I co-founded GoSquared all the way back in 2006(!) with two of my best friends from school – Geoff and JT, and have been building, learning, failing, and winning in the world of software ever since.
Monday of this week was a rubbish day for me. I woke up frustrated, anxious, feeling deflated and not sure what to do. I almost felt like calling in sick. But instead I put my running kit on and got out for a run in the rain.
When I came back, I said "screw it" and hit record on my Mac, and spoke about what was on my mind.
Later in the evening, through the wonders of SaaS – tools like Transistor, Descript, and Epidemic Sound enabled me to take my ramblings and make them into a podcast in a few hours.
I didn't overthink this, and I know I can do better, but I started, and I hope I can continue.
NetNewsWire focuses on the content, it puts you in control, and it’s refreshingly simple and honest.
As noted by the maker himself, Brent Simmons– NetNewsWire is a Mac-assed Mac app, the same applies to the iOS and iPad apps too. They’re the definition of well crafted native software for Apple’s platforms.
Until now, though, while I’ve had NetNewsWire installed on all my devices, I’ve only ever really used it on my iPhone. That’s because I didn’t have any of the third party services set up to sync my feeds and read-status across my iPhone, iPad and Mac.
NetNewsWire 6 introduces my most wanted feature: syncing with iCloud.
Now all my feeds are on each of my devices. When I read an article on my iPhone it’s marked as read on my iPad and my Mac. Everything’s in sync, everything’s up to date, and it all just works.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with news – especially if you’re feeling bombarded by stories and ads and articles for things you don’t care for or want to know about – NetNewsWire is the app you’ve been looking for.
Not only is it great, it’s also free. What’s not to like?!
Through the pandemic and working from home, Apple Fitness+ became a helpful motivator for getting me to try new workouts and experiment with yoga, meditation, heck even dance – all without leaving the house.
I don't feel overweight – I feel "just about right" – but as I shift into a new decade of my life, I'm increasingly concious of the fact that I won't be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, forever.
So I recently started using a great app, LoseIt! to help track the other half of my fitness – what I consume. While Apple Watch tracks my ability to lose calories and keep fit, LoseIt! tracks what I put in – helping me to balance that all important equation: "calories IN minus calories OUT = a negative number" if I want to lose weight.
I'm new to this calorie counting game – I never thought I'd be "one of those people" who asks how many calories are in a meal or in a cereal bar. I never thought I'd be someone who said no to a sweet treat. But increasingly – I am thinking twice about every snack I eat, and every portion of food I see on a plate.
Along with tracking the calories I'm consuming, I'm also trying to keep track of WHEN I eat food. I've been trying to obey a stricter schedule for when I wake, when I eat each meal, and when I get to sleep. According to some, WHEN you eat is just as important, if not more so than WHAT you eat.
I'm concious that when I eat, I am usually with people – friends, family, my partner, colleagues. I don't want to be sitting with a plate of delicious food poking at an app trying to add things to a calorie tracking app. Instead, I have found the least distracting, most effective solution is to simply snap a quick photo as subtley as I can of the meal I'm eating.
By snapping a photo I can grab an instant snapshot of the meal I had, along with the size, and the time I was about to eat it – which I can add to LoseIt! at a later date when I have more time to note down and clarify the details.
There are a few rumours circling that Apple may be bringing some form of food tracking functionality to iOS 15. This is something I am rather excited about – and if it's true, I can't wait to see how this works, and how accurate it will be. I'm sure Apple can find an innovative way to solve some of these complex problems.
I'm also excited to see what a company with the resources of Apple can do in a problem space that is
Clubhouse has been all the rage for months, but is it already starting to fade into irrelevance?
At GoSquared, we have been looking at how we can speak with our audience directly – we want to share more of what we’ve learnt with others out there, particularly with other people starting and growing SaaS businesses.
We have run a podcast in the past, and we’ve put together video content, and we’ve done a fair bit of blogging over the years, but live audio is something we’ve never experimented with at all.
So we wanted to give live audio a shot. But what is the best tool for the job?
Clubhouse is now a household name and synonymous for live audio streaming – it pretty much created the category. But Twitter has just released Spaces to more users – a product with extremely similar functionality to Clubhouse, but integrated into the main Twitter app.
I asked my audience (on Twitter, ironically) and the votes flooded in with a clear winner: Twitter Spaces is where to start a live audio stream.
Should I use this simple, mildly biased (users on Twitter will surely prefer audio on Twitter?!) poll, as gospel? I suspect not, but for the next week I will be trying Twitter Spaces out and seeing what happens.
Can I build an audience of engaged listeners on Twitter Spaces? Is my voice ready for the airwaves? Do people even want to hear what I have to say? All will be revealed once I try this out…
This weekend I visited Crystal Palace Park – it’s very near to where I live and I used the day to go walking there and “get my steps in”.
