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Productivity hacks: The founder’s basic toolbox – episode 7

“Make sure that you always have the right tools for the job. It's no use trying to eat a steak with a teaspoon and a straw.” ―Anthony T. Hincks

In this episode, Mitchie and Amaury cover the founder’s basic toolbox, including different resources and techniques to help startup founders save time daily by optimizing repetitive tasks.

Pre-order a copy of Amaury’s new book, Startup Without a CTO, and get an early digital version two months before the official launch:

Show notes

  • How you can document all of your brainstorming process and project planning using some simple tools and techniques
  • How the same tools can help you delegate tasks
  • How Amaury and Mitchie used the same technique in the production of the My CTO Friend courses and AskMyCTO videos
  • Why Amaury hates emails and how he makes replying faster and better
  • What’s even better than videos when it comes to reviewing meetings
  • How you can use this tool for bug management
  • What new tool you can try to optimize video when giving feedback or talking to a new customer
  • What’s a great tool to use to record meetings or podcasts automatically via mobile or PC
  • How to set up a top down camera to make explainer videos or brainstorm without using a PC/keyboard/tablet
  • What’s a super tool you can use for automations (automatically send emails, create folders in Google Drive, copy files in Dropbox, etc.)
  • How Amaury’s clients made 8 million euros building a startup without developers
  • Why follow-up is key, and what tool you can use for regular communications and email newsletters
  • How you and your team can organize your passwords for all your different tools
  • What to do when a team member leaves
  • What tool to use for designing your app when you’re an early-stage startup founder
  • What are some tools and strategies to optimize content marketing
  • How to find the best combination of tools for you and your team
  • What are some more examples for communication, project management, business workflow, team meetings and customer support
  • How Amaury and Mitchie met and started working together
  • What’s the best thing to do when you’re struggling with something
  • How you can apply these strategies to your business, and save time and money
  • Why you should try freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork



 Mitchie Ruiz: Hi, and welcome to My CTO Friend the Podcast, where founders come to learn how to manage a tech startup. This is Mitchie Ruiz, and I'm with Amaury Khelifi. Hi Amaury.

Amaury Khelifi: Hi Mitchie. Welcome, startupers, to today's podcast. In this episode, we are talking about the founders' basic toolbox to help you on a daily basis. In fact, I just wanted to save time. There are thousands of ways, tools and techniques to optimize repetitive tasks.

Mitchie: That's right. Remember that for this first series of the podcast, we are working our way down Amaury's book, going through the tips and real startup experiences he's gathered throughout the years. If you're a founder without technical background, listen up, because you're in the right place. Let's go ahead and get started, shall we?

Amaury: Yeah, let's go. Where shall we start?

Mitchie: Last time, we were talking about the CTO productivity hacks regarding brainstorming and project planning. Today, we're going to tackle the technical tools that you can use for these same CTO productivity hacks. We were talking also about taking pictures of everything, documenting all of your brainstorming process, all of your project planning. I want us to start right from there and how you can use that with your technical tools.

Amaury: There is a very good tool that I used for a while. It's just the screenshot. The screenshot, how amazing. I invite you to get used to it and do hundreds of screenshots every day, documenting everything you do, processes when you go on the website. It's going to help you just for you to have a procedure somewhere. Even if it's not useful for next week, maybe in a month or six months, it's going to be useful. It can also help you to delegate to someone else because we become busy and busy. We might hire people down the road, and having all that screenshots is important. Even if you don't take the time to put some notes on it, anyway, it's going to speaks for itself.

Another technique that is just amazing as well is just using videos. You can use screencast tools. The one I use is Screen-O-Matic. It's just amazing because I just click on a button, and it starts recording. I can have my little webcam on the bottom right-hand corner, or wherever I want, in fact, on the screen. I just say and dictate what I'm doing, “Now I'm clicking on this and that. Then it worked that way, so that's why I need to go through this and this and that.” I use it for almost everything. At the end of the recording, I can even just have a link to the videos that is stored on the cloud so that if I send an email or I want to send a tutorial through a quick chat, whether it's Slack, Skype or whatever, it's just a link. There is everything inside.

