How Google manages their people – OKR, Objectives and Key Results

If there’s one management process that’s taken Silicon Valley by storm, it’s OKR – Objectives and Key Results.

Used by Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sears and many others, it’s the easiest method to have people in a team moving in one direction.

Here is a nice intro:

10 Ways to Improve Internal Communication

A presentation I did on my old love: internal communications. 10 practical tips on what you as a team leader or manager can do to improve it at your company already today. Read and try it out.

Also included tons of stats on internal communications.

Presentation: 10 ways to build stronger, more successful teams

Here’s a recent presentation I did about 10 ways for leaders and managers to run their teams better. All practical tips you can implement already today. Have a look:

Top 10 #estonianmafia startups to watch in 2014

It’s end of the year and the annual list of top Estonian tech startups (also known as #estonianmafia) to keep an eye on in 2014 is out. Like each year, it’s based on survey of Estonian top startup leaders, angels and VC’s and other major players on the tech scene. It’s compiled by the main weekly tech & startup themed radio show & podcast Restart (run by MP of the Estonian Parliament and a ex startup founder Andrei Korobeinik and host Henrik Aavik).

The top 3

No 1: Transferwise, the currency exchange service that has been taking over the world by storm, is the winner for the 2nd year in a row. Since last year they’ve added $6m round by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, now counting 2 of Paypal’s founders as their backers. The founders Kristo and Taavet were just chosen as businessman of the year in Estonia as well. Most important though has been their great uptake among customers and very high customer satisfaction. You try it once and you fall in love, as easy as that.

No 2: Plumbr Java memory leak detector that can predict and avoid software failures. Closed their $1m round recently. It already boasts paying customers such as HBO, Dell, NATO, TeliaSonera, and Ericsson.

No 3: Weekdone weekly employee status report and visual team dashboard service for managers (disclosure: I’m a co-founder). Weekdone won the startup competition at one of the largest European tech conferences Slush and closed $200k investment round from KIMA Ventures and existing angels. We also won the main Gold Prize at Estonian Design Awards.

Runners-up

4. Marinexplore ocean data analytics and collaboration. Raised their first round late 2012.

5. Cloutex cloud services sync. Raised a local seed round from 11 local participants.

6. Fortumo mobile payments. Raised growth capital and made a small exit at $10m from Intel Capital and Greycroft.

7. Testlio mobile app testing. Graduate of Techstars Austin.

8. Pipedrive sales pipeline and CRM. Raised additional $3.4m led by Rembrandt Venture Partners and Storm Ventures plus others.

9. Erply POS (point-of-sale) and inventory management. Raised additional $2.15m led by Redpoint plus others.

10. Signwise cross-border electronic signatures. Raised local seed round from Mobi Solutions, Linnar Viik and Tavid.

Honorable mention: Cognuse cognitive rehabilitation systems and devices.

You can review the last year’s 2013 list here and compare it to what happened in a year.

From personal standpoint, a year ago Weekdone had just started. So I set a goal then to make this year’s list. Thanks to our kick-ass team we succeeded by having a good year. My co-founders Veli and Janek, as well our new team members Zain, Merilyn and Ott rock! Still a lot remains to be done in helping managers and team leaders make their teams and companies better. We’re just getting started on our mission to make people and teams happier and more successful. Feel free to join us on the ride with using Weekdone in your team. Thanks for all the support!

See you in a year! Someone needs to win the top in 12 months time :)

weekdone-m-4

When founders get overloaded with tasks

Building startups is tough. As founders, we always have hundred issues in tens of categories on our todo lists. That’s stressful. It seems we have to finish those hundred tasks immediately or the world will crash. So we multitask, shuffle and hustle. Quite often, it drives us crazy. I’ve had many of such days when I’m not sure, where to get started or how to do all that.

Photo by Keoni Cabral

Photo by Keoni Cabral

Not good. Research shows that multitasking between tasks lowers your productivity by 40% and IQ by tens of points.

Faced with too many tasks, what happens is we start working on small easy tasks just to get the todo list shorter. That’s human. But it’s not very productive.

So what’s the solution? Just kill most of your task list. Keep just 5-7 most important things on it. The less, the better. Some keep just 3. Some 1 or 2. If you can do 5-7 big things per week, you’re amazing.

The main rule is: never do things that are not on your 5-7 big things list. Don’t even think about the other tasks. Sure, you can keep them in a separate file or hidden in your task manager, but get them out of sight and out of mind.

If you take the time to sit back, relax and think, not all of those 100 things are important. You could actually achieve much more by better prioritization and limiting the number of items on you todo list. Here are some of my old blog posts on the topic. First one is more generic, the other two about methods to manage your priorities better:

I’m using our own Weekdone team management tool to manage my personal productivity, mostly my big weekly goals, objectives and tasks. What had happened today was I had been human again and listed around 15 items I have to do this week there. Welcome, stress!

