50+ Startups Share How They Collaborate With Their Team

We reached out to 50 startups to ask them how they communicate and collaborate with their team. Hopefully you’ll be able to use some of the advice shared below in your own startup.

A special thanks to Warewolf, the easiest simple systems integration available (and who are open source!), for sponsoring this group interview.

Since we are focused on close communication and quick feedback cycles, we very much like the SCRUM approach, as probably a lot of startups do.

However, full-blown SCRUM has to be adopted and simplified for smaller teams – KISS also is one major doctrine of ours.

Toolwise it’s the formidable trello for project communication, git for collaborating on code and skype for the remote comms chatter, though a cool free alternative to this one might be nice.

For sharing files, we use the shoutr app as often as possible, of course 😉

Christian Beier, ShoutrLabs

Aside from email, as effective tool, we are currently using Facebook group and FB chat to collaborate with our team members because most of the time they are online.

For our collaboration for development and code repository, we are using bitbucket.com

Lloyd Harlow Yap, PinoyTravel

Readability/Navigation

Establish a file naming scheme that makes sense for the project;
Heavily comment everything;
Visually break out and explain functions in a consistent way;

Communication

Slack (internal)
Basecamp (with client)

Backups!

Push to Git;
Back-up local copy daily;
Back-up remote copy daily/weekly/bi-weekly;

Tools

Sublime Text
CodeKit
Tower

Jason Schwartz, BrightBrightGreat

We use basecamp to track high level project communication, and pivotal tracker to manage specific development tasks.

Joe Fox, CodeNoise

“We’ve experimented greatly with our collaboration stack, but this is what we’re using at the moment. I say “”at the moment””, because we are continuing to experiment, try new tools, and optimize.

Google Hangouts – used for all of our communications. We don’t really communicate with each other via email or phone, instead opting for Google Hangouts. Our team is pretty small at the moment so this works well. We’ve played around with Slack a bit, and plan to start using it when our team grows in the coming months.

Google Docs – all of our collaborative work is done in Google docs. No surprise there.

Google Calendars – this is how we stay on top of the team’s collective schedules. We are all slaves to our Google Calendars, for better or for worse.

Trello – this is our go-to project management tool. If there’s something that needs to be done at HouseIt, you can find it on a Trello card.

Dropbox – used for file storage. Again, no surprises.

BitBucket – all of our dev work goes through Bitbucket.

Rdio – we collaborate on music playlists to make sure we’re all enjoying what we listen to. Music is one of the most important productivity tools out there!”

Griffin Thomson, HouseIt

“Github, Asana, Email, G Chat, and good old fashion one on one communication.

Sometimes we splurge on carrier pigeons to keep things interesting.”

Domenic Venneri, Social Board

At Undiscovered Kitchen we love Podio! It’s super easy and customizable for any project – we especially love to keep track of our social media and blog content calendars! podio.com

Evona Niewiadomska, Undiscovered Kitchen

Asana is an amazing value for bootstrapped startups like CanIRank. It’s a full-featured cloud-based project management suite completely free for up to 15 users. The same thing would cost $50-75 / month for services like Trello, Basecamp, or ActiveCollab.

Matt, CanIRank

We use weekly updates, group chat and Skype most of the time. For project management we use our custom made tool with combination with Trello, and for code review we use another tool we created for our projects – Naforo.com (http://naforo.com).

Aljaz Fajmut, Rank Tracker

Google Hangouts and/or Skype have been crucial to our survival since day one, and continue to be used for our daily stand-up meetings every morning. Github is also a cornerstone tool that we simply couldn’t live without.

We’re able to efficiently conduct code reviews, deploy changes, securely store and manage client code bases, and share any open-source code with the community.

For day to day communication amongst team members and as a messaging hub for all other integrated tools, we use Slack and good old fashioned email.

Micah Roberson, RAD Development

Hopster has a small but highly-distributed team, and we’ve changed our systems and processes several times as our needs have evolved; as a startup its crucial to stay nimble and not be afraid to change the way you do things!

For multi-platform instant messaging and notifications, we’ve recently moved to Slack and we love it. We’d already been through Skype chat, Google Hangouts and Hipchat but Slack ticks a lot of boxes and opens several new ways to think about communicating with your team. Our email traffic has dropped significantly since we adopted Slack and this can only be a good thing.

