When you’re in a bubble it’s hard to remember that there are people outside of it. I forget sometimes that some people don’t spend their days researching new startups, reading startup blogs, and talking to new entrepreneurs. So I’m trying to share my startup discoveries with more people so they can solve a pain point in their lives, and simultaneously help a startup win another superuser.
What follows is a list of 10 companies that have completely changed the way I work, make plans, and share content with my networks in the past year. I can honestly say that while Twitter and Facebook are my must-use social apps, these are creeping up slowly behind. So here they are - the 10 startups I can’t live without:
Pinboard - Remember Delicious? Okay fine, it’s not dead yet, but it’s stuck in a kind of web app limbo, and certainly won’t be improving anytime soon. I decided to use an alternative to house my bookmarks, and Pinboard is the best thing I’ve found. I paid $9.20 for access to the service, and if you’re interested sign up now because the signup price rises with each person who joins. The site is simple - it provides several browser bookmarklets that allow you to save and tag content, and a simple interface for searching your content. My favourite feature? The ability to import your Delicious bookmarks and to set your Instapaper feed and Twitter favourites to automatically bookmark.
Instapaper - Since I spend a lot of my time researching and filtering through entrepreneurship content online I find a lot of content I want to read on a daily basis. Since I can’t sit around all day reading blogs and articles, I need a way to save that content for later so I can read it when I have a spare moment. Enter Instapaper. The simple free app lets you install a “Read Later” plugin on your browser’s bookmarks bar - just click it every time you find an article you want to save for later, and it’s added to your list. Or save a recipe, cool blog or news article you don’t have time to look through at that very second. You can access your saved articles on the website, or read the articles offline using the mobile app. And, bonus fact: it was built by Tumblr’s lead developer.
Rapportive - Rapportive is one of those products you don’t know you need until you start using it, and then you realize you couldn’t live without it. The Gmail plugin shows you everything about your e-mail contacts right in your inbox. It replaces the right side of your inbox with a sidebar, and every time you open an e-mail that sidebar updates with that person’s information. You see their photo, location, position, Crunchbase information, recent Tweets, and you can even sync with services including Facebook, Tungle, and LinkedIn. You can also add notes to their profile. It’s hugely helpful to me since I receive tons of e-mail from entrepreneurs around the world, and it helps give me a glimpse into what they do.
Tumblr - I think it’s pretty obvious why I like Tumblr…after all my blog is hosted on the service. Sure, the simple blogging platform has its downsides - it’s notorious for going down and losing your posts. But I love how simple it is - I always describe it as a blogging platform that my mom could figure out in five minutes. It’s easy to share text posts, videos and photos, and there are tons of beautiful free themes to choose from. But the best part of Tumblr is the social aspect - you can follow other Tumblr blogs, and quickly reblog other people’s posts with your comments. If you’re just getting started with blogging I highly recommend it.
Prezi - Prezi is a great example of a company that didn’t try to improve on an existing product, they went outside the box and created something completely new (Apple-style). In Prezi’s case, they are revolutionizing presentations. PowerPoint, the longtime leader in the presentation tools space, allows you to create sequential slide-based presentations. Prezi throws that out the window - they reinvent presentations as existing in one big space, and give you the ability to zoom in or out on different aspects as you present (it’s hard to explain - watch their tutorial video to get a better idea). It’s completely changed the way I present at conferences, and it blows people away every time I use it.
Tweetdeck - It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Twitter, and that it’s completely changed the way I network, consume content, and market our business. But Twitter wouldn’t be half as effective as it is without Tweetdeck. The free Twitter desktop and mobile app allows you to divide the people you follow into columns based on your interests, and gives you a quick glance at all of your messages at once. It’s easy for me to see Tweets from all of my followers, the people in my Toronto column, my entrepreneurship column, a Sprouter search column, my @ replies, and my direct messages all at once. It makes me more efficient on Twitter, and allows me to get to the Tweets that really matter.
Plancast - When I first signed up for Plancast I didn’t really get it. Sharing your plans? Isn’t that what Meetup/Eventbrite/Facebook/Twitter is for? But I quickly realized that the value on Plancast lies not only in the plans that are being shared, but who is sharing them. Plancast is full of the movers and shakers in the startup/digital media world, and it’s a great way to learn about important events around the world and in your city. When you create a plan or join someone else’s plan you have the option to share on Twitter/Facebook, and you can link the site with your Facebook and Eventbrite events. I found it especially helpful during SXSW last year - it helped me keep all the parties and panels straight.Plus their cute little penguin logo doesn’t hurt.
Disqus - I met an employee of Disqus at Blogworld, and when he said he worked at “Discuss” I had no idea what he was talking about. When I realized he was talking about Disqus I was thrilled - the blog commenting platform is one of my must-use apps. Signing up for a Disqus account allows you to comment on other blogs with Disqus installed without having to enter any of your information. It also saves your comments in your profile, so you can view your past comments in one place. I also have Disqus installed on my blog, and it makes commenting really easy and interactive (you can like and reply to comments easily).
There are a few other startups I think are really cool and use occasionally, including Kik, DailyBooth, Burstn, and more. But these are the ones I use on a daily basis and would cry if they were taken away from me. What about you? What startups have changed the way you work and live?