Thanksgiving is over, so that means holiday shopping is now upon us. Buying for kids is easy (I should know; I have two boys). But buying for the entrepreneurs in my life–mostly founders at Ryerson Futures, where I mentor–is not an easy task.
To help me decide what to buy my founders, I tapped several superstars from my network. I asked founders, funders, and startup facilitators what gifts they recommend to solve their entrepreneurial problems. Here is what they suggested.
For the Founder Who Is Scaling
Leonard Brody, a serial entrepreneur, investor, and chair of Creative Labs, recommends Butler Bot. Brody runs a lot of his business through Trello, which has boards, lists, and cards that help you organize and prioritize your projects. But as the number of projects, teammates, and tasks grows, it can be hard to manage. That’s where Butler Bot comes in. Butler Bot is a rule-based workflow automation tool, which, according to Brody, is a lifesaver as you begin to scale: “It helps me automate thousands of tasks everyday. I keep my whole life in Trello.”
For the Founder on a Tight Budget
Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank (a.k.a. Mr. Wonderful) is pushing the new “As Seen on Shark Tank” store on Amazon this holiday season. (This makes sense, since he and his fellow Sharks own equity in most of the items listed.) Of all the items listed, my favorite is Screenmend, a $10 kit to repair expensive computer monitors. Most founders spend big money for a high-end monitor to work on. No founder can afford to simply replace their expensive monitor each time it has a scratch. This gift lets entrepreneurs save hundreds on a new monitor with a $10 fix.
For the Founder Who’s Not Quite Sure About the Numbers
Like O’Leary, Sunil Sharma, a managing director at Techstars Toronto, tweets about his investments as holiday gifts. The Techstars Gift Guide includes dozens of solutions produced by Techstars startups. My favorite is Clever Girl Finance, a platform to teach financial literacy (think cash flow statements, minimizing taxes, and creating pro forma financials). Financial literacy is widely linked to business success, yet many entrepreneurs are financially illiterate, according to an Intuit survey. A few years ago, using data from 509 young entrepreneurs in a program by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, I proved that increases in financial literacy led to more frequent production of financial statements, which in turn led to lower probability of business failure. That’s why I’m giving out this gift this year.
For Founders with Families
David Bloom leads LevelJump, a startup funded by Ryerson Futures. He is also a husband and father of three. Bloom’s recommendation is a book by Jim Sheils called The Family Board Meeting, which is meant to help founders with work-life balance. Reading the cover blurb sold me on this book, and I’m hoping to receive it myself.
“…begin connecting, deepening and strengthening the relationship with your most important asset–your children. Using this simple strategy, busy entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals have been re-grounded in balance between professional and home life.”
For the Stressed-Out Founder
Puneet Tiwari, CEO and co-founder of law tech startup Evichat, recommends that entrepreneurs ask for spa massages. Tiwari says the best way to counter startup stress is a relaxing spa massage with sauna. Can’t argue with that.
For the Fixated Founder
Rick Spence, a startup journalist who writes for the Financial Post, recommends giving the entrepreneur in your life a gym membership so founders can “…Get out of the office, clear your head, create neutral time for creative thinking, and meet real people.” Like Tiwari’s spa idea, it is hard to argue with Spence that entrepreneurs need to get out of the office and exercise.
For the Time-Constrained Founder
Ramona Pringle, a tech journalist and director of the Transmedia Zone incubator, suggests the gift that entrepreneurs really need is “an extra 10 hours a week. There has got to be someone working physics on that.” Well I looked and unfortunately, that technology is still under development, but in the meantime we can buy busy founders a TARDIS desk pal (the TARDIS is a time machine from the TV series Doctor Who) to remind them that time is the most valuable resource they have. If you want a more practical tool for startup time management, I recommend David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) program and book. I interviewed Allen in Silicon Valley almost 10 years ago when he launched GTD. Since then, GTD has become the default time management system of startup founders, and Allen has become a productivity guru to millions.
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