Mitchie: That's right. Now I have been the witness of this in some ways. We have actually worked a lot on the production of the courses, and the video advice tips, and all of that that we did together. Whenever I am struggling with some kind of new tool that I'm not familiar with, Amaury just sends an email with a little screencast of, “Yeah, you just need to… if you want to synchronize this information on your computer, you just need to click here, click there.” Super useful and it probably takes you less than writing the email and just explaining the instructions.

Amaury: The goal is to save time. If you want to save your time, stop writing long emails and trying to say, “We need to click this and where is the button…” No, you know what? I have to say that I hate emails because emails take a lot of time and there are hundreds of ways to do it faster. Even sometimes when people send you a very long email, I just click on the record button, and I just speak to them through my webcam. I just answer by a very quick video.

First off, they enjoy it because it's more natural and the conversation is free, smooth, and it's a lot better than just having an impersonal or even personal email with procedures, without any details. No, I really like speaking. It's making up for the fact that we are not in person, we are not talking with each other in person. You can make up through videos, and that helps a lot.

Mitchie: That's right. It can feel a little bit dry when you're just talking about communication that's only written communication, chats or email. That can be a little bit dry. Even if you're a little bit camera shy, you can also use voice notes. If you're explaining a procedure, voice notes do the trick as well.

Amaury: Yeah, voice notes are very, very effective as well. There are lots of meeting I do with my clients where I ask them, “Okay, would you like to turn on your voice recorder just to be able to come back on it later?” Now, you are listening a podcast, right? Maybe you are driving or running, but you might be able to re-listen some meetings that you've got with important clients, with important partners, etc. Sometimes you have real revelations, epiphany and you need to be sure and to listen again the process of these important meetings.

I did it in the past several times, and I wrote some minutes or some slide show based on what we covered in the meetings. The voice notes are even more interesting than videos in some way because it's very easy to speed up the listening and then to listen two-hour meetings in an hour.

Mitchie: Exactly. We did touch on this a little bit last time when we were talking about documenting your process and documenting your brainstorming process, but doing a screen casting video recording and voice notes, also something very useful when you're talking to your developer and your content manager. Whenever you're having any issues with your project, you need to communicate that to the people who actually know about it.

Amaury: Absolutely. When we build a startup project, of course you need to go through some specification stages, then writing down on a long document, etc. Then you will delegate that work to your developers. For the specifications, it's still important to write down specifications in a document because it's like a to do list for your developers. It's going to be hard for him to really keep track of what he has to do just by sending him some instruction on videos. It can help and what I would recommend you is to have a to do list and on very tricky instructions, maybe you can attach a quick video.

The video is very, very useful for bug management. Whenever you notice a bug on your application, you want to share it with your developers, wow, just record your screen and send it. It speaks more than thousands words. You explain what you did. There is a proof, that's the screenshot because sometimes developers don't believe you. They say, “Ah, come on, it works on my site. I don't understand. He might do something wrong.” If that the case, thanks to the screencast, the developer will see it right away.

Mitchie: Exactly. If you are doing something wrong, they can advise you and you can know exactly what you're doing wrong, so it helps both ways.

Amaury: Absolutely. You save a lot of communications and ping pong games between both of the side.

Mitchie: Yeah, it replaces just the email and the chat back and forth. It's much more straightforward. Now, talking about video and the value of video, I also want to touch on something that you mentioned and that I was really blown away by because I'd never thought of that, which is giving feedback or just talking to a new customer or a new subscriber through video. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Amaury: I have to say that I really discover this technique by the startup called Bonjoro. It's a small app that you can have on your mobile. You can plug it into your emailing tool or to the eCommerce website or whatever. Then every time someone subscribe or someone buy something from you, you have a notification on your mobile and then you can click on it and it record yourself in a selfie. You can be in your car doing whatever, and you say, “Oh, hello Peter. I am very happy for getting your email. I look forward to have your feedback and to do this and that, etc.” That might be 20-second, one-minute, two-minute videos. It doesn't really matter. It just shows people how much you care for them. It's not only an automatic email. It's you and the video speaks a lot more than words.

