25 Useful Books, Tools and Hacks for Anyone at a Tech Startup
TLDR: List of books, hacks, tools and general things I think everyone at a consumer startup will find useful to know.
There are a bunch of things that I feel that everyone at TouchNote should know, or at least be familiar with. None of them are rocket science — they’re are mostly frameworks, ways of thinking and theories that I make regular use of. Whether you fully subscribe to their views or not, you should at least be familiar with them.
- Thinking, Fast and Slow and the two seminal papers by Tversky and Kahneman: Judgement under Uncertainty and Choices, Values and Frames
I still kick myself for reading these ground breaking articles only at age 30 and not at 20. This is the basis for pretty much anything ever written by the likes of Dan Arieli, Malcolm Gladwell, Nir Eyal, Seth Godin and others. It affected how I think about product, marketing, management, hiring, self-psychology, strategy and what not.
- Running Lean
The best introduction and summary to Lean.
- Hacking Growth
The best introduction to Growth Hacking, from the horse’s mouth.
- The Innovator’s Solution
There’s little point using the word ‘disrupting’ if you’ve not at least read the theory behind it, written so eloquently by Clayton Christensen (my favorite professor [and that of many others] by far at HBS).
The spin-off theory of Jobs To be Done is a must-read, too.
- How Brands Grow
Evidence-based marketing; Byron Sharp challenges some of our traditional thinking about marketing. I subscribe to many of his views, and following them helped us scale TouchNote to the business it is today.
We use pre-mortems a lot at TouchNote. I found it to be one of the most useful tools that’s come up in HBR.
- Accounting for User Growth
Jonathan Hsu at Social Capital created the best resource out there for all things cohort analysis, CLV and MRR measurement.
- Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work
How to do brainstorming the right way (i.e., first alone, then regroup).
- Google Consumer Surveys
The best (and only) way to survey 1,000 people for just $100, and one of the most useful tools Google has released to SMBs.
- Evan Miller’s Awesome A/B tools
I don’t know Evan but may God bless him for his easy calculators for sample size and Chi-squared test. Just don’t forget to swing that 1-β slider to 95%.
- Facebook Analytics
I’m amazed how many marketing people aren’t aware of the wealth of insights Facebook has about their userbase (a bit worrying, too.)
- FullStory or WhatUsersDo for Web UX analytics and Appsee for Mobile UX analytics.
- Using LastPass or other password tool to generate randomized, unique passwords.
There are tons of keyboard shortcuts that are useful. These are my top three hacks that not that many people are aware of.
- Pressing Ctrl+Shift+T (Cmd+Shift+T) in Chrome to reopen a brower tab you closed by mistake.
- Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, Ctrl+3, Ctrl+4 and Ctrl+5 in Excel, to format cells quickly.
- Adding ‘+’ to email addresses always directs to the same email address preceding the string after ‘+’. This is useful when you need to sign up multiple times to the same website. So ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, ‘email@example.com’ all redirect to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We take most of these for granted, but at least at ecommerce everyone should know the in’s and out’s of the following terms as part of their onboarding:
- CLV and LTV
- DAU, MAU, YAU
- ARPU and AOV
- Churn, Retention, D1/M1 cliffs, and Bounce Rate
- CR / Conv Rate and funnel analysis
- Response Rate
- Cohort analysis
- CPA and CAC and the algebra of CPA =f(CPM, RR, CR)
These are some books introducing concepts and original ways to think about the world. None are a must-read per se, but they certainly affected the way I view the world. In no particular order:
- Sapiens and Home Deus: Had I read these two books, I probably would have picked to major in History and not in Maths and Physics. You may not agree with everything, but Harari will open your mind to new thinking — exactly what a book is supposed to do.
- Anti-Fragile and The Black Swan: Nassim Taleb opened my mind to new thinking like few other authors have. Anti-Fragile is much harder to read, but is the basis to The Black Swan (albeit published much later).
- Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: If you subscribe to evidence-based parenting or want to learn how children learn, that’s a great book. It’s the only book I actually found useful reading before we had our first child (other than the prayer book, ha ha.)
- Pimsleur: I love languages. I used Pimsleur to jump-start my Mandarin, Japanese, French, Russian and Farsi, mostly during my thirty-minute commute in London. I think it’s second to none in teaching a new language.
- The Magic by Rhonda Byrne: I can spend hours criticizing this super fluffy, pseudo-scientific and often incorrect book but I can’t deny how influential The Magic has been to so many people I know who’ve read it.
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