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Communication Tips

“We can use ChatGrape for that” – 7 Cool ways to improve your team communication

There are many things you can do with ChatGrape as your main communication solution. Here are seven things that will either improve team culture or straight-up efficiency.

1- Stay up to date with Service Activities

Before: Email Notifications
 
You can receive updates from all the services you are using right inside of ChatGrape. Simply set them up in your integration settings (if you are an admin of your organization) with a click.
After selecting a room (e.g. „Development“) you will receive update message every time something changes right inside the Room. We keep ourselves up to date about changes on the servers, issues that have been resolved and documents that have been created. This removes a lot of clutter that you usually have in your emails.
If your favorite integration is not yet supported or you have a very specialized solution internally running, you can use our APIs to connect it with our service. Let us know if you want us to help you set an integration up via support@chatgrape.com!
Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-19 um 02.21.08
Pro-Tip: You can use emoji codes in your self made activities to give your presentation that extra spice. Find a list of all emojis here! http://www.emoji-cheat-sheet.com/

2- Replace Standup Meetings

Before: Standing around in your board room
 
At ChatGrape we like to keep Meetings to a minimum and have a lean and independent workflow while developing the next big things. That’s why we have a dedicated room in which every team member posts in the morning ..
  • what she/he has a done the day before
  • if they feel like they are in time, behind or need assistance
This system allowed us to keep communication overhead low while maintaining a good oversight of our team’s progress.

3- Manage Lunch

Before: Yelling through the office
 
The team has to eat! We have a dedicated room so that we don’t disturb our remote developers with posts in which we discuss our local restaurants. This keeps the main room clean and allows us to properly discuss the
 Artboard 1

4- Birthday surprises and surprise baby showers

Before: Coordinating prep-meetings
 
With the private rooms you can quickly coordinate collective actions to surprise one of your team members. This May, when one of our developers, Clemens, got his first son, we gathered in his very own baby shower room and put together a baby box including diapers and onesies full of inside jokes and awesomeness.
Don’t ask him about the Ananas.

5- Product Ideas – Icebox 

Before: Task Management System
 
In our opinion product ideas and product planning should be strictly seperated. Instead of putting them together in GitHub issues you can discuss them in a dedicated room and have the product manager pic the ones he sees fit to put in the upcoming sprints.
This creates overview and saves you from the way-too-common task grave.

6- Product Screenshots

Before: Drive Folder
 
Collect screenshots of your new features every week to keep up with the progress and to have product images at your disposal for folders, blog posts, etc.
Autocomplete Room Switch

7- GIF Battles

Before: Nowhere
 
The amazing ChatGrape Giphy integration that allows you to browse GIFs right from the chat is generally fun to use in conversations. But you haven’t really used it until you had a GIF-Standoff in a dedicated room. The idea is to always find a GIF to react or answer to the previous one.
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There are a lot more ways to make your work life easier with dedicated chat rooms. Keep following our blog to stay up to date with the – sometimes unexpected – things you can do with the most efficient chat service.

Underdog Power (succeeding in the shadow of a hyped competitor)

Sometimes your startup is up against a fast growing and high-praised newcomer. While you have to work a lot harder to make your product stand out, there are also a couple of benefits you can make count from being the underdog.

When we launched ChatGrape we did this in the midst of Slack’s Silicon Valley hype. As the chat market is a fast growing sphere, with a lot of different niche solutions, its hype didn’t affect our early access phase. But it made PR and marketing definitely more challenging. Stewart Butterfield and his team kicked out an appealing slick product and promoted it in an impressive way.

That’s why we went for the underdog approach, tried out new tactics and managed to maintain a weekly growth rate of 10% up until now. Here is a collection of things that worked out for us:

1. An educated market rocks

Thomas Schranz from Blossom once told me why he only works on commercial projects with strong competition:

“It’s simply more fun to tell a potential customer why I’m better than his current solution than explain to him why he should use me in the first place.”

Having a competitor that fills every major newspaper does one thing for you in particular:
It makes more people consider using a product like yours. If it wasn’t for Slack (and Hipchat before that) our sales pitches would still be about “Why chats are better than emails”.

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That’s why at the beginning you should focus on converting rather than creating new customers. Even if you can’t convert them they provide you with vital informations on how you could perform better.

SaaS customers also tend to try out several products in their lifetime so make sure to list on all those nifty product chart pages like:

  • Quora and similar ask-communities (“What is the best XY?”)
  • Alternativeto.org and other product-compare-platforms
    (You could give ChatGrape an upvote while you are at it)
  • Articles and Blogs reviewing players in your genre (at least in the comment section)

2. Cryptonite

Every weakness has a corresponding strength and the other way around.

With products deliberate weaknesses come from strong decisions a company made to enforce its USP. If your competitor has some exceptional strengths try to see the weak spots rooted in in them. If your product has immediate flaws, embrace the reasons that led to them.

