5 Business Tools Designed from the Ground Up

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Used, Loved, and Endorsed by Work-Bench

In the 1990s and 2000s, an explosion in information led to complex and difficult to use software. These legacy business tools are quickly being replaced by a new set of products built by companies that value design, experience, and emotions in order to give purpose, help understand, and share delight. We're building a company founded on design because we understand the power of design principles and their importance for the next generation of businesses.

This foundation reaches all the way to the products we choose to use for ourselves. At Work-Bench, we're big on collaboration. We have a diverse team of smart people, each with a unique and disparate background, that together make for an even stronger whole. We also work closely with and for our member companies, which requires another degree of collaboration. To get work done in this environment, we depend on the most innovative tools to simplify our lives and make us efficient and hyper-productive.To use and endorse any tool, we consider many factors. One of our most important factors is design, which considers two criteria—purpose and pleasure. Purpose describes the vision the tool's creators had when they encountered a real-world problem and set out to design a solution. Without function and utility it's hard to consider any tool as a tool for work. Pleasure describes the design execution, from well-considered user experiences to delightful visuals and flawless engineering.Here are the five tools we couldn't live without at Work-Bench, in no particular order:

1. RelateIQ

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Our constantly connected state makes it easier than ever to communicate with teams, partners, and customers. Today, most service businesses have multiple team members having multiple conversations with multiple employees at each of their customer companies. Yep, that's right, conversations are happening to the third power. RelateIQ set out to invent relationship intelligence. They designed a tool that manages, analyzes, and advises employees on their business relationships.

At Work-Bench, we use RelateIQ to stay in sync across all our conversations, with our member and portfolio companies, as well as our colleagues in the enterprise and venture communities. We love to get reminded that a relationship is growing stale and make sure to follow up by getting in touch and never being out of sight, out of mind. Use RelateIQ and say goodbye to tedious relationship management and unsynchronized efforts, and welcome effective business engagements with the people who matter most, your partners and customers.


2. Dropbox

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Dropbox needs no introduction and is hands down the most important tool on my tool belt. All my files on all my devices are stored in Dropbox, and that gives me instant access, anywhere, anytime. And best of all, it just works. Work-Bench just started using Dropbox for Business, and we love it. We beta tested their new feature that allows a personal and business dropbox on the same computer or device, and those of us who use Dropbox for our personal lives were thrilled with the new integration. Design at Dropbox has always been about simplicity and precisely hiding away complexity. Since day one, their tool was designed to live in the background without interrupting your workflow and requiring very little management. It's great to see Dropbox strengthen their business offering, and I'm bullish on their future, especially considering the army of talented designers they've recently enlisted to join Soleio CuervoTim Van Damme, Daniel Eden, and Kristen Spilman to name a few.


3. LayerVault

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LayerVault's founders brought together innovative technologies—cloud storage and version control—to modernize the designer's workflow. Some of the best product companies build products that they themselves want to use, and this is certainly the case with LayerVault, led by Designer CEO Allan Grishtein. Gone are the days when designers saved and re-saved a propagation of files with names such as 'homepage 03 final 01.psd'; LayerVault allows designers to work fearlessly and do what they do best: design. LayerVault provides version control for designers, and does so in flying colors. The product works quietly, behind the scenes while you work—much like Dropbox—and archives every saved version of your design file to the cloud. LayerVault helps any designer keep their files tidy and organized, but they don't stop there. Their web interface allows users to manage, collaborate, and share design work with teammates, clients, and friends. Typically, LayerVault stores directly to their secure cloud, but they recently began offering a self-hosted local product, which is a first step in expanding large-scale design teams and the enterprise. Full disclosure: LayerVault is a Work-Bench Ventures portfolio company and a Work-Bench Member company, but we still love their product.


4. Campaign Monitor

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Email communication can be one of the best ways to consistently stay in touch and engage a wide audience. Email campaigns can be used to make a simple announcement for a new feature or to share newly published content with your subscribers. Email communications are a challenge on many levels, from subscriber lists to email campaigns. Campaign Monitor has built the best and most robust tool we've seen. Most importantly it was built with everyone in the email campaign workflow in mind; designers, developers, copywriters, marketers, and more—even client teams if you're in the business of creating emails for clients.

Everyone who collaborates on emails at Work-Bench can do so easily and effectively with Campaign Monitor. We especially love their thoughtfulness for designers and developers, which has made building and testing our email templates a piece of cake. They provide an unparalleled set of tools, documentation, and resource guides, and their strong API adds even greater flexibility. Campaign Monitor has readily available tools that can help any business enlist and retain subscribers, and a simple, so-easy-anyone-can-do-it interface for writing, previewing, sending, and understanding how campaigns perform. It's no wonder they just raised $250m in financing. At Work-Bench, we're using Campaign Monitor to build a community around enterprise technology through our new Enterprise Weekly newsletter. There's a good chance you're reading this because of an email we sent with Campaign Monitor, but if not, make sure to sign up before you go!


5. SumAll

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As a business, it's important to analyze as much information as you can collect. With technology and computers came data, and lots of it. Today, anything and everything can be tracked; from the number of conversions your website makes to the minutes and seconds viewers are spending on your marketing or educational communications. At Work-Bench, we collect data using a range of tools—Google Analytics and MixPanel for our websites, Campaign Monitor for our emails, bit.ly for our links, and RelateIQ for our relationships. However, collecting data is only the first step towards making data-driven decisions. For step two, SumAll brings together all our data from many of the services we use.

The SumAll interface is wonderfully easy to use, built around a chart and a list of data. Compare one service against another and analyze using simple, interactive visualizations. For example, answer questions like, how much traffic did that recent email campaign, press piece, or tweet drive to our website and our blog; what are we doing well, and what could we be doing better. The SumAll team is innovative and forward looking, always exploring new and improved ways to help users understand data in a human-friendly format, how we think versus how computers compute. They're also continuously adding more and more services that connect into SumAll. We're excited to one day integrate all of the data tools we use at Work-Bench and visualize our performance across everything we do; all our data available, legible, and interconnected with one click's reach.


I'm happy to share a list of all the tools we use to do business. While these five tools are our favorites, by design, we just started using MixPanel and are eager to try Percolate and Peak. If you're considering any of these tools for your business and want to know more about how we use them at Work-Bench, drop us a line in the comments.

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