Mitchie: It's completely personalized. It really does give you a complete different experience as receiving an email because emails can be automatized. It's going to go out automatically, but with a quick video that has your name on it, how much personal can you get? You really do feel like the founder of the startup is addressing you directly. That brings me to talking a little bit more about whenever you're having a meeting with someone. This is not just a message that you're … Quick message that is not supposed to have a response. We are right now talking through Zoom, right? We're recording our meeting through Zoom. I just want to explore that a little bit more because we have a lot of options out there and people should, especially remote management startups … There are a lot of people who can really benefit from having the right tools.

Amaury: Absolutely. There is something where … The topic is to save time. When we say something during a meeting, you are not a machine. You are not just a computer. You do not record everything, but you can ask your computer to record everything basically. If you forget something initially, to come back on, “Oh, what did we said? Do you remember two weeks ago during that meeting? We were talking about this and that. I cannot remember. He shows me on his screen how to do this. Okay.”

Amaury: Now, when we do a meeting, it's automatic with Zoom and I took the subscription as soon as I saw that they had the option to record all my meetings. Every time I start a meeting, whether on my mobile or on my computer, everything is recorded. By the end of each meeting, I send the link to people that attends to that meeting. Whether it's clients, partners, etc, they can enjoy coming back on our conversation. If there was something they did not get during the meeting, they can first come back on the meetings and see if they really can understand the second time. If there is really something wrong, then they can reach out to me. It makes them saving time. They have the answer right away and they save my time as well because I don't have to repeat myself. Repeating yourself is just a waste of time.

Mitchie: Very true. Very true. Let's talk a little bit about what you mentioned our previous podcast episode. You were talking about the top down camera. I've been a personal witness of this throughout your video advice whenever we're working on those videos. You use this all the time to explain things. It's so useful.

Amaury: Yeah, absolutely. I started to use that techniques when I started to create videos about two years ago. It's just a [inaudible] webcam. It's just attached on a very small arm. If you are listening this podcast of course on iTunes or whatever podcast, you cannot see me, but if you're on YouTube, look, I can just move my webcam and show you how it works. I have here the webcam and then [inaudible] just below. That's so very convenient because during meetings … And thanks again to Zoom. I can do some drawings, putting Post-Its on my office, etc. It helps people to follow you, follow your thoughts. Again, it's a much more convenient to brainstorm without computer compared to using keyboards or even an iPad. That's not as easy as it is with paper.

Mitchie: True. I'm going to have a little quick disclaimer here. We are not sponsored yet, so all of the tools that we're talking about right now are completely out of Amaury's toolbox. They're all suggested personally because he sees the value in them.

Amaury: Absolutely. Basically, the way I see My CTO Friend is never to get fees or to get interest in other services we can sell because I don't want to be biased. I want to provide what's really useful for startup founders. I prefer to get paid with my clients and clients pay me to help them to build their startups and being very, very objective in the way they do things.

Mitchie: Talking about the top down camera, this is a tool that you use for your courses and another tool that you are using and you have been using for a while now would be for automations. You mentioned that you love Zapier, right?

Amaury: Yeah, Zapier helped me for several things. It's a very, very easy tool to connect. Easy, I mean it's accessible for everyone. You can create an automation between just a phone or on the website or on landing pages, for example, and generate as many automation as you want afterwards like sending emails, creating a directory on Google Drive. It can be copying a file on your Dropbox. It can be sending specific content or whatever, sharing a file on Dropbox or sharing a file on Google Drive. You can imagine almost everything. There are hundreds, if it's not thousand tools that are connectable to Zapier. It makes it very, very, very easy, and you can save a lot of time.

Mitchie: I would say this is one of the super tools that we're actually advising, right?

Amaury: Yeah, yeah. I have some clients who made millions building startups without developers just taking eCommerce solutions, plugging things with Zapier, having created just a customer experience with different tools paying small fees for eCommerce. It was [inaudible] at that time, etc, etc. All these different tools to make the customer experience just smooth. They end up to create 8 million euro in turnover without developer, without developer. Then at the end, they hire the developer of course and they build their software etc just to improve and to optimize the process, but still, you can do a lot of things with [crosstalk 00:15:41].

Mitchie: That's a great example. To lean into that prototyping phase, you can just go ahead and get 8 million euro.

Amaury: Absolutely, absolutely.

