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20 Must-Have Tools for Young Treps Serial entrepreneur, angel investor and professor Dave Lerner shares his list of productivity essentials.

By Dave Lerner


Q: What's your advice for staying organized and productive while running a startup? What low-cost tools would you consider must-haves?

- Brent Stromme

Minneapolis, Minn.


A: First and foremost, you need to make sure you're constantly talking to other entrepreneurs and exchanging information on the latest tools and techniques they have been trying out. Being in "the flow" is important and you will always learn the most from folks that are in the trenches. Also, eating healthy, exercising and turning your phone off once in a while are all important ways to keep productivity high.

Related: 5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier and More Productive Without Leaving Your Desk

I tell all my students that before you do anything else, you need to get "orchestral" on your startup. This step precedes tooling-up. What I mean by this is that before you do anything else, map-out the many layers of your company in the most organized way possible.

Whether you use Osterwalder's canvas for the customer-development phase or a variation of something more homemade like I do using MindNode, I recommend actually printing out the map and putting it on the wall in front of your desk. This way you have a constantly evolving visual rendering of the entire landscape of your startup that you can glance up at throughout the day. It has a way of keeping you mindful of the big picture so you don't get lost in the weeds.

Related: How to Build a Better Brainstorming Session

Now that you've gotten "orchestral," what online tools are you going to deploy on a shoestring budget to keep yourself as efficient as possible? The important thing to remember is that any tool you use should work for you. If you're not comfortable with it, find another one. There's an abundance of great tools for us to try these days and that's one of the reasons we're so lucky to be entrepreneurs in the twenty-first century.

Here's a list of low- or no-cost tools that are, in my opinion, indispensable for young entrepreneurs to stay on track.

1. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Chrome
2. Dropbox for sharing and storing files
3. Evernote for jotting down ideas of your own or pulling links from the web
4. LinkedIn for cultivating your professional network
5. Twitter for following your industry and the competition -- and for joining the conversation
6. Workflowy for managing your to-do lists
7. Google Hangouts for distributed team meetings
8. TweetDeck to monitor your social media streams
9. Doodle for scheduling meetings with multiple people
10. Launchrock for your "launching soon" page
11. SurveyMonkey for surveys
12. for demoing or presenting remotely
13. QuickBooks Online for accounting
14. Expensify for expense tracking
15. MailChimp for email marketing and newsletters
16. ThemeForest for theme-based website creation
17. WordPress for websites and/or blogging
18. HooteSuite for managing multiple social media streams
19. Asana for group task management
20. Trello for team collaboration

Have a question for YE's experts? Submit your questions in the comments section below and those with the most likes from other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. Include your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business.

Dave Lerner is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, blogger and host of Venture Studio, an online interview show in which he talks with entrepreneurs, investors, founders and other members of the flourishing New York entrepreneurial ecosystem and beyond.

Follow him on twitter: @davelerner

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