The beautiful and consistent UX of Apple’s iOS products is the companies biggest strength. The weak spots that come with it are

  • a limited customizability for customers
  • one product with one price-point

Two things Android seized, which led to a huge head start in developing countries and the biggest piece of the mobile market.
Both companies are exceptional, but one started in the shadows of the other’s hype and became the yin to the its yang.

doors

  • Go to the landing page of your competitors and screen which USPs they are trying to communicate.
  • If they have an open support board find the biggest unresolved feature requests.
  • What are the most requested functions in your product you had to say no to because they contradict your vision? How can you communicate them positively?

 

3. Three common differentiation tactics for Startups

“As long as you are different, there will be peope who dig you”

– Underground rap god, Tech N9ne

You have to be differentiable in a comprehensible way to position yourself as a relevant alternative. The moment you can answer the question “What makes you different to XY” in a reasonable sentence you have found it. If you want to read up on competitive strategies take a look at “Porter’s generic strategies” because I will only brush the topic.

A couple of differentiation tactics a lot of tech companies follow:

Simplification (Apple it up!)

If your team consists of a good designer and you are capable of dismissing around 99% of your product features this might be the way to go.

Product: Eliminating most of the features, light appearance, smooth transitions.
Landing Page: Emotional cover images at the top, short marketing statements in huge typo, signup limitations.
Positioning: “XY is simple again”, “XY made easy”, “One-click XY”

Approachability (“Kickstarter-ing”)

Especially non-tech community based products profit from an approachable and open presentation. As your competitors grow it gets harder for them to maintain this startup-ish grassroots feeling, which you can utilize.

Product: Betas and early access features, using team member faces for tooltips and feedback tools.
Landing Page: Emphasis on the vision and the people behind it, faces, group pictures, personal direct speech.
Positioning: “Making XY personal again”, “connecting thousands of people around XY”, “A product from people that love XY”

1-up Security

If you have a strong development team and your sales strategy involves bigger corporations security might be a good argument … IF your competition isn’t using it of course.

And I’m not only talking about encryption technology.
With most cool SaaS products focusing now on cloud hosting a big chunk of security-savvy companies feels uninvited to the party. Being the “XY on premise” gives you sometimes a head start of years before your competitor moves into this section.

Important: If the product is not really save, this approach can backfire a lot. Two ways to counteract are involving the open source community or getting security advisors on board early on.

Product: On Premise, OTR, whatever makes sense to your customers
Landing Page: Locks, visualization of the method you are using, big business visuals (server rooms, skyscrapers, etc.)
Positioning: “XY on premise”, “XY is save now”, “XY in private”

4. Being there when the bomb drops

There is only so much a company can do right until it does something wrong. This doesn’t mean you should bet on it or wish it to your competing companies, but it’s good to have a game plan set up when it happens. Security breaches or other shit-storms are home-runs for your marketing team. It’s important to note that spitefulness isn’t getting you anywhere, smoothness is key. A smart note on Twitter that your two-factor authentification keeps you save from security breaches, like the one happened to your rival, would be a good example for a cool heads-up to your target group.

Another moment where competing businesses should be particularly aware are acquisitions.

Especially with community and news products the buy-in of a bigger player can be a gods gift. Independence is highly valued in these spheres and also news sources tend to take a closer look on competition during this time.

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Examples: Twitch -> Hitbox.tv, Google Reader -> Feedly (in this case a discontinuation but the pivot of feedly should be noted), Flickr -> DeviantArt

Conclusion

There are a lot of good ways to grow your business even if you aren’t making all the headlines at the moment. Building a sustainable business is a marathon, not a sprint, even if it sometimes looks like it.
Keep differentiating yourself, build a goddamn awesome product and exploit your underdog image – you might finish up top in the end.

3 Proper Fridge Rules to keep the peace in your office

The office fridge is among the most shared objects in your company. A place where a chicken sandwich can cause distress and agony requires a lot of self-composure from your employees. That’s why it’s important to communicate some proper fridge rules that bring peace to the middle east of your office and turn anarchy into harmony. Meet our fridge, Oscar. Oscar, the Office Fridge

He has become a ZEN Buddhistic place, a peaceful food supplier since we provided him with some proper usage guidelines. When drafting out Oscars’ fridge Manifesto we had a couple of things we really wanted it to have:

  1. A simple system – A short, understandable and fast that system everybody can remember
  2. No left-overs – Food shouldn’t run bad anymore
  3. A fridge with an identity – Because people tend to treat things with names significantly better
  4. Entertainment – It should be fun to read and a good reflection of our company identity

The result was a post-it system that allows you to label your food, or sometimes – under certain circumstances which you can find below – the food of others as “free-to-eat”.

The Fridge Manifesto (Google Docs)

Feel free to copy, alternate and share our document. May it bring peace to all offices around the globe!

