Recommended Foundertools

This is a list of tools I’ve found helpful as a founder of Trinket. I’m endorsing them here along with why I’ve found them useful in the hopes that you’ll find them useful as you start your own company. A few of these are affiliate links - if you decide to buy using these links I’ll make a tiny amount of money which I will spend trying out new stuff and writing it up here.

It’s never the stuff that makes you great. But great stuff can make the journey easier.

There’s also a tool graveyard of tools I no longer use, no longer exist, or I no longer recommend. I’ve added an edit to each explaining what’s up.

Thanks again and as always feel free to email me if you have suggestions of how I could make this section better.


Intercom is one of the most valuable products I know.

It’s a messaging app between you and your users. It lets you seem like you’re always there, even when you’re not, and respond to users via mobile app or web at any time. It lets you send automated messages to users based on their behavior or usage of your app. Welcome messages, user interviews, getting a list of tester users, the list goes on. It’s absolutely essential.

True story: we started getting a ton of interest from users in Russia. I was able to make a special welcome for users based on their browser language using Intercom and a little Google Translate magic. These users were blown away by the special welcome from a tiny US-based startup and have remained loyal and engaged for us.

For most startups, Intercom and Google Analytics are the only fancy Javascript plugin-type tools you need. Analytics tells you about users, Intercom connects you to individuals. Get it.

Check it out here.


I’ve tried most if not all online IDEs since I use a Chromebook. Cloud9 has the best balance of functionality and reliability.
In their premium plan you can create an unlimited amount of private workspaces, letting you isolate each project’s settings in one virtual machine. You can also create an ssh-based instance, allowing you to use their awesome IDE on a a dev or even production server if you need to. Highly recommended

Check it out here.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the bread and butter of metrics. Install the tracking code and get going. It’s got a poor user interface but is absolutely essential.

I’ll write a longer post on this one day but the core realization with Analytics is that Users have one or more Sessions, which have one or more Pageviews. You Segment Users based on characteristics of their Sessions or Pageviews. And you can set up Goals that are keyed to the properties of Sessions. Also, there’s a tiny button on the far right over search results that lets you build Pivot views of things. Do this often.

If you’ve been diving into Analytics and been frustrated with things I hope the cryptic advice makes a lightbulb or two go off. If not, tweet me and let me know you’d read the blog post!

Check it out here.

Google Apps

Google Apps for Work is amazing. You want your entire company in Google from the beginning, with everyone using Gmail and Drive.


  • Learn the Gmail keyboard shortcuts and use them.
  • Archive your email fanatically. This keeps it searchable but gets it out of your hair.
  • Make the settings show lots of emails in your inbox. You need information density.


  • Set your default setting so everyone can find and edit all docs


  • Google Plus sucks. Turn it off at the Apps level. You can’t turn off Google trying to get you to upgrade at every turn, unfortunately.

Check it out here.

The Reboot Podcast

Jerry Colonna is relentlessly focused on the emotional struggle of being an entrepreneur. We live amongst our emotions every day as founders. nless we acknowledge and specifically address their pull, they will pull us in unexpected directions, like a second rudder on a ship we don’t control. This is true for life in general but Jerry is an expert at combining psychological introspection with the particular challenges of being a founder, and especially in the role of CEO.

The Reboot podcast is recordings of consultations Jerry has with real CEOs. It’s amazing that these founders are willing to share these powerful experiences with the rest of us. You’ll find that some of their stories resonate with you and some don’t. But every episode has given me new emotional tools for steadying the ship I’m on in the midst of the storm that is running a startup.

I listen to it via Stitcher but you can get it on the web via Soundcloud.

Check it out here.

Acer C720 Chromebook

I bought my Chromebook in January 2014 and love it. I recommend you get the $380 i3 version with 4GB RAM- I just upgraded and I love it. But the $199 Celeron version with 2GB ram that I bought back in January 2014 has been enough to run a company, teach a university class, and build websites like this. 8.5 hours of battery life, super lightweight, and easily replaceable. Highly recommended!

Edit, February 2016

Still going strong. I love this machine. For $400 it’s one of the best computers you can buy. Just used my penultimate free Gogo wireless internet pass on a 5 hour flight to get soe work done. All the details are right, including using peripherals and external monitors. I’ll upgrade at some point but will keep this bad boy around as a second computer, like I did my old 2GB Celeron c720.

Check it out here: Acer C720-3404 11.6-Inch Chromebook (Intel Core i3, 4 GB) Granite Gray


Calm is a mobile app that helps you relax and meditate. I use it with a Waterglider Zafu Meditation cushion because Western hips aren’t used to sitting flat on the ground.

