If you are reading this, you are most likely somehow involved or interested in the Startup Chile program. You are also, and I hate jumping to conclusions, working on a startup or hoping to.
Congratulations. It is not only an incredible rewarding life experience, I don’t need to tell you that, but one that has the power to provide you a certain freedom.
Not necessarily free time. It takes a lot of work to get to that point.
The freedom I’m talking about and what we’ve worked to build for our own startup, is the freedom from being tied to a location. The idea of remote work is already deeply rooted in most tech companies. The tribe that is “The Digital Nomad” is becoming ever more easy to be a part of. For many, joining the SUP program places you many thousands of kilometers away from your local markets, customers and home. But this is no longer a limitation.
If you’ve joined the SUP program, you understand the inherent advantages of being in an inspiring environment and potentially new markets.
A few months ago we took our company on the road. We decided we would spend 6 months on the road driving across South America. Working out of a Land Rover Defender, we stopped anywhere we found interesting – as long as there was a good wifi connection.
The results have been better than we could’ve imagined. Of course there’ve been the challenges, beyond the expected office drama.
La Oficina (the affectionate name for our Land Rover) has had its troubles. Wifi and cellular reception has always been a big challenge. In the process, we have had to learn to be incredibly efficient.
It has everything to do with the tools. And we think these tips would be helpful to most startups out there, considering you are probably working with people virtually and on the cloud, on a daily basis.
Generally, the tools we use are all cloud-based. We are at times in different cities, countries or time zones. We need to be able to reliably access up to date information and data. Flexibility is very important as well. When we struggle with what should be a simple task we’re wasting time and money. When these limitations arise, whether about adding team members to the SaaS, simplicity and ease of access, offline capabilities, low bandwidth consumption or applications without exporting options, at best it may mean paying a monthly fee we don’t want to. At worst, changing applications or software, with steep and long learning curves.
Here are a 6 tools we live and die by:
- calendly.com: A very simple web app that allows us to schedule meetings with multiple people. We send a link to clients with our windows of availabilities, and the times are customized to the clients’ timezones (forget about trying to calculate when you are sending a link to a client). We’ve tried many, but this one simply works. It’s simple and it’s features deliver without fail what we need, including syncing to our Google Calendars, Skype contact detail entry, and complete local timezone customization.
- Basecamp: You’ve probably used it or are using it. You may have your own preferred project management tool. But we’ve tried them all (ok, not all, but several) and as a centralized project management tool for communication, assets and task management, it is simple, powerful and extremely reliable. Anytime we have projects involving more than 2 parties and/or people, this has been a lifesaver.
- Skype: No explanation needed. It’s a remarkable tool and we are grateful that we can communicate with most of our clients face-to-face for free. Screenshare is an added bonus.
- Bluejeans: To fill in the hole (that Skype doesn’t fill), when we need to do calls with several clients, use advanced screen sharing, start a conference call over phone with local dial in numbers (which has become so important on the road) – internet free as long as we can find a local phone, Bluejeans has been a key to us making several deals while being in the middle of nowhere with no internet, and weak phone signals.
- Evernote: If you aren’t already using it religiously, today is a good day to start. Whether taking notes while on calls, making to do lists, sharing pdf’s, storing and sorting content, cross platform cloud syncing etc. it’s been key to our daily processes. Each project we work on has a unique Notebook, making information retrieval (with the search function as well) very quick.
- Pre-paid SIM Cards & Local Internet Packages: Latin America is building its mobile infrastructure quicker and more efficiently than its wired offerings. Meaning, for very few Pesos, Solas, Bolivars or other, you can be connected anywhere for dirt cheap. If you are traveling around South America, we highly recommend picking up a SIM card with prepaid data. For example, in Chile it will set you back $3 for SIM card, about $5 for 500MB (more than enough for emails, and sometimes even for Skype calls from a moving bus!).
Other tools and technology we find invaluable:
- We have a server which is located in the US and has great bandwidth. We can remotely log in via the command line and remotely control the server to perform tasks that needs high bandwidth and high processing power.
- We use Sparrow, to sync with google cal, as well as download and work on emails offline. Ignore this one if you appreciate not being able to work when you are flying or on the bus.
- We’ve setup Google Calendar to send us SMS reminders before meetings
- And when you need that wifi, we always know where to look for cyber cafes, coffee shops, hostels, and even gas stations with good wifi.
That’s a few of them. We could go on, but these are some of the tools we think will be most relevant to you as budding startups. They keep us going on the road.
What tools are you using that you can’t imagine going without?
Here’s Startup Diaries talking to Sebastian Vidal as well as 3 other SUP entrepreneurs.