Every year around the holidays journalists and bloggers around the world publish “top ten” lists or “annual buyer’s guides” or similar. And every year I think about doing the same. But it’s the holidays and I usually can’t be bothered. Plus, after reading everybody else’s list it feels pedestrian to publish mine.
So I thought now would be a sensible time – with six months on either side of the holidays. I’m not trying to say my picks are great and other products aren’t and I’ll certainly forget some. But this is just a reflection midway in June 2015 of the some of the products I love, enjoy or use frequently, and am not an investor in.
1. Twitter – Say what you want about Twitter “losing its way,” “not engaging new users well enough,” “not targeting ads well enough.” Twitter is the most fundamentally profound application I have used over the past decade. I love it. I will continue to love it. I sure hope nobody buys it. As an individual I’m just fine with its level of innovation. World leaders use it to break news. Comedians use it to hone their art. And people like me use it to tap into the tech community and get a sense of what’s going on, dive into conversations with friends or random people and build real relationships with people I’ve never or seldom met in person. Haters gonna hate. I love Twitter.
2. Uber – The second most profound application for me personally has been Uber. My life improved an order-of-magnitude on business trips when Uber came out. It used to frustrate me that I’d drive my car to the airport on the freeway, fly 30,000 feet in air in a tube and then hop into a dingy old car with somebody that looked like they hadn’t slept in 72 hours with a car that looked like it hadn’t been serviced since 1996. I lamented that this last mile was the least safe of my journey. I freaking hated trying to find cabs in SF, NY, Philly, DC and everywhere else I frequently travel. Phase one – Uber changed my business travel. Step two – I began taking UberX around Santa Monica and San Francisco on short trips and began Ubering when I wanted to have a few drinks on date night.Young people have options and don’t need to drink and drive. Haters gonna hate. Uber has made the world a better and safer place.
3. Trello – Some of the smartest people I know still send themselves tasks to complete via email. Surely that’s the worst way to remind yourself of a task. Until a few years ago I had tried every task management list and failed each time so I, too, resorted to email to-do’s. I even developed a nomenclature where I would put “restaurant” or “movie” or “must read” in the title so I could search later. No more. I Trello all my important stuff. I wrote about this years ago. I’m still no to-do list ninja but Trello makes my life better.
4. Instagram – Facebook is fine. I use it often enough. But often it feels like a chore. I get too many, “This blew my mind” headlines, too many “Bob also commented on a post you’re tagged in” and too many quizzes, ads and drivel. But yes, I still use it daily. Instagram, in contrast, is nothing but a pleasure. I love scrolling through photos of my friends and getting a quick snapshot of their lives. I feel more connected and less marketed to. And I really enjoy the feeling of getting hearts or comments on my posts. The dopamine rush works. My only quibble is that it’s still a bit too hard to know whom I should be following but am not. Equally I’m sure they can’t find me since my follower count seems to stay pretty static. Discovery kinda sucks.
5. Pocket – I was a late convert to Pocket but have really been loving it. Often I’m not ready to read an article and I see it in Twitter and want to save it for later. I know a lot of people use different tools for that. But what’s been best for me about Pocket are two key features: 1) They format the articles really nicely on my iPhone – often better than the original website and more importantly 2) they have offline viewing. This has been valuable for me several times on flights, the subway, etc. where I’m offline. What a saver to be able to read articles vs. some stupid flight magazine and I gave up playing games on my phone years ago.
6. DoorDash – I order food 1-2 nights per week. I guess I’m just that guy and likely always will be. I used to use GrubHub but the restaurants in my neighborhood that use it are so unreliable that it would often come 20-30 minutes late. Sometimes later. And I would never have any status updates and they never added any new restaurants. Along comes DoorDash. They give me time estimates of all of my deliveries and usually beat them. I get an alert when the order is received, when the kitchen has received it, when the driver has picked it up and when the driver is near. They are never late and usually beat their estimate. I can receive food faster on DoorDash than if I ordered, drove down to Palisades Village, picked up my food and then drove home. I love the experience so much that I often feel compelled to Tweet out how well it works.