Mitchie: Incredible. Incredible. Let's talk a little bit about follow up because you did mention that you hate email, right? But follow up is important.

Amaury: Follow up is the key. When you listen every web marketers, they … You need to have common … I think it's seven or eight interactions with someone before he can buy something from you. It's important to have regular newsletter, communications as well as when people reach out to you, you need to follow up with him on a regular basis. If he forgot to come back to you, you need to follow up again. I have a very tiny tool which is just amazing. Again, it's If I send an email to someone and if I want to be remembered in maybe one week, I just send a copy of the email to or I will be noticed by receiving another email from with, “Sorry, we are just going to tell me here was the reminder you asked.” That's just very, very easy and useful.

Mitchie: Very useful. Now, we're going to touch on something that's big. It's really big for any human in this day and age, digital day and age, but especially startup founders and startup CEOs and startup CTOs because you're going to go through a lot of tools, some of them included in this episode. You're going to have for each tool a password.

Amaury: Yes. You need password and you need different password for all your tools because you never know if some startups or tools might be hacked at some point. Never use the same password for your tools. For my personal experience, what I have is I generate passwords with these tools which allow me to make them very, very different from all my tools. If I really need to know my password by heart, then I have basically four passwords. They are arranged by security level. If it's a email account, etc, that's a very complex password and I just use it basically just for my email.

Amaury: Then I have other tools just for subscription I can have online, etc, which is a bit less complex. I have several levels of tools. Another techniques that you can use for tools if you really want to keep them by heart is to creating a sentence that you might keep in your head and then using maybe the first letters of each words of that sentence. That makes you a password which is a bit complex and still easy to rem thanks to that sentence.

Mitchie: Very cool. I didn't know that last one. Let's talk about actual tools. What are the names of the tools that you use for this?

Amaury: You have tools like Dashlane, you have iPassword, you have LastPass, which are the three main one if you want to store all your password. What they allow is also to manage your password as a team and having save roll kind of directory, in which everything is encrypted of course, but you can allow someone in your team to join a team and then to have access to all the passwords of the tools of that team. If you have a marketing team, you can gather the tools in there and there, etc. That's very, very useful.

Mitchie: Very good. That's something that me, as a non-startup founder I wasn't thinking of, that you're going to have a team and they all need to have access to the same tools. If you ever change someone from your team, if someone has to go, you need that person to not leave with the passwords. The person that replaces that role needs to have access as well. It needs to be centralized somehow. These tools will help you do that.

Amaury: Absolutely. In that case, you need to put in place a process when someone is leaving. Depending on the relation you have with him, I would recommend to change the password of this team and that can be done directly in the tool. You're going to do it through the website of each tools. Then it's going to be updated on LastPass or 1Password tool as example. Then all the team will have the updated one.

Mitchie: Perfect, perfect. You've covered all your bases. Good. Now, let's talk about design. This is something that startup founders struggle with because early-stage startup founders not always have access to a full on UX designer to design their application. What are you advise in terms of tools?

Amaury: There are a lot of things and a lot of tools that you can use as a startup founder. I'm going to flip through the one that I use the most. In terms of design, for example, I use Canva. Canva is very useful. You can templates. You can delegate things to your team. All my team work with this whether it's for social media, etc. Then when it comes to content marketing, audio is also another tool, another thing that you need automatize.

For that, I use Auphonic. Auphonic is amazing because it's enable to optimize the audio of a podcast episode, but not only that, to videos as well. You can just drop your videos as example in a Dropbox directory. Thanks to Zapier, it's going to be connected to Auphonic automatically and then Auphonic is going to publish it on YouTube as well as on the podcast platform. That can makes it very, very automatic, optimize the audio. That's very, very useful.

Mitchie: Combining tools, that's something that you need to keep in mind for all of those listening. The tools that we're advising, the tools that we're telling you that may or may not use, they are worth it. You need to also combine them. You're going to have different responsibilities. You're going to be managing different types of let's say data and these tools are meant to be used also in a combination. You need to find the one that works for you depending on the responsibilities that you're going to have and the type of data that you're going to handle, but they're mostly to be used in a combination of some sort, so not just rely on one.

