Tech Tools for People with a Startup Idea

Here’s a few tools to get you started…

First figure out what you’re trying to sell. Use Google Trends and Google Keyword Tool to identify the keywords that someone would use to find your product. This should give you a vague idea of the market, if it’s growing or shrinking, and the set of keywords you’ll start with for your SEO and marketing copy.

Search the keywords from above on Google to see what kind of competitors exist. Take note of their branding, domain name, products/features available, and pricing. It’s good to know these things when figuring out what you need to do.

If it looks like they’re well-funded, take a peek on Crunchbase or Angellist to see if they have any notable investors and how much they’ve raised. It’s never a bad idea to do a quick Google New Search to see if they’ve been mentioned in any major publications.

Then you can use a site like LeanDomainSearch to see if there are any great domain names that contain any of your keywords. Perhaps you’ll go with a made up name, but this will get you thinking about a good name for your company. If you find a good one, you can use NameChk to see if it’s available on social networks.

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147 Online Services for Entrepreneurs: Ver 1

Version 1 (in no particular order):

  1. WordPress
  2. Mailchimp
  3. Eventbrite
  4. Twitter
  5. Facebook
  6. Google Drive
  7. Pinterest
  8. Instagram
  9. 1Password
  10. Hootsuite
  11. Buffer App
  12. PRweb
  13. Crunchbase
  14. Angellist
  15. Github
  16. Heroku
  17. Treehouse
  18. Codeschool
  19. Codecademy
  20. General Assembly
  21. Lynda
  22. Tuts+
  23. Quora
  24. Google Analytics
  25. Google Keyword Tool
  26. Google Trends
  27. Google Apps
  28. Godaddy
  29. Bluehost
  30. Tumblr
  31. Flickr
  32. iStockPhoto
  33. Elance
  34. Odesk
  35. 99designs
  36. Craigslist
  37. Taskrabbit
  38. Recurly
  39. Chargify
  40. Shopify
  41. IFTTT
  42. Zapier
  43. Adobe Creative Cloud
  44. Mint.com
  45. inDinero
  46. Quickbooks
  47. Adroll
  48. Google Adwords
  49. Facebook Ads
  50. Twitter Ads
  51. Mixergy
  52. The Noun Project
  53. VectorStock
  54. PRNewsWire
  55. Freshbooks
  56. Asana
  57. Boomerang (Gmail)
  58. Speedtest
  59. Foursquare
  60. TED
  61. Klout
  62. AppSumo
  63. Paypal
  64. Square
  65. Kissmetrics
  66. Crazy Egg
  67. Udacity
  68. Udemy
  69. Wolfram Alpha
  70. Google Calendar
  71. Authorize.net
  72. Skype
  73. Wikipedia
  74. Paper.li
  75. Newsle
  76. News.me
  77. Legalzoom
  78. Seed-DB
  79. Magento
  80. StackOverflow
  81. Zazzle
  82. Dropbox
  83. Google Fonts
  84. Olark
  85. Wildfire
  86. Salesforce
  87. Basecamp
  88. Highrise
  89. Justunfollow
  90. Gotomeeting
  91. Woothemes
  92. Themeforest
  93. Moo Cards
  94. Tungle
  95. Meetup
  96. Rapportive
  97. Youtube
  98. Vimeo
  99. Get Satisfaction
  100. Amazon.com
  101. Qualaroo
  102. Survey Monkey
  103. Proprofs
  104. Wufoo
  105. Bit.ly
  106. Zendesk
  107. Mechanical Turk
  108. Namechk
  109. Wix
  110. Launchrock
  111. Expensify
  112. Docstoc
  113. Pocket
  114. Startup Digest
  115. Second Market
  116. Balsamiq
  117. Prezi
  118. Usertesting.com
  119. Grouptalent
  120. Theymakeapps
  121. Desktime
  122. SEOmoz
  123. Optimizely
  124. Unbounce
  125. Kickstarter
  126. Crowdfunder
  127. Invested.in
  128. Glassdoor
  129. Founderdating
  130. Pickfu
  131. Slideshare
  132. Designcrowd
  133. Leandomainsearch
  134. Piktochart
  135. Mindmeister
  136. Name.com
  137. Sharethis
  138. Addthis
  139. Constant Contact
  140. Vertical Response
  141. Amazon Web Services
  142. Jing
  143. CallFire
  144. Coursera
  145. Edx
  146. Grubhub
  147. Pixlr
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7 Simple Productivity Tips Backed By Science

Here’s 7 productivity tips I like from the Buffer blog. Read the original article if you want to know more about any of these. For me, just simply glancing through the 7 key points is enough to inspire me.

