ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Why Every Sane Entrepreneur in Baltics and Nordics Should Apply To Startup Sauna Warmups

8/31/2012 2:26:04 PM


Yesterday we had BarCamp #15 in Vilnius and one of the VIP guests was Antti Ylimutka, former Wingman and current Captain of Startup Sauna. I must admit the Wingman title sounded cooler, but I guess Captain sounds #LikeABoss and it’s all that matters, right?

Anyway, I was contemplating saying a few words there, but being an introvert developer lagged. So my Sauna comrade Mawuna beat me to it and following his in vitro fertilization metaphor was kind of hard. So I stayed put and am spilling what I wanted to say here. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I prefer typing on my keyboard to talking to real people. So here goes…

A few months ago I've read an article in Forbes and it had a punchline that said "If you are accepted to an accelerator; you don’t need them." And the reasoning was that accelerators are not charities (even though Startup Sauna is as close as it gets to being a charity). They are basically investors and they pick the teams they believe have the biggest chance of succeeding ... with or without them.

So it got me thinking about the reasons why I applied to Startup Sauna Warmup in Kaunas about half a year ago? Well, I guess the answer is that I wanted some outside validation that what we are doing at AdDuplex is interesting to business minded people outside of our pretty closed developer community. Whether we were invited to the final program or not was secondary to hearing that feedback and being approved (or not) by people who have seen a fair share of startups.

This reminds me of my school/university years. I've been the king of mathematics in my pretty crappy school. Then I went on to study at the faculty of mathematics at the university and guess what? I was one of the dumbest students at math there. So it motivated me to work hard and get at least somewhat decent at it. Something that wasn’t possible without external powers showing me that I suck.

So what I'm getting at is that you can be a super fancy startup founder in your own sandbox, but only by stepping outside of it you can learn your own worth, get hard but important questions about your business and improve your pitching skills. And one of the most cost effective ways for a Lithuanian (or any Baltic/Nordic) startup to get that experience right now is to apply to Startup Sauna warmup in Riga (or any other city). And then if you manage to get an invitation to the final program you can decide if you want and can make the commitment.  Well, of course you do, you are not stupid, but think about the warmups first and the real value you are getting from that one single day trip to Riga.

And regarding that "you don't need it" phrase. Sure, you don't need it. "Need" is a desperate word, and you are not desperate, right? So you don't need it, you want it!

Apply now!


The Killer Feature of Windows RT

8/27/2012 4:19:53 PM

Yes, it starts with M. No, it’s not the forbidden M-word (aka Metro). The word is multitenant and here’s why I think it’s the most important feature for me and hopefully for a lot of other consumers too.


I have a family of 3. We own one iPad. Technically it belongs to my wife, so it’s configured with her accounts. There’s no way I’m logging in and out of all the twitters, facebooks and googles of the world on every use. So I barely use that iPad. On the other hand, there’s no way I’m buying a $600 consumption device for every member of the household. And sub-$200 Android devices are either crap, or US-centric (Kindle Fire, Nexus 7) content-wise, or both.

Maybe I live in some bubble, but in my world 90%+ of the people I know can’t go by with just a consumption device. My daughter needs to create a lot of stuff for school, make music, videos and other teenager hobby stuff. My wife enjoys fine control of editing her photos, blogging, etc. They are not power users on any scale, but “post-PC era” is not ready for their basic needs just yet.

So we are going to have at the very least 2 PCs of some sort in our home in the foreseeable future. We all have smartphones for our “computing” needs on the go. So the best niche for a tablet in our household I can see is something you may call a second screen device – a companion for hanging on the sofa watching TV, or a vacation device, or “a coffee table” device – a replacement for a stack of magazines on a coffee table.

And for these uses one device is more than enough. It just has to support an effortless way of switching profiles for every one of it’s frequent users. And Windows RT (whether it’s on Microsoft Surface or some other slate) does just that perfectly (at least I assume it does ;)


Searching for a perfect online CRM

8/2/2012 7:31:30 PM

I’ve spent today looking for a simple, reasonably priced (free to low double digits $/month) CRM. I didn’t expect to hit the wall where I’ve actually hit it pretty early in the process. That kind of simplified the process but basically resulted in me looking not at the features, UX and other stuff, but on the pure fact that the system can satisfy these simple requirements.

Litmus paper

So the set of my minimum viable test looks like this:

  1. Imports contacts and deals/leads (whatever you want to call them) from Excel or CSV
  2. Test case: shows a list of clients with more than one closed deal (valuable repeat customers) that didn’t buy anything in last 3 months (contact them to see what’s up)
  3. Isn’t overloaded with unnecessary concepts (leads, opportunities, whatever – “deals” is enough for my purpose)
  4. Isn’t a “Swiss army knife” (doesn’t do anything besides CRM – integration with other services that do other things is good though)
  5. Costs less than $30/month per user


Unfortunately I couldn’t find a system that satisfies all of the above.

I’ve dismissed all “Swiss army knives” right when I saw them.

Quite a lot of the CRMs I’ve tried can’t import anything besides contacts. Highrise, Capsule, OnePageCRM, Timetonote, KarmaCRM, Dashboard, iFreeTools CRM failed at this step. Now I might be stupid and a total CRM noob, but I really want to see previous deals for my clients. Doesn’t sound like it’s too much to ask, right? And who (apart from those really just starting up) doesn’t want to see that? So these were disqualified on the spot even though Capsule and Highrise looked pretty nice. is so tightly integrated with Google Apps that I went into infinite loop trying to “install” it.

Nutshell – looks good, imports deals, but there’s no way to import deal value even though there’s a field for that. And it can’t filter my test case (#2).

Zoho CRM – free (for my case), imports stuff (even though it requires a pretty specific CSV format), but is way overloaded with concepts (too powerful?) for my taste. And it doesn’t seem that it can filter my test case either.

And the winner is …


Pipedrive – a fellow #balticmafia startup. Unfortunately they can’t filter my test case too, but I hope they are still small and lean and can accommodate this feature request. Right, guys? ;)

Other than that it’s pretty slick, fast and simple (some may find it too simple but that’s not me). It imports directly from Excel files too. One piece of feedback would be to do the field mapping the opposite way. Pipedrive shows you your data and allows you to match CRM fields to your fields. The other way around makes more sense, imho, but that’s easy to workaround and most likely a one time problem anyway.

So I’ll continue the Pipedrive trial for now. Will try to do some actual work with it and see how I like it. I’ll update this post if I have something to add after some time of usage.

P.S.: here’s a great post reviewing most of the CRMs listed here and some others that I used as my starting point.

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