9 strategies to maximize the value of mentor meetings

I have been spending a bunch of time with the teams at Techstars Seattle.  It is exciting to see all the progress as we approach demo day on Nov 3, where all the teams show off their companies and plans for world domination.
Here are a few things that I have tried and/or learned from the entrepreneurs that can make most of these mentor meetings: Read more
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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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