  1. Help someone today – it will make you happier and more productive.
  2. Develop a daily routine.
  3. Deal with something only once.
  4. Take a nap.
  5. Keep a journal with you at all times.
  6. Learn to use the word “no” more effectively.
  7. Avoiding the snooze button once and for all.

In case you didn’t realize, my blog is my “journal”. It’s good for keeping track of things that inspire me or resources I want to go back to. Unfortunately, it’s not great for keeping track of all the things I’m doing or working on because I can’t share everything I do at work (I really wish I could, and some day will definitely be doing this).

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Testing Facebook Ads

I’m currently learning to test Facebook ads. I had a few ads run week, but they had horrible click thru rates (CTR), time to get aggressive with testing. Before I start just setting up ads like I did last week, this week I’m first documenting a logical process for doing this. So here we go:

1. Decide on a destination.

In my case, I want to first start running ads that get a decent CTR, so I’m sending them to the homepage URL. I’ll be using the Google URL builder to track the campaigns in Google Analytics, but that comes later.

2. Decide on a budget.

How much are you willing to spend total? What’s your daily limit? Plan on spending at least $250 if you want to see results (according to sources – sorry no link).

I’m testing with a daily ad budget of $50, which may be low. My hope is that I’m currently only testing and once we see better results, we’ll put more money in.

3. Decide what to test.

You can test too many things on Facebook ads. You can test the headline, copy, and image of the ad itself, and there are 10 targeting options you can test too. Testing everything at once doesn’t make sense, because you have no idea what’s working and what’s not.

Since I have a pretty good sense of who I’m targeting, I’ve decided to keep that locked in and test the ad headline and image only. Since I’m testing two of each, that results in 4 different variations of the campaign. Should be a good start.

4. Set a max CPC bid.

I’ve read in multiple places that it’s a good idea to set a higher max CPC on your ads so they get approved and shown faster and more often. Then, once you have a decent CTR (of over .15%), then you can drop the max CPC and let it ride. If you can’t get above .15% CTR, drop the ad.

5. Check daily, drop underperforming ads, add new tests.

This strategy from Quora. Makes sense, yeah? Wish me luck!

 

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Stats About Facebook Ads: Click-Thru Rates (CTR) & Cost Per Click (CPC)

What’s a good Click Thru Rate (CTR) for Facebook ads?

A CTR is calculated by dividing the number of times your ad has been shown to people (impressions), by the number of times people clicked on the ad.

  • Optimal CTR: 0.11%-0.16%
  • Above Avg CTR: 0.07%-0.09%
  • Average CTR: 0.04%-0.05%
  • Below Avg CTR: 0.02%-0.03%
  • Poor CTR: 0.01%

Ad placements in Newsfeed get 1-7% CTR.

Source: Andrew McDermott on Quora

What’s the average cost-per-click (CPC) for Facebook ads?

  • Facebook advertisers see an average CPC of $0.80.
  • Ads driving traffic to links outside Facebook saw an average CPC of $1.08.
  • Ads driving traffic to links within Facebook saw an average CPC of $0.70.

Source: Social Fresh survey

Also, here‘s a good Quora article on how to drive down CPC rates on Facebook. It’s also good to know that your past performance (CTR) is the most important factor. Here’s the simple math:

See, every Pay Per Click campaign is a gamble for Facebook. Every time a PPC ad is shown and not clicked Facebook is losing money. This puts engaging advertisers in great demand.

For instance, a campaign with a click-bid of $1 from an advertiser who is averaging a .05% CTR is worth LESS to Facebook than an advertiser who averages .15% with a $0.34 bid.

Source: How are CPC and suggested bids calculated? on Quora

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Older Workers Should Continue to Learn and Teach More

A recent study that analyzed 80,000 profiles on Stack Overflow found that older developers are more proficient than younger developers even in newer programming languages. They analyzed the reputation of answers on the Q&A site in different languages, and programmers apparently continued to have answers with better reputations, up until at least 50 years of age.

You have to take into account that perhaps as you grow older, you feel less of a need to answer questions unless you’re really good and know that people need you. Regardless, I think it’s amazing that in the developer community, people who are older not only find the need to help and teach the younger generation, but they’re actually outperforming them.

I feel like this isn’t the case with all industries. I would love to understand how you can make all industries work that way, where the older generations are not only engaged in the trade, but continue to learn and teach younger generations. I feel like the general workforce would be happier if that were the case.

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I have $5. What is the best way to invest and grow my money? [via Quora]

Every once i while, there’s a Quora answer that just blows your mind. This is one of them, I had to share:

SOURCE: Investing: I have $5. What is the best way to invest and grow my money?