For voice chat and teleconferencing, we use Join.Me. Its super simple, has great voice quality, robust screen sharing and recording and, importantly, international dial-in numbers. Yes, people still do use their phones for voice calls!

For project management, after much experimentation, we’ve recently moved to a combination of Trello and JIRA. All our general production tasks, especially creative work, go through Trello – we love the flexibility and fluidity and visual appeal that Trello provides.

Our major technical developments go through JIRA, where its tight structure, powerful search/filtering and integration with source code repositories makes it a winner with our dev team.

Finally, we route all our customer communications through Desk.com; its vital to have a scalable customer service solution from day one, and Desk.com also allows us to analyse customer issues for recurring problem areas.

What’s great about all these solutions is that they are cheap/free for startups but can scale rapidly as business grows, and don’t have contract tie-ins. For a startup, that flexibility is crucial!

Mahesh Ramachandra, Hopster

As primarily a client services company focused on UI and UX, Simple Focus uses the code repositories and issue trackers that our clients dictate. The usual suspects are Github, Beanstalk, Jira and Trello, but we can be flexible.

All of these tools have the granular detail for managing individual projects, but they’re missing a dashboard that gives us a holistic view of what everyone on our team is working on and how those projects are going.

We use ProjectList.com as a project dashboard to keep our entire team on the same page about what we’re working on from a macro level. We actually built it originally as an internal tool, but now anyone can sign up and give it a try.

JD Graffam, Project List

– Email
– Dropbox
– Google Drive
– Github
– AirDrop

Paul Canetti, Stream

Asana, Pivotal, GChat, Confluence, Google Docs

Chris Kelly, Survata

I work with my clients and remote developers on almost every project. To do this I need to make sure our communication is in sync. For that, I manage every bit of dialogue and project assets within a project management web app called, http://teamwork.com

This allows me to organize and direct each project, and provides an easy to use tool for my clients to join in. If I left everything to email communication, I would lose track of the important details for sure.

Doing project management requires a process. Like most web design studios, I start with exploration. This step begins the project and helps both parties understand needs and constraints. It lays a foundation for how we’ll do work throughout.

Being able to document our convo in the PM app gives me a nice overview of the project as it moves along, and let’s me plan and coordinate better than I could without such an app. With this tool I can move through the entire process to get the project launched.

Mark, Brave Whale

We use basecamp – a tool I’ve learned to love! It keeps us updated, on track and on schedule.

We supplement this with a monthly team meet which takes up the afternoon plus daily emails, instant messaging and in-person updates.

When there’s as much activity underway as we have at Enterprise Nation, communication is key!

Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation

We’re mostly an Asana type of team. I’m not convinced that the specific tool is important. More important than knowing what needs to be done is just the doing of those things.

As such we have a word we use around here. Once we start thinking too much, wallowing in too much data at the expense of production, we say MALT.

MALT stands for More Asana-ing Less Talking.

Make a list. Do the list.

Keegan Dwyer, shortcutFoo

For product development tickets we use PivotalTracker and Jira as KanBan tools. For ops and open source projects on github we use github issues for this. We also have a Kanban of Kanbans with top-level features.

Translation and localization management is a given since we use our own software Phrase App.com.

Other than that we highly integrate our services and deployments with HipChat to always be on top, when some server shows issues or exceptions occur or even a customer writes to us on interkom.io.

Frederik Vollert, PhraseApp

We work very well with the usual tools: Jira, Basecamp, Skype, Email, Phone.

Andrei Potorac, Widgetic

Since we’re building a collaborative app, collaboration is obviously a big part of the way we work at Front.

Here are the 3 tools we use to help us in our daily work organization:

– Slack
– Front
– Trello

Our process is really simple:

– We use Slack for all internal team messaging and have different rooms for different topics.

– We use Front for our communication with the outside world. We plugged in our shared email accounts (like our support address) as well as our Twitter account. Every time we receive a new message, we assign it to the most relevant team member and we are able to track everything that is happening in real time.

– Finally we use Trello to internally manage our roadmap and feature requests. We work with 3 different boards for each team.

Mathilde Collin, Front

Asana makes it easy for use to manage discussions and tasks across North America, Europe, and India.

We use Evernote, Skitch, and DropBox to organize thoughts, demonstrate bugs, and work on graphic design.

GoogleDocs is our preferred tool for producing and editing copywriting.

Depending on the device, team member preference, and time of day, we switch between Hangouts, iMessage, and Skype for communications and conferences.

