CRM is your Startup’s Best Friend

I’ve gotten some advice on how to run a startup – but no-one has advised to start by selecting a good CRM (Customer Relations Management) system. I do! 

Since April last year, I’ve been using BaseCRM and it’s proven to be a truly irreplaceable tool to keep things going. I use it to track “customer” communications, and making a startup is all about that – communications. And “customers”.

Why do I have quotes around the customers word? Because CRM is useful way before you have any real customers. You always have stakeholders. You have leads. And you have communications with these.

Until taking on BaseCRM I used the normal mix of calendar entries, email discussions and various text files. It’s fragmented, and things didn’t get done. What BaseCRM does is combine all these into nice, FUN dashboard-centric approach to whatever it is you’re trying to get done.


Before finding this solution, I tried some alternatives. Salesforce was way too smart (ehem – complex) for my needs. SugarCRM would have been my next trial, but BaseCRM got there first. And I never looked back.

 So what does the magic?

 I like things where reading a manual is not needed. Where the features – even if there are many – are easily discoverable in the normal use of the tool. Nokia phones were like this in the 1990’s. Good software *always* is like this! It’s called discoverability. BaseCRM does it right. And it’s neat to occasionally notice updates s.a. recently the possibility to attach files to contacts. No big fanfare, just a new tile that I instantly know what to do with. GREAT!


The BaseCRM attachment tile that I noticed the other day. You always use the latest full version.

So what does it cost?

Another reason for the awesomeness of the product is that it’s essentially free. Well – if you use it as a startup. Their business model is based on taking a slight margin for each ‘deal’ you close. So when you make money, some of that goes to BaseCRM that helped you close the deal to begin with. I doubt there’s a more fair business model than this?

If you don’t close too many ‘deals’ you’re essentially forever in the full evaluation mode. I’ve got 115 deals to go. 🙂


We’re often on the road. Needing contact telephone numbers ..well.. on the phone. No problem.

BaseCRM is the only CRM I know of (and probably the first?) that was created initially for both the web UI and the mobile App, simultaneously. For the bigger brothers, mobile apps are an afterthought.

Unlike some too-heavy iPhone apps (LinkedIn comes to my mind – completely useless) BaseCRM has nailed the design also there. 

Just one cool example. Need to call a contact? Look up the person in the CRM, press the telephone number. You’re on the call. … When the call ends, BaseCRM presents you with a menu to log the call with or without notes! This is the workflow I adore – do the notes and make new tasks Right There when everything is still fresh in your mind. 

 I’m risking overusing the word awesome. 🙂 So do yourself a favor if you are using the combo of email, calendar, and some (sticky) notes. Move to CRM. I know an *awesome* one you can try. For free. Please thank me later. 🙂


BaseCRM on iTunes App Store (also Android and Windows Phone versions available).

I finished this blog entry on the train from Tampere to Helsinki. No wlan on this train – Edge/3G sometimes. Yet BaseCRM didn’t seem to have any issues (much less than WordPress, anyways!)










Going (virtual) Proto in 2012!

Happy 2012, everyone!

Time to start real work on our automated PRT system. Since we’re a lean startup, here is the “Minimum Viable Product” that we’ll be focusing on during 2012 and 2013. It’s the smallest possible track that still tests all the necessary components and subsystems. The idea is to make a CAD model out of it this year.

Let’s take you to a little ride in the proto track (and explain the picture – my graphic skills are not my stronghold):


To the right, there’s a light station (picture here), to the left a parallel station (picture here) and a vehicle stack (no picture). You will be able to travel between the two stations.

Light station

The light station fits 2-3 vehicles and is shared for both inbound and outbound traffic. It’s small in size and cheap in price. Pedestrians share the floor level with the vehicles; there are no safety doors. Within this shared space vehicles move extremely slowly and are observing their surroundings for obstacles (this is akin to how street-level automated vehicles move the whole way).

There are vehicle elevators both sides of the station. These take the outbound traffic up to track level and inbound traffic down to station. Electricity needed by the station is carried within the track itself; no connections to outside infrastructure is needed in the station.

The track loop behind the station works for both acceleration (outbound) and deceleration (inbound) traffic. This helps save space compared to having separate incoming and outgoing areas. Within such an area, the vehicles have track under both left and right sides. This helps in stabilizing the vehicle during “liftoff” and “landing”. Within “cruising” sections the vehicles would normally be supported only from left or right (this cannot sadly be presented in the drawing above easily; we’ll get graphics later which show this more clearly).

The track

It’s simply a big loop. That’s it.

The vehicle is supported by the right rail within the loop. You can see this from the positioning of the bottom-most vehicle currently, not from anything else.

Parallel station

This takes more space, and provides more capacity. In the picture, there are two inbound berths (vehicle slots) and two outbound ones. In between there is a vehicle “silo” – an automated storage facility that stacks empty vehicles out of the way and helps easily feed them into the outgoing station on demand peaks.

Traffic rolls on the outside loop anti-clockwise. There is a switching area for getting into or out of the parallel station. We’ll probably not do the acceleration/deceleration here, in order to affect the track traffic as little as possible. The switching happens in full speed. Only once out of the main loop, vehicles will slow down (the corners are too sharp for this currently; the track layout must be edited; but it’s good to test this real-world issue already here).

There are no vehicle elevators. Instead we’re sliding the vehicles down and letting them climb up on the track, on the outbound side of the station. This tests our climbing ability and may be needed for very high capacity stations anyways (though our elevators can take multiple vehicles at one time and essentially work as part of the track). Anyways, we’ll do slide and climb here.

Entering the station area, there are safety doors. This forms the borderline between automated and vehicle/human mixed mode areas. Again, we have no safety doors to keep passengers and vehicles apart.

The H-formed blocks are for the little carriage bars that move vehicles aside from the track and into their berths. First you have the incoming area, where people get off.

Then there is the vehicle stack, which is depicted with the same symbol as for the elevator in the light station. That’s because essentially it is an elevator. Only one that does not lead anywhere and which takes only empty, well charged vehicles.

Then there’s the outbound part, which is exactly like the incoming part of the station.

What’s missing?

A vehicle maintenance pit is not in the picture. We’ll need one but it’s essentially just a straight section of track. The most important part of the pit is the ability to change vehicle battery packs (similar to what Better Place or Rocla are doing with cars and forklifts). We’ll have to squeeze in a pitstop section to the layout.

Another missing piece is a lift for taking vehicles off the track and back on it. A simple portable crane with 1000kg capability will be enough (including the mass of passengers; the vehicles are intended to be around 350kg only). This is needed for emergency practice and simply to get vehicles off the track they are otherwise physically bound with.


We don’t currently have any funding for this. We’ll make it anyhow.

Getting funding for the project is interesting, since on the one hand you have people who are saying “there’s one too few zeros behind the numbers” and on the other you have people wanting the budget to be smaller. This is because we’ve come to expect that things like this (“infrastructure”) are expensive. The challenge is to show, they need not be.

This is like making the Raspberry Pi of public transport (see that product, it’s an amazing credit-card size full-blown computer intended to boost a new generation of hackers).


During this year, we’re making a CAD model of the above track. We’re also making a simulation software that allows for traffic control and capacity simulations.

If that goes well, and we get funding, we’ll make the actual track within some “garage” in 2013. Seems startups are back to garages. It feels good!