Thursday Oct 4, 2012 by Jesse Waites - Plate Techtonics: When Unstoppable forces Meet Immovable Objects
Inside of the Cambridge Innovation Center, tucked away in a corner on the 5th floor, lies a room known as Greenlight Labs. Outfitted with an electronics workstation, soldering irons, books on software development, a video editing station and even a Makerbot 3D printer, we've got everything we need to do almost anything we want. My name is Jesse Waites, and I've been working out of the lab for the past 9 months. I run a web design, app development, and custom software firm called PNTHR.com, and I get to work with some of the smartest and hardworking entrepreneurs America has to offer. After working out of the Critical Mass space on the 4th floor for a while, I fell in with a group of guys in Greenlight and slowly started coming around more often to work. The cool thing about the Greenlight guys is that everyone is on their second or third startup, so everyone has the correct technical and business jargon down cold and everyone actually knows what they are talking about. A lot of bad actors think that working in a startup is the "cool" thing to do now, so it is extremely beneficial to work around people that are experienced, connected and know startup life inside and out. These are my people.
I walk into the lab and have a look around. I'm the first one in the office today, so that means I get to pick the music. I take a minute to fire up the Mac Mini and turn on Spotify and load up the new Jack White album. Two of our four walls in the lab are nearly floor to ceiling glass, so I take a look over Kendall Square and decide on my to-do list for the day, referencing Asana.com to jog my memory. Just then Dan and Scott walk in. "Yo yo.", Scott says. "How was last night?" I begin to tell the tale of a recent date gone awry, and the guys can't get enough of it. More of the Greenlight crew show up and suddenly everyone is trying to one-up each other with tales of love gone wrong and everyone is laughing so hard we have to make sure we don't disturb the rest of the CIC. If you've ever watched Entourage and can imagine combining that with a bunch of startup guys in Cambridge, that’s pretty much what it’s like in here. Swap the Maybachs for MacBooks and you get the idea…
Dan Sullivan and Scott Segel work on a startup called Crowdly.com, which helps big brands connect to their fans through social media, and they just signed a very big local client (You've definitely, definitely heard of them). Dan is a TechStars alumni and Scott is a California native who actually loves Boston, the first I've ever met. They suggest going to Voltage Coffee to celebrate, and Marc Regan from Mapkin.co joins us. We hit the streets and marvel at what a great day it is outside. Just then, we see Ben Cohen from Statement1.com heading back from Starbucks and comes along for the walk to Voltage. Ben is another member of the Greenlight Mafia and while walking I mention to the guys that FreshBooks just announced a "cloud accounting" service, and we discuss what that means for our businesses. The great thing about working so close to other entrepreneurs in the internet space is that, since we are not direct competitors, we all freely share tips, tricks, and services suggestions that make our lives easier. With tools like Cloud Accounting, Amazon Turk, and other innovative technology services, that load is taken off of the entrepreneur and the mind is freed to concentrate on looking forward to the future rather than backwards at last week’s invoices. Working with these guys in such an open environment like the Cambridge Innovation Center and Greenlight Labs has been a privilege and has opened my eyes to how important collaboration can be to a struggling economy, so some of us would like to share our favorite software and productivity tips.
Rapportive - C.A. Webb, Executive Director of the New England Venture Capital Association, recommends the awesome free email extension at Rapportive.com. "I don't know how I did business before Rapportive!", she says. "Now I always know who to look for when I arrive at a meeting with someone new at a restaurant or coffee shop. And I can quickly and easily browse their background with just one click. It's also super simple to connect with them across multiple social sites. Rapportive is a super smart app." Lots of us in Greenlight Labs use Rapportive and we all recommend it.
PDF Signer for Mac - I discovered PDF Signer in the Mac App Store when I got tired of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing contracts back to clients. What a barbaric practice that is. Using this tool I can simply open the PDF, type where I need to input text with a great graphical tool, and stamp my signature where needed. It saves me lots of time and trouble.
Dropbox - Micaela Mazzarella of Myomo.com says "I use DropBox on a daily basis to share files among my coworkers all over the country. DropBox makes it easy to share large video files, which for a company trying to sell a robotic arm brace, it is a daily essential. Being able to share videos of new test products and even real people in the field using our robotic arm brace is a huge asset."
Skitch - Greg Belote from WeFunder.com says "Skitch is a very simple and lightweight screenshot tool for Mac. It makes it very easy to share screenshots, which we have to do a lot when tracking down bugs."
Streak.com - John Moore of RXApps.com says he uses Streak "for keeping track of my pilots and potential strategic partnerships. It’s basically Google Labels but with more features, which turns it into a CRM. It's simple, free, and very intuitive."
IFTTT - I use IFTTT extensively for my Boston based web design firm. I set it up to scan the internet for people looking for web developers in Boston, and it emails me when it finds a match. This saves me from having to manually do it myself like a serf.
Those are just a few of the great tools we use to make our lives and jobs easier. If you have something you'd like to suggest, tweet to me @JesseWaites and I'll write an updated article in a few months. We hope you try out some of these tools and let us know what you think.
Jesse Waites is an animal lover, writer, technology activist, Founder and CEO of PNTHR.com, and is on the MIT Enterprise Forum Innovation Series Planning Committee. You can usually find him walking his dog Finn in and around Boston or reading physical novels made out of actual paper in locally owned coffeeshops. He can be reached @JesseWaites on Twitter.