Our CEO likes MindMaps for brainstorming.

Uservoice for customer care.

Bufferapp for social media organization & planning.

Join.me for webinars.

Joseph Goodman, NomadYOGI

We use the all-in-one DynaDo platform for teams to collaborate on most of our communications and project management needs. It’s really useful for us to manage our personal todos and our team tasks and projects. The discussions and IM areas make it easy to reach each other in appropriate ways.

Also we are big fans of BBM. It’s really handy, allowing us to launch voice calls from anywhere in the world via Wifi, restrict access so we aren’t getting inundated with ‘buddies’ and keep conversations there focused on business first.

Lastly some of our team members are highly mobile and they use Google Apps together with DynaDo. This is a great way to quickly mobilize your team when using DynaDo. It works really well keeping my Inbox, Contacts and Calendar all sync’d up between DynaDo and our various mobile devices.

The key process for us in maintaining effective and efficient collaboration has been our using DynaDo Discussions to keep information open and the sharing relevant. This way everyone always knows what’s happening and how to proceed as a team. Team is important to us.

Roger Kondrat, DynaDo

The tools that we use most are Google docs/drive, Copy, email, asana and whatsapp. Since we are still a small team (2 persons) most communication is informal. Tech collaboration and code version control is done through Github. These tools have taken effective and efficient to a next level.

At the same time, live and physical interaction should not be underestimated. Non verbal communication is a big part of a message that is being sent which is usually not conveyed through online apps and tools. Therefore, we have regular meetings to discuss the status quo, the progress and tasks ahead as well as our longer term strategy and vision.

Karan, Veduo

We really love Google Drive and it is our primary tool for collaboration for our magazine. The ability to create and edit documents directly in the cloud is a massive timesaver and with local backup software like inSync, actual .doc and .xls files (or any other filetype for that matter) are automatically saved and backed up on our computers in real time so that we literally have the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, with or without an internet connection without skipping a beat.

We evaluated other cloud based collaboration apps, but Google Drive won hands down.

We have also started using Todoist to manage our short and long term tasks and we are really liking it as well. It syncs across all devices and has a great UI/UX design that makes it a pleasure to use.

As far as systems go, we made it a point to try and systematize everything we do so that we reduce the amount of brain power we have to dedicate to managing hundreds of small details and processes that we go through in the production of each issue.

We simply follow a step by step checklist/worksheet and it greatly reduces mistakes and our stress levels. As an added benefit, it’s very easy to get new team members up and running as they literally have step by step instructions on how to do everything they need to do. It allows us to manage a really complex set of processes in an almost effortless way. Just show up and be creative — just how we like it.

Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine

Chat:
Slack – We find the different rooms very useful and the fact that you can create private ones is great too

Taks Management:
Trello – We love the simplicity of it, needs a bit of time to learn how to use is effectively but once you learn, the notification system and integration with other tools (like Sunrise Calendar) makes it a great tool. Also mobile and tablet apps are extremely intuitive to use.

Calendar Management:
Sunrise – Great integration with Google Apps and Trello. Makes event and meetings management smooth.

CRM:
Insightly – We like the integration with Gmail, it allows you to add any contact from an email you received with a single click. Mobile apps are not so good though

Accounting:
Waveapp – Very good, specially for a free tool. Takes a bit of time to learn how to do things though, but its worth the initial hassle.

Video Communication:
Skype – Not much to comment here since its very well known I guess 🙂

Mail and File sharing:
Google Apps – We use Google drive with shared folders for each different project, makes it easy to share files with whoever works on each project.

Ignacio Martin, Puerta del Sol

We use hipchat for internal communication, weekly meetings for both management and the entire team to set goals and catch up, bitbucket and scrumwise for tech relayed communications, Google drive/chat and trello.

Polina, Wanderu

Whatsapp, Dropbox and Google Drive.

Maximilian Waldmann, conichi

Being a start-up on the brink of launch, efficient communication between the team is of paramount importance. Given the sheer volume of messages, emails and phone-calls – we realized in our early days that we need to bring structure and form to the manner in which collaborate internally as well in our communication with partners.

We use an internal project management system to create project milestones, assign tasks as well as track progress. The system allows us to direct queries and updates to the responsible team member – creating a system of complete transparency and accountability.

