quantify time saved, is it meaningful and are you thinking the features you choose by how much time they might save the end user…you get the picture.

Here is the simplified, expanded version of the mind map.

and the MindJet template you can use. Do more (companies) faster! (thx Brad Feld).

I have also used http://www.mindmeister.com/ which is pretty good if you want to collaborate with others.

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The Future of Work

Recently, with the help of Mike Folden, I recorded this video on the “Future of Work” in an attempt to capture many of the things we have learned over the last few years both building Gist and interacting with many of the key thought leaders in the space.

Another key leader (and maybe the master) is Jason Fried from 37 Signals, who recently did this interview. More good concepts, with a little more focus on “how” you can work better.

These are a few opinions, what do you think? What am I missing and where am I off-base? Part of the “new workstyle” is continuous learning and I am just getting started.

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A more efficient toolset (part 1 of n)

I really like software tools that make me more efficient. Over the last few months I have really come to love and rely on Text Expander and Mind manager.

Text Expander helps me quickly insert text blocks, mostly into emails. I have a few scripts that I use all the time that save me a ton of typing and ensure I include the right stuff every time. For example, when someone wants to meet with me, I type “ttungle” (my Text Expander label for this action using a calendar service called Tungle that I love) and get the following automatically inserted.

I know your time is very important, so in an effort to make scheduling easier and more efficient, here is my free/busy info http://tungle.me/tamccann if you want to suggest some times that work well for you. I am also copying my assistant, Teresa so she can confirm and work out any details. I look forward to connecting with you soon and if you need any more of my contact info, it’s on my Gist Public Profile http://gist.com/tamccann, you should consider getting one as well.

Or, when I do my internal status reports, I type “tstatus” and get;


Important info:




Need help:

I have about 10 of these “text expansions” that I use all the time. Other people on my team use Text Expander as well including Greg Meyer, our awesome Customer Experience Manager. He and I are now sharing our scripts which makes us both even more efficient. Here is how we do it;

Take a snippet that allows you to set a date 3 days in the future. Paste it into TextExpander and name it with a memorable name. Then you can add a character code such as r-3days (for me, this means reply + 3days)

Can you please respond to this emall by %@+3D%A (%m/%d) and confirm that you received this message?

Give entire folder of snippets:
File > Save a copy of folder

Give all snippets:
Set Text Expander to back up to Dropbox, then share this file (attached)

Import Snippets:
File > Add Group from File


We all have lots of ideas and organizing them quickly and then being able to combine, move, organize… is critical. The best tool I have found is Mindmanger. I can quickly create “Mindmaps” of everything from product ideas, to new company concepts to list of influencers in a space…all in a way that I can easily edit, evolve as my thinking evolves, share and use to communicate with others. They have tons of templates on their site like the one below.

I hope these tools work well for you and I would be very interested in others that will help me (and others) be more productive!

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building a big idea = lots of very small updates

At Gist, we have a team of just north of 20 very productive people, investors and advisors. We run an Agile development shop and try to apply Agile to everything we do. A fundamental value/activity of Agile is the lowly “status report”. Status reports are critical to keep everyone going in generally the same direction, remain efficient and to get early understanding when things are going sideways. We have developed a bit of a process that includes;

  • status reports every other day (M, W, F) – sent to the team via email before 10am
  • the reports follow the form (persona status (Red, Yellow, Green – so we all know if you need help or are going to screw anyone else up), kudos (nice to recognize good work from someone), what I did, what I am doing, where I need help)
  • we do a “stand-up” every other day – :20 whole team meeting to check in and discuss key issues that affect key milestones, not to solve the issue, just to let the team know it exists.
I believe so much in this process and have been lucky to be advising a Seattle TechStars company trying to make this process even better, www.thinkfuse.com. Here’s a Scoble video where Brandon explains a bit more about what they are doing. We were early beta users of ThinkFuse and hope to fully replace our ad-hoc approach to status reports with ThinkFuse soon.
In addition to running Gist, I advise alot of startups and entrepreneurs. My advice always includes getting into the habit of bi-weekly status reports which include the same format (did, doing, need help) with generally a bit more detail on the key areas of the business (users, product, partners…). Writing these makes you acknowledge all the good stuff you accomplished and set the stage/priority of what you need to do next as well as train your investors/advisors to help you in specific ways. Over time, these status reports become a “board package” but keeping all your supporters (team, investors, advisors…) on the same page with very regular, standardized status reports can really accelerate your ideas and success.
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