So what I did was to leave just 5 items there and moved the others to a “Plans on hold” area. Now the only thing I can do is accomplish one of those 5 goals. As that’s done, I can choose an additional task from plans on hold, but not before.

Luckily one of my tasks was to do more blogging, so I could share this post with you.

How do you as a founder manage your huge todo lists? Do you use any tools or processes? Do you just use a mental task list and trust your gut feeling of what’s important at any moment?

The author, Jüri Kaljundi, is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. Try out Weekdone for free and be up to date with your team’s progress, while increasing your productivity.

Startups are like DJ’ing

Many people consider DJ’ing being about playing the music you personally like as a DJ’ing. Working as a DJ 20 years ago I learned you could not be more wrong. It’s about playing music your audience likes and wants. You have to provide the music in the here and in the now, in real time. You have just minutes to react by monitoring your audience. You measure the trends: people on the dance floor, hands up in the air, smiley faces. At any moment these can go up, down or stay the same. Any failure gives immediate feedback in seconds or minutes. React, you make experiments, think ahead. Keep the things that work, throw out the ones that don’t and always try something new, which you again measure.

As a startup entrepreneur, be like a great DJ. You can’t do products that only you as a founder like. Make products your audience likes and then loves. Measure features and react. If a DJ can do that in minutes, so can you, even if it takes days. Keep you startup’s dancefloor full of happy people with hands up in the air.

The author, Jüri Kaljundi, is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. Try out Weekdone for free and be up to date with your team’s progress.

Top 10 Estonian startups to watch in 2013

Based on input from Estonian startup thought leaders and investors (including yours truly), the weekly Estonian popular tech & startup themed radio show & podcast Restart (run by MP of the Estonian Parliament and a startup founder himself, Andrei Korobeinik) has selected the most promising Estonian startups to keep an eye on in 2013. Here is the list:

  1. Transferwise - cheap money transfers. Charges a fraction of the price that banks and others charge for currency conversion. $1.3m seed round from Index Ventures, IA Ventures, Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal), TAG, Seedcamp and others. Co-founded by Skype’s first employee. Seedcamp alumni.
  2. Creative Mobile – mobile games. Hugely profitable. Drag Racing on Android has close to 100 million installs.
  3. Erply – POS and ERP tools. In use at close to 100k seats. Largest customers have 10k employees. Seedcamp alumni.
  4. ZeroTurnaround - Java productivity tools, loved by developers.
  5. Marinexplore - marine data place for the ocean community. Only one in top 10 started in 2012. Raised $1.4m from Intertrust Technologies Corporation, Fredrik Astrup, Lars Erik Baustad, Marek Kiisa (Astrec Invest) and Ivar Siimar (WNB).
  6. Grabcad - community of mechanical engineers & engineering workflow tools. $14 million raised from Charles River Ventures, Yammer’s David Sacks, Atlas Venture, Matrix Partners et al. Seedcamp and Techstars alumni.
  7. Pipedrive - CRM and pipeline management tool. $1 m raised from TMT Investments, Andy McLoughlin, Christopher Muenchhoff and Angelpad. AngelPad alumni.
  8. Vital Fields – farming weather forecasts. $318k from Estonian Development Fund et al. StartupWiseGuys alumni.
  9. Flirtic.com – dating service.
  10. Click and Grow – a self-watering flower pot. Over 80k units sold.

My personal goal for 2013 is to have my own Weekdone on next year’s list. Launched only 2 months ago, the beginnings for us have been promising, with first happy users from around 100 teams across the world, including some Fortune 500 teams. If you run a team of at least a few people – or even a few hundred – have a look at how we can help you communicate better and you as a manager always know what your team members are doing. Start here.

The author, Jüri Kaljundi, is a serial entrepreneur, micro-angel and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. To try out Weekdone for free and be up to date with your team’s progress, register here or have a look at the walkthrough here.

Giving options in European startups

The author is a serial entrepreneur, micro-angel and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. To try out Weekdone for free to be up to date with your team’s progress, register here

This week the CEO of one of the companies I’m involved with came to the board with a question of finalizing the option table of his team. While there is a lot written on options from the US startups perspective, I believe Europe is somewhat different in it’s history, culture, employee mindset and actual earn-outs like exits. Since this question comes up a lot, here are my thoughts specifically for Europe.

Expectations and motivation

Be direct with asking your employees, what motivates them and how options will affect their work. What are their expectations? Does it motivate them at all, does it make a difference? Quite often I’ve seen people accept options, saying “well I can take them” but not being really too positive about that. Stock is expensive to give out. If it does not provide additional motivation, you’d better spend some more money on salaries, new fussball table for the office and some kickass team parties.

What is the value they put on 0.1%, 1% or 5% of stock? It might sound like a trick question, but ask “is there a difference between if I give you 1% or 2% of stock?” Do they value it any differently? As a founder, if your gut feeling is that by raising the option amount there is no difference in how the person will act, choose the lowest possible option amount. [I use percentages here, what you really should do is talk of discrete number of shares.]