As a startup founder you will not make it unless you can relax. Calm + meditation does it for me.

Check it out here.


I think Slack’s pretty good. More importantly, it’s the best, which is why everyone switched to it so fast. Whether everyone sticks with it will be a function of their message seach capabilities, which from my perspective still need a lot of work. Anyways, you’re probably already using Slack so good on ya.

One tip: you can hack premium functionality out of the free plan by making custom private groups to start. Only put things in Channels that you don’t mind contractors and other collaborators seeing and you can add them to your org without a premium plan.

Check it out here.

Nexus 6P

I’ve had quite a few phones since I started this list but none of them made it on here. I really loved the OnePlus One, but then the screen broke and the lack of a serious company behind the phone became apparent.

Instead of going for the flawed OnePlus Two, I went for Google’s top of the line 6P with two years of damage protection. THis set me back about $700 but that’s two years of guaranteed working phone, and I’m sure this has the battery life and power to get the job done.

One small thing that makes a huge difference: the fingerprint sensor. Instead of being on the front like Apple’s iPhones, the sensor is on the back. THis lets me wake and unlock the phone with one hand. The sensor is uncannily accurate and fast. It’s saved my from inputting my pin 100+ times every day like I used to.

The screen is big and bright and lets me get work done on the go. In fact, I prefer doind things like email and sometimes even editing google docs via the phone, since I can do it laid back in a comfy position. This also helps me keep focused when I’m using my laptop since I mostly use that for coding and other intensive work.

No contract, and if you don’t have a current contract with another carrier, you can try Google Fi.

Check it out here.


AngelList is your startup’s resume. It shows your accomplishments and who believes in you. Sign up for a free account and follow Trinket!

Check it out here.


Lyft is now my ride of choice (when I don’t have a Relayride, of course). It’s consistently cheaper than Uber, especially if you use their Lyft Line ridesharing option. It also doesn’t have questionable practices or crazy 3x surge pricing.

When I’m in a car-unfriendly city like New York to pitch investors, I stay in a super cheap Airbnb, bunkbed or couch if I have to, and Lyft to the meetings. There’s nothing like knowing you’ll be early to a meeting and not having to worry about finding the right building, etc.

Once the meeting’s over I schlep it home on foot or by bus like the poor startup founder I am :)

Use the link below to sign up and we’ll both get a $10 credit. Schweet!

Check it out here.

Teespring t-shirts

Teespring is like kickstarter for t-shirts. Sounds like a dumb idea but it’s genius. Everyone can order the size and style they want at no extra charge. That means no buying xtra smalls and 3XLs you don’t need. Trouble is, most startups set the minium number of t-shirts in a campaign too high. It’s really hard to sell 300 t-shirts online!

We used Teespring to get t-shirts for ourselves for super precision ordering. We set the minium order to 5, which made the long-sleeve t-shirts $18 - not bad for printed on demand shirts! We could also get hoodies for $28. With the campaign filled with our own orders, we were able to open it up to our friends, family, and key users if they wanted to buy one for themselves. We set a tight 3 day limit and the shirts arrived in a little over two weeks from start to finish.

If you need t-shirts for your startup, I recommend doing the same. You won’t find a much cheaper way to do small runs of custom t-shirts, and everything you sell beyond that is just marketing for your company.

We kept it simple and just did our logo:

Screenshot 2014-11-17 at 9.38.34 PM.png

Check it out here.

Turo (formerly Relay Rides)

Edit: From my perspective, the rebranding to Turo was a massive waste of time, money, and brand equity when the company should have been spending all it had on each on growth. Huge mistake.

For around $20 a day you can pick up a car at the airport and drop it back off there when your trip is done. If you’re doing this instead of Uber, you may actually save money and have a car for the whole trip. If you have a group of people, it may even be less expensive than everyone getting public transit. It is easy, cheap, and consistent. I always rent the cheapest possible car, and sometimes they give me a Volvo or a Lexus if they’re out of Chevy Aveos or whatever.

When I fly into SFO I take the 24 hr A-Loft shuttle to pick up the car from the hotel parking lot. Easy and convenient- no coordination necesary.

Their business model is brilliant, by the way. Free parking for owners, saving the $15/day. Then they rent the cars for ~$20 a day.

I love using public transport when I can but VCs and schools tend to be in out-of-the-way places where I need a car to get to them. Relayrides is my weapon of choice.

Check it out here.