Being an mobile developer, all issues and bugs reported will be uploaded on the system by the Quality Assurance team and then directed to the concerned team lead. An important feature we use is to mark the urgency of each issue so they can be organized in levels of priority.

For the marketing team, we finalize and approve a “bucket” of content two weeks before the content is posted on multiple social networks. The content is organized and shared using dropbox. We also have a Whatsapp Groups for various teams since it’s the more instant form of communication.

Nikhil Mulchandani, Clickin

Google Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts etc.)
BitBucket
WhatsApp
Skype
Passpack.com

Justin R. Melville, Ekaya

Gmail/Google Apps for Business – This is the most cost effective, quick, and scalable email system that we have used to date. We also use the Google Hangouts feature heavily, as a form of an office communicator. Also helps to see if your freelancers and staff are online or not. We use this to communicate with 60 freelancers, and an admin team for five; all of which are remotely based all around the world.

Streak (Streak.com) – this is probably the most important add on we have for Gmail. It is a CRM that manipulates the javascript of Gmail to offer you a way to manage anything you want, in well organised pipelines, with as many stages as you like. I would recommend this for every single SME over more complex sales software/CRMs

Dropbox and Google Drive – We share a lot of files, knowledge, and data, so it’s a great way to keep everything in one place. I would say that Dropbox features more prominently for us.

Rapportive – Another Streak like plugin for your browser that sits inside Gmail. What this allows you to see is someone’s social profiles that are linked to any email address.

OneNote my Microsoft – We use this to leave memos and notes for each other. All of the admin and managers have a single OneNote file that they write into, and acknowledge each others notes, and also discuss key points and topics.

Mind Node – A great tool to visualise data. We use this a lot of jot down our blue sky ideas, and then to refine them before we move forward.

Other tools we use include Pencil Evolus, and of course Skype.

Kiran Chauhan, Proofread My Essay

At Top10 collaboration is critical part of how we work. We believe collaboration helps us innovate, validate our ideas, and gives everyone a greater sense of involvement and ownership.

One of the main ways we enable collaboration is by forming small cross-function teams to work on specific goals or projects. This encourages people to collaborate across the business rather than working in a departmentalised way.

These teams use agile methodologies (picking the best bits from Scrum, XP and Kanban) to ensure communication and idea generation happens in a collaborative way. We then pair this collaborative approach with Apple’s DRI concept, ensuring that one person in the team maintains overall decision making and accountability for the project.

Tools we enjoy using to support collaboration include Trello and Slack, as well as good old-fashioned group emails and face-to-face standing meetings.

Finally we have something we call “Top10 Time” on a Friday afternoon, where everyone in the company meets to give a one-minute update on what they’re working on. This helps share knowledge through the team and stimulates further discussion and collaboration.

Harry Jones, Top10.com

Slack, Asana, Email, Gchat, Gcal, Google Docs.

June Lin, Wonder Workshop

The main tool we use is just good old fashioned email and texting. I personally extensively use Google Voice for texting my team as it’s much easier to type texts from the computer.

Other collaborative tools include:

Trello for task management
Google docs for shared docs
Insightly for CRM
Google groups to help facilitate group emails

Seth Syberg, CocoBurg

Trello
Email
Evernote
Google Docs
Flask List (http://flask.io)

Teacher Suzy, TinkerED

We have a team that’s dispatched between NYC, Aix en Provence and Belgrade so we have to be a well oiled machine to function as one unit.

We use Asana to keep up to date and in touch with all our tasks.

We use google docs to collaborate on excel docs like reports and KPIs.

We use Skype to communicate and keep Recommend running around the clock.

We use Invision and Axure rp Pro for prototyping and wireframes.

Nicolas Duminil, Recommend

We have multiple whiteboards in our office that we use to write ideas, draw up designs, and show what tasks are a priority for our team to finish. It allows us to be hands on and visually collaborate on new ideas and features.

We use Google Drive to easily share documents, spreadsheets, and files that are important to our team. This way we can all view and edit items together when we are organizing our data and keeping track of which team member is in charge of what.

Our team tries to meet up everyday, but sometimes life happens. We use Google Chat to quickly message each other to notify if there are any changes to our platforms, ideas that could make our platforms better, or to check on each other to make sure our important tasks get done.

One of the most important things we do is have group meetings where we all meet face to face to discuss ideas about improving our platforms. We work as a team so we have to make decisions as a team. These meetings bring our team closer together and really help us improve our platforms to give our users the best experiences possible.

