Five innovative tools of the trade for startups in 2017

In the world of technology everything can change over the course of a year. While five years ago Skype was a cutting-edge way for companies to communicate internally, today Slack has clearly taken the lead. Remember when the portable music market was owned by Sony? Now Apple takes the cake when it comes to taking your music with you. What about those big clunky receivers with all the wires that brought music into your living room? That’s been replaced by Sonos.

When it comes to technology there is one certainty — change. I’ve seen and embraced many of these changes as a startup founder and I often talk with other founders about the tools they’re using to increase productivity, improve communication, and in general just do more faster (the Techstars motto).

So if you’re a startup that’s looking to stay ahead of the curve with the latest-and-greatest, here are five tools you probably should be aware of.

  1. Slack — team communication
  2. Dropbox — file sharing
  3. Uniregistry — domain names
  4. Evernote — taking and sharing notes
  5. HelloSign — eSignatures

Let’s dive right in starting with Slack. While Skype dominated the inter-office communication world for years Slack seemed to come out of nowhere and steal the market. So what makes Slack so much better? There are really two killer features that make Slack stand out, first is the concept of “Channels” — think of these as chat rooms focused on a specific topic.

Channels have allowed companies to share information as teams in ways that Skype never could and email, well, did a bad job of doing. Remember email groups? Yes those annoying group emails plagued inboxes for a long time making it a serious pain in the you know what to actually follow a conversation and contribute. Slack Channels take the concept and make it much more conversational.

In many ways Slack is replacing email within companies and some think that Slack could replace email altogether:

“Work on Slack for a few days and you can see why people think it can kill the most dreaded form of communication: email.” (Source — Time Magazine)

The second big innovation that Slack offered is connections with just about any service you can think of from Zendesk to Github. This means that Slack really could become a centralized command center for more than just communication, it also adds notification and collaboration tools that would often require people to jump from app to app, now it can be done all in one place. If you’re still using Skype and think, “I don’t need Slack, Skype is fine!” think again, Slack will change the way you work and make you and your team more efficient, period.

Now there’s a good chance you already use Dropbox, and you might be saying, “common Morgan, this isn’t new and innovative, everyone’s already using it.” That being said, Dropbox is constantly adding new features and innovative add-ons that you might not even know about. One of the biggest changes over the last couple of years has been the introduction of Dropbox for Business but there are dozens of new features that have been rolled out in the last year that you might not know about.

Dropbox is without a doubt the easiest way to share files between your desktop, tablet, and smartphone, and keep them organized and up-to-date across all of these devices. I also use Dropbox to backup all my photos and there’s a handy feature you can turn on that will automatically upload your photos from your smartphone to Dropbox when you connect to Wifi that I highly recommend. This means if you lose your phone, you don’t lose your photos.

When it comes to collaboration Dropbox also can help you make sure you never lose a file, which can happen when a number of team members are sharing the same folder. The feature was called “packrat” and was changed to “Extended Version History” it does cost a bit extra to add on but I can tell you from experience it pays for itself the moment you need to use it.

Using this feature will allow you to undelete any files that have previously been in a folder, even if an admin deleted them which means that nobody can accidentally delete mission critical files. You can do this on a Mac using Time Machine but I’ve found that while Time Machine is a super-cool feature, many people don’t use it which means that in many cases when you empty the trash on your Mac you kiss those files goodbye.

I try to store all my important docs in the cloud on Dropbox because I know that if I ever accidentally delete something, it’s easy to bring it back to life. There are a ton of other features that Dropbox has to offer that you probably don’t know about, you can learn more about them here.

They have been dubbed the Apple of domain name registrars – and for good reason, when it comes to UX, Uniregistry has built one of the most clean, streamlined, easy-to-use interfaces I have ever seen. When you think about a domain name registrar you often think of an old clunky platform designed in the 90’s that has just had feature after feature layered on top of it.

Uniregistry has taken a new approach with a brand-new platform and backend designed with startups in mind. A lot of this has to do with the founder of Uniregistry, Frank Schilling who is a startup founder and investor himself along with being an active leader in the domain name industry for over 15 years.

When Frank first created Uniregistry he wanted to do a deep dive into where domain name registrars became so clunky and complex and how he could bring simplicity of design into the equation while still offering powerful features and backend technology.

“I have a deep level of respect and love for this industry. I want nothing more than to grow a sustainable and dynamic business that empowers future generations of entrepreneurs, domain name investors, online businesses, and individual users around the world. The ultimate goal of Uniregistry is to make getting online easy. I believe we’re improving that experience each day. We are helping our customers unlock the tremendous power of their domains.” (Frank Schilling)

Along with offering a completely revamped UX for a domain registrar, Uniregistry also offers incredibly competitive pricing which means that it’s cheaper to buy and renew domain names through Uniregistry. Another area where Uniregistry has really gone the extra mile is domain transfer which have been an incredibly clunky and complicated process since the 90’s and in most cases haven’t changed a bit over the years.

Uniregistry has developed a simple system for transferring domain names into the platform or between account holders. Rather than trying to be everything for everyone, Uniregistry knows that you probably already use a hosting service like AWS or Google Cloud Platform and they make it incredibly easy to update DNS settings to point to your cloud hosting provider of choice.

So what happens when a startup founder builds a domain registrar for startups and takes a page out of Apple’s book? That’s Uniregistry and if you haven’t used them yet something tells me you will be a lot more in the future.

Like Dropbox this is another tool that I’m guessing many startups already use, but also like Dropbox I’m guessing there are some of the killer features under-the-hood that you might not know about. One of my favorite Evernote features is their business card scanning technology.

You know that feeling when you come back from a conference with a stack of business cards? Using Evernote you can easily scan the cards and use their built-in tech to pull all of the data out of the cards and into a note. This makes it easy to have a digital backup of the business card and even easier to copy and paste this data into Salesforce without worrying about typos.

Along with easily extracting text from business cards Evernote also has a great way to easily scan documents using the camera on your smartphone. Just click the camera icon on a note and then move the camera above the document you want to scan, you’ll notice a green box form around the document and then without pressing any buttons it will automatically capture the whole document and eliminate the background.

This is a pretty neat feature that saves you the time of having to crop out the background which also means you can scan and send directly in an email. Like Dropbox, there are a lot more features in Evernote that you probably didn’t know existed and you can read all about them here.

So you’ve probably used Docusign or Signeasy in the past but there’s a new (relatively speaking) eSignature app out there called HelloSign that I’ve found streamlines the eSignature process even more. You can literally sign-up for free and sign your first document in under two minutes with HelloSign and their smartphone app is the best I’ve seen.

With HelloSign it’s easy to use a built-in font that looks like a signature or add your own to make it your actual signature, I’ve actually found that my signature has gotten so bad over the years that I like the font version a lot more.

Where HelloSign really shines is when it comes to getting a document signed by multiple people. I’ve found that HelloSign has the best interface for sending docs to multiple people and making it easy for non-HelloSign users to sign and send the doc back to you. Once your documents are fully executed HelloSign also emails the docs to everyone and saves it in the cloud so if you miss the email it’s easy to pull it up from within the platform.

This means that you don’t have to save all of your executed docs, you can actually easily keep track of them within HelloSign. So if you’ve been looking for a refresh when it comes to eSignatures I’d recommend taking a look at HelloSign, they move away from the clunky more businessy feel of other platforms and take an approach that I think is a lot more startup friendly.

Five innovative tools of the trade for startups in 2017 was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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