I use hipmunk for flights. It sorts them by ‘agony’ which takes into account price and schedule considerations. They’re pretty much always the cheapest or within a few bucks.

Check it out here.


Contactually is an email workflow disguised as a CRM. It helps you stay in touch with the most valuable people in your network. I use it to make sure that contacts who will be crucial in 6-12 months don’t fall by the wayside. You can easily mass-customize an update to get a slightly different version of your startup update to hundreds of people.

An aside regarding their customer service:

The product as it exists is great, but the support team and how they’re improving it leaves a lot to be desired. They’ll chat with you in Olark but when you point out something the product doesn’t do they’ll tell you to go open an issue on the support forum so people can vote on it. I don’t like this attitude. When something’s wrong with a product or a product doesn’t do something the company should have an wholeheartedly apologetic attitude. I know from experience how hard it is to do everything users want, but it’s critical to maintain an attitude of putting users’ needs first, even if you (understandably) can’t always meet those needs.

So, in summary, Contactually is imperfect as all products are but I’m worried by their customer service attitude that they won’t continue to improve the way they should. In my opinion they’ve separated customer service from development too much. It’s OK to Not Sweat the Medium Stuff but if you let too much of the small stuff slide you’re headed towards obsolescence.

We’ve all got to be humble, perhaps especially when we don’t or can’t meet users’ needs. As a Contactually user I would’ve felt so much better about the exact same product had the person I chatted with been apologetic and said they would work on it instead of explaining why my issue with them not pulling in twitter handles I had already entered on my Gmail contacts wasn’t their fault.

Check it out here.

This Week in Startups

Jason Calicanis’ weekly podcast is a great source for great startup interviews and commentary. I subscribe to it on Stitcher but you can get it a lot of ways, including YouTube.

Check it out here.


We used Stickermule to buy our Die Cut stickers. They were good. Haven’t used anyone else because we haven’t needed to.

Check it out here.

Moo Cards

Moo did our business cards and they’re high quality and quickly delivered. We got Mini Moo cards because they’re cheaper but they also really work with the Trinket brand.

Check it out here.

--Tools Graveyard--

From here down are tools that I once recommended but now no longer used. The original recommendation is there along with an edit that tells you why.

Check it out


Edit: I love Trello but it was too much tool overhead for what it does. We use github for product planning and I like having everyhting in one place. Contactually offers a pipelines feature that lets me manage relationships AND automatically track interactions with those contacts. Trello’s just too general purposed for us.

Trello is a visual way to manage information via digital cards, especially for things like development planning or fundraising that can be conceptualized as funnels.

Trello is organized by columns. Here are the columns on my fundraising board, left to right:

  • Target Investors - Investors who I think may be interested in Trinket
  • Getting Intros - Investors I am actively trying to get intros to. Funded entrepreneurs or coinvestors are the targets here.
  • Meeting(s) - Investors who I’m actively meeting with, seeking a commitment
  • Commited - Investors who have indicated they’re willing to invest
  • Closed - Money in the bank.

Trello is an amazing free product, but the premium service offers additional team management features.

Check it out here.

Verizon Jetpack

Edit: the Verison Jetpack is still going strong but I decided to use my phone’s inferior hotspot ability once my travel schedule cooled down a little. I’ll very likely add it back if I start traveling massively again. So, I still recommended it (or whatever Jetpack is not current and has long battery life) but I no longer use it

Verizon’s MHS291L Jetpack has 15 hours of battery life and gives you broadband speeds from almost anywhere. If you’re travelling regularly like most CEOs do, you need it. If you’re a developer who likes to work outdoors this puppy will set you free.

Check it out here: Verizon Jetpack MHS291L 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (Verizon Wireless)

Edit: Nitrous rolled out a major upgrade that is too slow and unreliable for serious use. I now recommend Cloud9 over Nitrous.

Nitrous is an online coding environment and IDE that works in any browser. I use in in my chromebook to make this site and used it to teach my Python course at UNC Chapel Hill. You’ll dig it.

Check it out here.


Edit: Rdio was acquited by Pandora and shut down. RIP. Using Spotify is now a daily reminder that the best product doesn’t guarantee success

I like to listen to albums, so I dig Rdio. Haven’t tried Spotify and haven’t needed to. Rdio’s never let me down.

Check it out here.


Edit: Slack was so clearly better than Hipchat that we ditched it fast

Hipchat is basic, solid team chat for free. $2/user for an upgrade to voice and video calling (though only 1-to-1). You can open up public chatrooms, which we use for workshops but some people use for customer service.

Check it out here.