I remember reading Tina Sellig’s (executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program) book- What I wish I knew when I was 20. (I don’t know Tina, though I wish I did, and I love her book.)

She gave her students the exact same problem. Here are her words, with my emphasis. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, just skim and read the words in bold.

“What would you do to earn money if all you had was five dollars and two hours? This is the assignment I gave students in one of my classes atStanford University, as part of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program…

 Each of fourteen teams received an envelope with five dollars of “seed funding” and was told they could spend as much time as they wanted planning. However, once they cracked open the envelope, they had two hours to generate as much money as possible. I gave them from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday evening to complete the assignment. 

Then, on Sunday evening, each team had to send me one slide describing what they had done, and on Monday afternoon each team had three minutes to present their project to the class. They were encouraged to be entrepreneurial by identifying opportunities, challenging assumptions, leveraging the limited resources they had, and by being creative.

What would you do if you were given this challenge? When I ask this question to most groups, someone usually shouts out, “Go to Las Vegas,” or “Buy a lottery ticket.” This gets a big laugh.. These folks would take a significant risk in return for a small chance at earning a big reward. 

The next most common suggestion is to set up a car wash or lemonade stand, using the five dollars to purchase the starting materials. This is a fine option for those interested in earning a few extra dollars of spending money in two hours.

 But most of my students eventually found a way to move far beyond the standard responses. They took seriously the challenge to question traditional assumptions—exposing a wealth of possibilities—in order to create as much value as possible.

How did they do this? Here’s a clue: the teams that made the most money didn’t use the five dollars at all. They realized that focusing on the money actually framed the problem way too tightly. They understood that five dollars is essentially nothing and decided to reinterpret the problem more broadly:What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing? 

They ramped up their observation skills, tapped into their talents, and unlocked their creativity to identify problems in their midst—problems they experienced or noticed others experiencing—problems they might have seen before but had never thought to solve. These problems were nagging but not necessarily at the forefront of anyone’s mind. By unearthing these problems and then working to solve them, the winning teams brought in over $600, and the average return on the five dollar investment was 4,000 percent! If you take into account that many of the teams didn’t use the funds at all, then their financial returns were infinite.

So what did they do? All of the teams were remarkably inventive. One groupidentified a problem common in a lot of college towns—the frustratingly long lines at popular restaurants on Saturday night. The team decided to help those people who didn’t want to wait in line. They paired off and booked reservations at several restaurants. As the times for their reservations approached, they sold each reservation for up to twenty dollars to customers who were happy to avoid a long wait. 

As the evening wore on, they made several interesting observations. First, they realized that the female students were better at selling the reservations than the male students, probably because customers were more comfortable being approached by the young women. They adjusted their plan so that the male students ran around town making reservations at different restaurants while the female students sold those places in line. They also learned that the entire operation worked best at restaurants that use vibrating pagers to alert customers when their table is ready. Physically swapping pagers made customers feel as though they were receiving something tangible for their money. They were more comfortable handing over their money and pager in exchange for the new pager. This had an additional bonus—teams could then sell the newly acquired pager as the later reservation time grew nearer.

Another team took an even simpler approach. They set up a stand in front of the student union where they offered to measure bicycle tire pressure for free. If the tires needed filling, they added air for one dollar. At first they thought they were taking advantage of their fellow students, who could easily go to a nearby gas station to have their tires filled. But after their first few customers, the students realized that the bicyclists were incredibly grateful. Even though the cyclists could get their tires filled for free nearby, and the task was easy for the students to perform, they soon realized that they were providing a convenient and valuable service. In fact, halfway through the two hour period, the team stopped asking for a specific payment and requested donations instead. Their income soared. They made much more when their customers were reciprocating for a free service than when asked to pay a fixed price. 

For this team, as well as for the team making restaurant reservations, experimenting along the way paid off. The iterative process, where small changes are made in response to customer feedback, allowed them to optimize their strategy on the fly.

Each of these projects brought in a few hundred dollars, and their fellow classmates were duly impressed. However, the team that generated the greatest profit looked at the resources at their disposal through completely different lenses, and made $650. These students determined that the most valuable asset they had was neither the five dollars nor the two hours. Instead, their insight was that their most precious resource was their three-minute presentation time on Monday. They decided to sell it to a company that wanted to recruit the students in the class. The team created a three-minute“commercial” for that company and showed it to the students during the time they would have presented what they had done the prior week. This was brilliant. They recognized that they had a fabulously valuable asset—that others didn’t even notice—just waiting to be mined.