7. OneShot – Ok, I know that OneShot is a narrow feature set and that frankly Twitter should offer this service but it works so well for what it does. I love being able to capture a picture or some text highlighted it and share it as an image in Twitter. Often it’s to get around the 140 char limit and sometimes it’s to have a visual. Always, it works perfectly.
8. Reserve – Some people are haters about last-minute restaurant reservation systems but I gotta tell you, Reserve is awesome. I often use it on business trips where I have unplanned dinners and don’t feel like fucking around with Yelp or Zagat (not that it has been ruined). I plug in the restaurant that I want and the suggested times and they ping me back quickly if it’s available. If not, on to the next. I also love that just like Uber I don’t have to futz with credit cars or payment. This works particularly well when I want to treat somebody else. No need to fight over the bill. It’s already been settled! 🙂
9. MediaREDEF – In a world of aggregators and social sharing tools I love the hand-crafted, mixtape nature of MediaREDEF. It does for me when Twitter used to do a better job of. In the early days of Twitter I used to get links to incredible articles I would have never seen before by people like Paul Kedrosky who has much wider data sources than I do. MediaREDEF is like the most interesting magazine you’ve read. (disclosure, Upfront is an investor in MediaREDEF, but then again, so too are many other influential investors. Lots of people love REDEF)
10. Meerkat – I love using Meerkat. I’ve written about it before. Live streaming is great for me personally. I do a frequent interview show called BothSidesTV and I’ve been enjoying Meerkat for AMAs. The reason it works better for me personally than Periscope is that I really like to be able to chat with the audience and on Periscope the comments disappear so fast I can’t respond to them. I’m sure that will change over time. But for now, for me, it’s Meerkat.
11. DocuSign – Ok, my first morning-after addition. I couldn’t list a set of products I love using without mentioning DocuSign. I know it’s an enterprise app and you could say, “how do you love that?” but I do. Why? Because it’s transformed my existence. No more running around when I travel trying to find a printer, a scanner or a fax machine. As a VC you sign documents ALL THE TIME so this has been a life saver. I literally tell teams, “if you want me to sign this tell your lawyer to put it on DocuSign.”
12. DonorsChoose – I wanted to finish with one of my favorites. I love the mission of DonorsChoose – teachers in less privileged areas can post projects they want funded for classrooms and individuals can donate to them. It’s run by a wonderful human being – Charles Best – and is such a perfect mission. Please consider checking it out. They even have a “you’re buying this product on Amazon, why not donate one to a classroom” feature kind of like Tom’s Shoes pioneered. I’m not the only one who loves DonorsChoose – so, too, does Oprah, Stephen Colbert, Fred Wilson and many, many others.
I would have added RelateIQ but right now their in the penalty box until I’m sure that my privacy problems is fully fixed. It’s such a great product and such a shame they decided to make private lists public. They have a work around that we are trialling. At a minimum the CEO has been incredibly helpful, thoughtful and respectful to us in this process. But just so you know, prior to this faux pas, RelateIQ had become our go to source for CRM at Upfront Ventures.
Time for bed. I’m sure I left some out. Feel free to add in the comments. I’ll respond and / or edit my list when I wake up. I’ll check for typo’s then, too. 🙂
Ok. I lied. I want to do some honorable mentions before bed.
2. Amazon Instant Streaming
3. Amazon Prime
4. Yelp (every time I travel and need a quick, geo-located recommendation)
5. Soundcloud – been enjoying as a podcast platform
6. Medium. Only tool I love but don’t use. Still want to port my blog there. It’s very well built. Come to think of it, LinkedIn publishing platform is also much better than WordPress.
7. Bitly. I use it many times / week still.
8. YouTube, but increasingly Vidme (where I’m an investor)
9. Waze – can’t drive in LA without consulting Waze. Or you’re a tourist.
10. StubHub – I book last minute tickets often. I can never commit early enough. StubHub is a tax on me for not planning early, but gets me what I want and need and is a life saver.
What – no Spotify? I know that everybody loves Spotify and I should to. I don’t dislike it. I’m just not a music guy. I love music, don’t get me wrong. But in the car I listen to NPR or make phone calls. At home I’m with the kids, the wife or working. At the office I prefer to have silence to work. So it doesn’t fit in my life. When I fly I listen to music but it’s all on iTunes so I download stuff.
(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)