Amaury: Absolutely. That's the tools we use as a team, but you need to define what are the best ones for you. Let's me develop a bit on that point. Basically, as a team, you need to define what are the communications and the things that you need to share. You need to share tasks to get done. You need to share brainstorming recordings of meetings, dashboard with maybe KPI, etc, etc. You need to share the goals with the team, ideas, the planning, information, communication between member and as well as having informal communication. For that, maybe the chat or just a hanging out meeting might be the best.

It doesn't really matter. It doesn't really matter which tools you are going to use. I can mention several ones like Slack, WhatsApp or Teams for the chat. I can mention Trello, Jira or [inaudible] for the project management. I can mention everything regarding the business workflow like Salesforce, any CRM solutions or ERP to managing eCommerce and all the stuff that goes behind. You have meeting tools like … We mentioned Zoom, Skype,, and there are others.

Customer support is very important to be able to not only communicate in your team, but with your clients as well, so ticketing tools like Zendesk, Freshdesk and they are hundreds if it's not thousands of other tools that can makes easier for your clients to communicate with you. That goes with the chatbots or the chats feature that you can have on your app as well as on your website too. Very important to decide with your team. You might have some idea on which tool might be the best, but imply your team in this decision process. If you want them to agree on using one tools, you need to ask them, “Okay, what would you think would be the best tool to do this or that?” Then they are going to contribute in that idea.

You are going to push towards main tools, tools that are well known for two reasons. If you just use the tiny startup tool, maybe they are going to run out of business and you will have to change all your habits. That's the first reason. The second reason is if you use well known tools, you can connect them through Zapier or directly through API to other tools. That can be integrated in the bigger pictures, in the bigger organization. That's very important to keep that in mind.

Mitchie: Very true. Just to sum up, make sure everything's clear, you have a lot of options as a startup founder, the tools that you're going to use. Make sure that on those options, you mainly have well-known, well-developed, well-established tools. Two, make sure that you are designing together as a team which tool you're going to use because if you are not agreeing on a certain tool, your team is not going to be happy to use that tool, and you need your team to be happy, right?

Amaury: Yeah, absolutely.

Mitchie: Let's move on a little bit talking about our team and talking about building your team. Let's discuss a little bit how we met. We met through Upwork.

Amaury: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It was two years ago. Every time you encounter an [inaudible], you have two decision. Either you spend more time, days, hours, a month, maybe two, try to do things by yourself and to learning I would say the hard way or you can get help. That's exactly how we met, by the way. I needed to improve my English level and the English level of all the videos I was working on. We start working that way. You check my videos more than two years ago that I published two years ago, you will see that my level really increased since then. That's exactly the same for everything. If you are a developer and you are struggling with something, just spend 50 bucks on Upwork and find someone who is specialized in that language, in that plugin, in that area and get help.

You don't need to share your source code. You just need to ask him to take control through whatever tools [inaudible] others to control your computer and to show you on your screen what you did wrong and to teach you. Obviously, you're going to record that meeting so that you will have a tutorial down the road and that's going to help you and your further future developers to solve this issue. If you, you are a CEO, maybe you are not debugging your software, but maybe you have something else to do.

If every Monday, you do same tasks again and again and again, just try to imagine how you can automate that tasks, how you can create maybe a tiny script that would do things for yourself, just clicking on a button like a macro and seeing your computer doing that tasks automatically, it's just amazing. That going to makes you save hours if it's that long.

Mitchie: That is something that you did when we were producing the courses, the video courses for We usually just work on the content separately on just a normal, let's say a written file. Then when we were moving to slide shows, to keynote and all of that, we were wasting a lot of time adding that content. Your CTO brain, “Let's go ahead and build a tool for this that's going to save so much time.” It has saved us so much time, and it really is going to help you in the long run. You're going to have more time for the things that actually matter and the things that actually require your attention because those little tiny things can be automated. Regardless of you being a technical background or not, they can be automated for you.