– Page on Psychologytoday

You’re framing the problem too tightly. 5 dollars is as good as nothing. Buy yourself a coffee and figure out how you can solve existing problems for free, and then charge for that. 

(Better yet, buy that coffee for someone you respect or admire.)

Cool story, right? Inspiring.

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Introduction to A/B Testing

Don’t know what A/B testing is? It’s when companies test a hypothesis, for example, by randomly displaying two versions of a home page and testing to which results in a higher sign-up rate, or a conversion rate.

To understand how A/B testing works, take a look at this article, a single case study of how Bettingexpert.com increased their conversion rate 31.54% by making a small change in their Call to Action. The video embedded in this article will introduce you to the basic mathematical concepts of confidence level, conversion range, and sample size.

For some simple tips on A/B testing correctly, this article is a quick read. Long story short, test one hypothesis at a time, and make sure you test enough. This article gives you a rule of thumb of 50% confidence level before accepting any result, but remember that the confidence level given to you by these A/B testing tools aren’t perfect.

For a great article on determining your sample size, read this article from 37 signals blog. It gets a little mathy toward the latter half, but it still read surprisingly easily, even for those who don’t understand the math. Want an article that’s really mathy? Here you go.

Not just specific to A/B testing, but you need a good landing page to get going. Make sure you’ve checked out this infographic by Kissmetrics before designing any landing page (I’ve embedded it below). And for extra credit, read comments and critiques on existing landing pages here and here.

landing-page-design-infographic

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Cost of Online Ads

Average cost of pay-per-click ads over time (source: Hochman Consultants)

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 10.57.08 AM

Global Average Cost per Click data by Industry (source: SEOmoz)

  1. Finance    —     $3.09
  2. Jobs & Education   —  $1.80
  3. Business & Industrial —  $1.67
  4. Computers & Electronics  —  $1.39
  5. Internet & Telecom  —  $1.11
  6. Beauty & Fitness   — $1.11
  7. Autos & Vehicles  —  $0.97
  8. Home & Garden   — $0.76
  9. Travel —   $0.29
  10. Shopping  —  $0.25

Cost of Other Online Ads (source: Digiday)

  • Yahoo homepage takeover = $450,000
  • Youtube homepage takeover = $400,000
  • Facebook log-out screen ad = $100,000
  • Twitter promoted trending topic = $120,000
  • Hulu in-stream ads = $30 CPM
  • Foursquare actions = 40 cents
  • BuzzFeed sponsored article = $20,000
  • AOL homepage takeover = $400,000
  • Branded mobile app = $125,000

 

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Making Life Better

My girlfriend was feeling a little down today, so I drew her this notecard and explained to her how even when you’re doing everything just right, you can still sometimes be in a bad mood.

Making life better, isn’t that all we want? We might disagree on what we consider a better life, but let’s assume life is actually something that can be better. If there wasn’t, well, life seems a little less purposeful. For sake of argument, we’ll say life can be better.

Especially when we’re feeling down, we tend to get in the mindset of “what am I doing wrong?” We start questioning the choices we’ve been making, worried that we’ve made some wrong ones, or that we’re about to. We start questioning the things we’ve believed for a long time, or the beliefs we’ve recently picked up. What can we do?

makinglifebetter1

Well, there are definitely things we can do to make our lives better. Like being healthy, surrounding ourselves with friends, and smiling. We’ll call these factors, A, B, C, D, E, F, and so on. Because there are actually an infinite number of factors that affect how good our life is. As a matter of fact, some of them may contradict each other, like having another glass of wine. That choice can be both good and detrimental to having a better life, and that balance is somewhat different for every glass of wine we drink.

makinglifebetter2

Well, let’s add these infinite factors together and fit it on a scale from 0 to 100. 0 being we’re doing absolutely everything against having a better life. 100 being we’re doing absolutely everything just right to have the perfect life. Truth is, we’re never on either end at any point, but somewhere in between.

Now, let’s put that scale from 0 to 100 on the X axis, and the Y axis will represent how good our life is. Draw a diagonal line up the middle (X=Y), and that shows us how a combination of our choices can make our life better or worse.

makinglifebetter3

This line, however, only represents the average of an infinite number of data points. When we’re making the “right” choices, we only tend to have a better life. Even if most of the dots are near the line, there are always outliers.

Sometimes, we can be doing everything just right, but life still sucks. Some days, we’re not doing anything good for ourselves, and life seems to work out just right.

Every moment in your life is a data point. We’re just trying to make sense of this infinite amount of data, trying to figure out what our A, B, C, and so on are. The more data points you have, the more confident you’ll be of the equation for a better life.

So appreciate every moment of your life, because it’s a new data point.

 

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