Nolan Thompson & Chris LaBonty, HeadFunder

Xtreme Media is a digital signage & LED display solutions company, as a result there are various teams working on different projects. Many a times a special technology team is build who work on that project for e.g. a team of HTML, Java or Kinect etc. We use all available platforms to create a smooth communication there are groups on internal emailing system that automatically gets all updates.

To avoid miscommunications and to create unity in direction, we have a rule that a leader should handle team of not more than 4-5 people. We maintain a proper hierarchy and all the updates go to immediate supervisor but by keeping the senior management in loop of emails.

We also make use of whatsapp group, as we also provide hardware so most of the time installation or support team is on the field which is backed by back end from the office.

Daily diary is another tool we used to create a timeline of tasks carried out by each and every employee. This digital diary format is universal for all Xtreme Media employees with little customization as per their departments. This tool comes in handy to assess the performance for immediate bosses at the end of the month & end of the projects.

Sanket Rambhia, Xtreme Media

This may sound weird but we actually use our own tool to collaborate. NewPeer is a project tracking application which help us assign tasks to various team members and keep a track on it. The most interesting thing we like about it is the activity page which shows you everything you need to know about the project progress in a single page and format.

Pulkit Madan, NewPeer

We are making use of the Power Of Lists! Apart from bug lists attached to Milestones in the Mantis bug tracker, we are doing a lot of different structured lists in Google Docs: release planning, roadmap planning, company management, etc. Everybody has access to them and they are referenced in our daily conversations.

Together with an open plan office and pre-lunch standups, this does the job currently.

Felix Hupfeld, Quobyte

For project management and collaborative work, we love to use Asana a lot, although we sometimes use Google apps again which still remains a very useful tool for sharing documents in real-time and more.

We are big adepts of DROPBOX where all our working documents are stored.

The tech team uses powerful GITHUB and Invision for design works.

Day-to-day communication is actually managed through Facebook, rather than email, as our overall business and product environment brings us to Facebook a lot.
We like to use Facetime for remote communications!

Regular meetings in the office or gatherings at the pub are also very favorable for improving communication and collaboration!

Florian Delifer, LittleBigCity

Slack
GoogleDocs
Whiteboard
Email
GitHub
Skype
Communicating verbally

Konstantin Shtondenko, Pics.io

We’re not big fans of traditional collaboration tools and systems. In fact, we’ve built a pretty lean way of communicating within the team only via instant messages on one of the social networks. Simple, effective and does the trick perfectly.

Also, we don’t have task tracking. If there’s a high priority task that needs to be done, then we’ll be bombarding each other with messages until it’s done. This way, we do what really must be done.

Basically it gets down to all of us wanting to accelerate and build an awesome product. So everyone knows their jobs in order to achieve that.

Alexander Zaytsev, Lookastic

We are mainly using e-mail. I tried to use some team collaboration tools like Asana.com, but e-mail still proved to be the easiest and the best choice.

My tip for each team manager is to use deadlines as often as possible. Nothing make people working so efficiently as a deadline 🙂

Franciszek Migaszewski, Efneo

We use Asana to track tasks, and 15five to do weekly reporting. We do three bi-weekly scrums (for each of our technical areas) and track those with daily emails.

We also use Hellosign for all document signing, and internally written custom software to track data flows.

Jessica Richman, uBiome

Slack, Basecamp, JIRA, Google Docs, Gmail

Melissa Kwan, Spacio

Tools: Slack (chat where the distributed team meets), Trello (log and assign tasks), Google apps for business (mail, calendar), Zapier (linking tools together). And in Slack all the events of our tools come together for transparency and to rally the team around the same goal.

Processes: almost-daily standups. Giving people ownership of large parts so they can work independently.

Frederik Vincx, Prezly

We have a small team and sit together every day, so that’s our process (pretty analog!). For documents we use Google Drive, for design assets Dropbox, for tasks Asana, and for planning it’s again analog: whiteboards.

Abe Han, Works.io

Slack
Google Hangouts
Asana
Intercom
Skype

Sean Fee, Player Me

Processes:
– Weekly general meetings
– Skype-chats and calls on specific tasks and questions
– Planning and prioritization for 3-6 months horizont

Tools:
– Redmine
– Asana
– Skype
– Google hangouts

Nikolay Pasholok, SocialMart

In our team of 6 people we use Slack for communication and Trello for task management.

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