Amaury: Yeah, it was very useful. It's just a plain text file and when I put a new line with a equals sign or a T sign, it's the title etc of the slide. Automatically, when we click on the button, it generates all my slide show and I just need to review the slide show and add a bit of pictures. Basically, we try to form few bullet points in a slide showing in just a few minutes. That's very, very convenient. All your own regular work you can do exactly the same. You can define, “What would be the magic wins that I would like to have to transform this to that?” What are you doing on regular basis that are repeatable through softwares? You describe that, maybe create tiny screencast videos, describe how you do things and go on Upwork or maybe I found this developer on Fiverr. Overall, I think it cost me something like $150, something like that. He did four scripts to automate everything I need to do, synchronizing notes to the slide or slide to the notes, etc. It makes me save hours and hours.

Mitchie: And ultimately money, so that 140, 150, it saves you a lot of more money.

Amaury: It's nothing. It's nothing.

Mitchie: Also, something that I would like to touch on, when you're going through a freelance platform like Fiverr and Upwork and all of that, keep in mind, this is a global market now, so you are really getting competitive prices. Something like 140, you might be getting that … For a small amount of money, you are getting someone who actually knows their job, knows their thing, and they're going to bring so much value to your life as a CEO because startup founders really don't have enough time in the day to go through all of what they do need to go through.

Make sure you get help. It's very easy to get help now. Identify where you're wasting your time. Identify what you're doing that's repeating yourself. Also, if you don't need to, go ahead and do a bot. If it's something that is different every time, you can also get someone like a virtual assistant to help you, for example. The possibilities are endless to get help. Just go ahead and step out of that little cocoon that I know some people have and get that for the best chance for your startup. The most time that you have, you're going to move forward your startup, move forward your vision and get your attention to things that are a little bit more important than writing emails.

Amaury: Yeah, absolutely. There is a very easy way to remain yourself. It's just to define how much you can earn per hours. If you waste five hours to just debug this tough issue, let's assume that your hours is $100, you just wasted $500. How much does it worth to pay someone 50 bucks to save that issue in 15 minutes? It's priceless. Thanks to the internet and all that platforms, these days as soon as you have a bit of know how and you're going to learn to do this, and we are here to help you to do that as well to delegate development to the right person. You will save a lot of time down the road.

Mitchie: And a lot of frustration as well. The idea is to keep you excited and motivated. You're building your dream. You don't want to waste those five hours and those $500 in something that's going to keep you frustrated.

Amaury: True.

Mitchie: True. Amaury, is there anything else we need to cover?

Amaury: No, I think we did a good job. For that, I am very happy too that we were able to condense the tools that I use on a daily basis. Again, that's my tools. Find yours and always think yourself, “How can I do it faster?” And search for tools that can help you.

Mitchie: Yeah, I'm very proud of myself because I didn't sneeze in the entirety of this episode. I'm coming down with a little bit of a cold. If you didn't notice, I'm a little bit stuffy. We went through all of this useful tips, useful content, not one sneeze. Very proud.

Amaury: Sure, no one mentioned it for sure until you mentioned it.

Mitchie: It's fine. It's fine. People get sick. They're okay with it, right? You're okay with it.

Amaury: Yeah, absolutely.

Mitchie: If you go to and you look at all of the tech management content that we have offered for you, you can also go to and see all of the other episodes. If you want to ask something, if you want to cover another topic or if you want to reassure me that my cold didn't affect the quality of this episode, you can do that in Now, if you want to look at the links and notes for today's today's episode, what do they have to do, Amaury?

Amaury: On, which is the number of this episode … By the way, as a reminder, if you want to preorder the printed copy of the book up Startups Without CTO, you just need to go on If you preorder a printed copy now, you will get the new digital version two months before the official launch. Just need to go on There is one more thing. We need to remind you please to go on iTunes and leave a review. We just started this podcast few weeks ago. We are very excited to keep going and after the books are bringing more interview of great CEOs letting them share tips and techniques, so that will be very helpful to have your support and that's going to motivate us as well to keep going.

Mitchie: Of course share if you found some value in this episode or in the other episodes of this podcast. If you learned something go ahead and share it with your friends. Share it with your network of startupers. We are looking forward to help as many as we can. Thank you very much for listening in today. Thank you very much, Amaury, for so many helpful tips and tricks.

Amaury: Thank you Mercedes for being here with us today and thanks for you too listening in taking the time. We really appreciate.

Mitchie: Okay, have a wonderful day. Go ahead and build your vision, startupers. Until next time.

Amaury: Bye. Bye, Mitchie.