ChatGrape Office Fridge Fridge Postits Oscar, the Office Fridge

– F

Vesting done right. What it is and how to use it. [+ Templates]

Here at ChatGrape we’re all about teamwork and communication. A crucial aspect of this is getting across how your company’s success will reflect on your team members: Creating an environment where your employees and team members feel like they’re part of the company, thus creating a vested interest for everyone involved in the company’s success, will have a huge impact.

Startups, Equity, Advisors, Salaries.. what now? First off: What is this mysterious “vesting” that everyone seems to talk about?

You’re likely founder or otherwise part of a startup and you’re looking to hire key people to get involved into your product or company. However, you lack the funds to pay their market value and you’re looking for other ways of compensation. You might also want to give future employees equity to increase their commitment or use a little equity to get advisors on board. Furthermore and most importantly, you want to make sure that said people stick with your company over a certain minimum amount of time. In short: You want to give away equity of your company, but you don’t want to risk ending up with a shareholder who doesn’t contribute value in the long run. That’s where vesting comes in handy.

Example scenario with arbitrary numbers:

Employee X, a talented and experienced software engineer, wishes to join Startup Y. Startup Y only has a very limited amount of funds available and cannot compete in terms of base salary, but it is willing to offer shares of its product which, in the long run, could turn out much more anyways.

Employee X believes in the product and the assumption, that the shares will be worth much more in the future. Since he is going to fill in the roll of the CTO, he will start of with 5% of the overall company shares, perhaps derived from a predetermined pool of employee equity.

The company is currently looking for funding at a 1 Mio USD valuation. Hence, the 5% are worth 50.000,00 USD at this moment of time. The future CTO and the company agreed on a vesting period of three years, and that the vesting is supposed to be non-uniform, meaning that he will get 1/6th of this shares after one year, 1/2 of his shares after the second year and all of his shares after the full three year period is over. As long as all of the conditions as defined in the “Bad Leaver Conditions” have been satisfied, that is.

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Bad Leaver conditions

“Bad Leaver Conditions” are meant to describe a set of circumstances that will prevent the employee (future shareholder) from receiving his shares if he or she does something that harms the company, and typically means any of the following:

1.  The termination of the Employee’s employment with the Company by the Company for cause; (= your employee decided to harass other coworkers, doesn’t come to work any longer or whatnot)

2. the termination of the Employee’s employment with the Company by the Employee without cause; (= your employee decided to take a job at a different company, obviously, he is no longer eligible for your company’s equity)

3. the Employee not devoting substantially all of his efforts to the Business, as determined by the Company; (= your employee no longer does what he was hired to do)

4. the Employee engaging in an activity that could reasonably be seen as competing with the Business, as determined by the Company; and (= your employee selling corporate secrets to a competitor)

5. the Employee breaching the terms and conditions of this Agreement or violating his duty of loyalty to the Company. (= your employee doing anything that could reasonably seen as a breach of trust or breach of loyalty)

6. Whatever else you deem necessary or relevant to determine an employees ongoing commitment. Some vesting / subscription agreements take into account the completion of pre-determined milestones, other require the meeting of certain goals.

Useful terms

A “vesting period” is a period of time an investor or other person holding a right to something must wait until they are capable of fully exercising their rights and until those rights may not be taken away. In cases of partial vesting, a “vesting schedule” is a table or chart showing the portion of a right that is vested over time; typically the schedule provides for equal portions to vest on periodic vesting dates, usually once per day, month, quarter, or year, in stair-step fashion over the course of the vesting period. Often there is a cliff by which the first few steps in the graph are missing, so that there is no vesting at all for a period (usually six or twelve months in the case of employee equity), after which there is a cliff date upon which a large amount of vesting occurs all at once. “Graded vesting” (vesting after each year until the employee is fully vested) may be “uniform” (e.g., 20% of the compensation vested each year for five years) or “non-uniform” (e.g., 20%, 30%, and 50% of the compensation vested each year for the next three years).

Useful templates

Equity for advisors

Here is a template I found very useful to determine the level of equity compensation for advisors. I recommend to check it before agreeing on anything specific, simply because there are those among the advisors out there who wish nothing more than to grab some shares from as many companies as possible, without the motivation of adding actual value. It’s also something you can print out and put in front of a potential investor, asking him, “Where do you see yourself here?” The FAST Agreement If you want to know more, here is a TechCrunch article about this template.

Equity for employees

The following is a Subscription Agreement that was initially set up for a UK Ltd. Therefore, some legal parts might be different with other corporate entities such as an Inc., a GmbH or a LLC, however, it could help you drafting a first version or save you some legal expenses.

Subscription agreement_Template_English (.docx)

In case I’ve forgotten something important, do let me know! Also, feel fee to add links to other useful templates in the comments below. Spread the knowledge, spread the love.