Asking “if I give you this amount, would you be willing to take less salary and how much” is another good test to see if they put some value to the equity. Ask them: “If I give you 1% (or 10k shares), how much do you calculate that is in real money for you?”

Besides asking the employees, ask yourself very clearly, why are you giving the options and what are the outcomes? Do you expect people to work longer hours? Take less salary? Feel more energized and have a better team spirit?

What I’ve seen a lot in European startups is the dilution of the option table, while at the same time seeing employees giving no actual value to the stock they get. They do accept it but don’t act any differently. In that case, forget it or limit it to really tiny amounts. Just doing because it works in the US is not a good enough reason.

Fewer exits, lower valuations

Equity has value when you can sell it at the end of the day. European exit market, be it acquisitions, mergers or IPO’s, lags strongly behind the buzzing action in the US. Be honest with both yourself and your employees about the chances of getting money out from the options. It is a lottery, even if a lottery which outcomes they and you can affect.

For whichever country you are in, discuss how many exits there have been let’s say last year and calculate your potential from that.

Talk also about the valuations in your country: not in the US, not the stuff you see on Angellist and Techcrunch. How much cash has been paid for companies in your country in the recent years? It is true that European startup valuations are lower, both at angel, seed and series A levels than in US, especially if you compare yourself to the top US startups that drive the high valuations and get a lot of press.

While as founders and angels we all shoot for the exits, we must be realistic about what our statistical chances are.

We talk a lot about European employees being more motivated by salaries and working conditions. Often the European founders who spend their days reading the US tech press live in an imaginary world, forgetting that the actual market is different in Europe. Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t lie to your employees and co-founders.

Your experience?

Please tell in the comments, what has your experience been as an European founder giving or and employee receiving stock and options? Any pitfalls to avoid or common mistakes? What are the differences to the US that you see in your European country in how people receiving stock take it? What are your suggestions?

edit: Follow comments on Hacker News here.

The author is a serial entrepreneur, micro-angel and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. To try out Weekdone for free to be up to date with your team’s progress, register here

See what’s popular among friends: Utopic.me preview

Ever wondered, what’s popular among your friends right now? Which links are they sharing and reading? Which music listening to? What events are being attended? Even the simplest question – what movies your friends watch and like – has not had a good online solution.

We’ve now launched an early pre-beta preview of Utopic.me: a new service to see the hottest topics among your friends. You can browse the most popular links, videos, music, movies & events, shared and liked by your friends. You’ll get a personalized real-time view of what’s trending today among people who matter to you the most. Kudos to my exceptional team: frontend guy Veli and backend guy Janek, who made all this magic happen!

Utopic.me

Please test Utopic out and give some feedback, what you liked and what not, what should be added or changed. Feel free to also like us on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Some of the problems we try to solve:

  • Have one service to unite everything popular amond your social network, not having to go to ten separate vertical websites.
  • Group popular items shared by your friends by object categories, be it videos, music, events or movies (others to be added later). We believe there’s currently no good services to see that kind of distribution. Head to Utopic sub-pages to see that in action.
  • See only the popular stuff that people interact with daily or weekly. Services like Twitter and Facebook are oveloaded with postings and many of us don’t really have time to go them through.
  • Make people tell their friends more, what do they actually like. Still we try to keep manual action to a minimum (see the end of this post).
  • Have a beautiful user interface with large photos, not just silly small thumbnails. You’ll be amazed how much visual content you currently miss even in your Facebook newsfeed.
  • Be usable across platforms: you can already use Utopic on iPad, Iphone and other mobile platforms just by going to utopic.me. Hopefully we’ll have faster native apps in the future as well.

Utopic is still a baby, so you’ll see a lot of things added over the coming weeks. Everything is not perfect yet, be it the popularity algorithms or general functionality (or the speed of IE, grr). Many things are still on todo list. For now, take it as it is, really a preview of things to come.

Currently we work mostly with Facebook data about you and your friends, but other data sources like Twitter, Youtube etc will be added soon. The goal is to have a quick view of popular topics among your friends across different websites. The preview might be Facebook newsfeed centric (although we process more than that, for example the likes, events & photos of your friends), but as we add more external interfaces, this will be changing.

Here’s how Utopic looks on iPhone:

Utopic iPhone login screen

Utopic iPhone content screen

Back in January 2010 I wrote about issues online I would like to be solved, first one of them being:

“Automatically collected structured recommendations and top lists from friends. How often have you wished to know, what your friends read, listen to, watch? Until we have to manually rate or like stuff, it will not work. More data must be collected and processed automatically, transparently.”

Year later, I still stand by that and would love to see the problem solved, with as little additional workload put on users. It’s so easy to say people have to share & vote, but who likes that? Utopic is one try to do that as smoothly as possible.

Now head to Utopic.me and tell me what you think. Any questions?

Startup Bullshit Bingo

Foto NAGI's: Startup Bullshit Bingo

Suggestions welcome: what should the January Edition include?