The park and area is named Crystal Palace because of the huge glass exhibition building that once stood there. I had been interested in the story of the building for a while but never knew too much about it.
It turns out there are many stories and a fascinating past to the park and the building. I am no expert, but after just a day of visiting, and a few hours of reading around, I felt compelled to distill some of what I found into a short post – because what I learnt inspired me and I hope may inspire other readers too.
For what was arguably the most ambitious building to ever exist at the time, this thing came together fast. Really fast!
As I understand it, Britain was to host “the great exhibition” of everything that was great both in Britain, and across the world – particularly in the British Empire at the time. It was decided that a building was needed to house all of the exhibits and it was to be in Hyde Park, central London, for 6 months from 1st May 1851.
Many architects and elite engineers of the time proposed solutions, but all were too expensive, and would take too long to build. No one could hit the extreme constraints of the project. With less than a year until the doors needed to open – doors that still needed to be created – a chap called Joseph Paxton drew an idea on a scribble of paper. Paxton knew a ton about designing gardens and also about grand conservatories and greenhouses.
After minimal debate, and the realisation that Paxton’s design would cost a fraction of other proposals (as little as 28% of the cost of another option), Paxton was given the go-ahead to turn his sketch into drawings and plans that could be used to start construction. He and his team turned the sketch into a full set of calculations, budgets, and building plans in two weeks. This makes me question my work ethic.
Paxton had 8 months to turn his plans into a finished building ready for the greatest show the world had ever seen. Not just any building – the largest exhibition space in the world at the time, made almost entirely of glass. No pressure.
Public toilets? You have the Crystal Palace to thank
Among many firsts, the Great Exhibition saw the first major installation of public toilets. Hard to believe that at some point public toilets just weren’t a thing. The phrase “spending a penny” was also thought to have originated here – as it cost a penny to use the toilets on site.
HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.
I honestly couldn’t believe it – many have criticised the HomePod for its high price point, and for Siri’s unpredictable nature, but I absolutely love my HomePod, and everyone I know that owns one seems to have a similar affection for theirs.
Apple rarely discontinues a product – it’s especially rare for them to announce that they’re discontinuing a product. I can only think of AirPower in recent memory as being a product discontinuation Apple has announced – and that was a product they never actually shipped in the first place!
I’m keen to break this event into two questions: why would Apple discontinue the original HomePod? And why would Apple announce the discontinuation of HomePod?
Why announce the discontinuation?
If Apple were looking to replace the original HomePod with a newer model – for example a slightly smaller iteration on the original, an updated A-series chip, the addition of a U1 chip, more colour options, etc. then they could simply run supplies down over time and introduce the new model to much fanfare.
There would be no need to announce a discontinuation – just as they don’t announce the discontinuation of every Apple Watch or iPhone model when they introduce new versions.
The reason seems clear: the future of the HomePod “line” is the HomePod mini as far anyone can see today. Apple’s statement emphasises that their future efforts will focus on HomePod mini and nothing else.
Apple never talks about future products, but if they had exciting plans for the future of home audio, their statement doesn’t seem to tee anything up. It’s like Apple is dousing the flames of any hope that there’s a vibrant future to Apple’s home audio.
Praise for HomePod
I have thoroughly enjoyed owning a HomePod since shortly after it was announced. I have one HomePod in our kitchen – I have never tried the stereo pairing but people seem to rave about how great it sounds.
I have always been blown away by the sound quality of our HomePod in the kitchen. It’s always a talking point with guests when tunes are playing – the sound is phenomenal.
The simplicity of the device sets it apart from other speakers for me – there are no extra plugs or ports, no ugly buttons, no
The angles and tight spaces that a drone can manoeuvre through just seem impossible. I’ve watched this a handful of times now and I can’t stop ducking when the drone flies through the tiny gaps under the ball returning machines.
For the last year, very few of us have had the chance to have anyone over to our homes, but I was recently casting my mind back to those happier times, and I made a connection in my mind.
I am not sure about you, but in our house, whenever we invite someone over, it’s always a deadline – a fixed point in time to get our house presentable.
I am not saying my house is a mess, but when people come over I want to present the best version of myself and my house to my guests. And when we don’t have guests, sometimes those standards can slip a little. The handful of cups on the kitchen counter. The stack of 5 letters on the kitchen table. The extra pair of shoes left out in the hall.
Having people over pushes me to tidy all these little things up – to wash the cups, to sort the letters, to hide the shoes.
In my mind, that’s exactly what launching / shipping does: you may not be ready, but you have to get your product or feature presentable – ready for others to experience it. It focuses you.
Who care where the shoes go, or whether the cups are in the dishwasher or hidden in the sink. What matters is the place looks good and feels warm and welcoming.
When shipping – who cares if the extra settings option can’t make the cut, or the secondary heading on that alert modal isn’t precisely following the style guide. What matters more than anything is you hit the launch date and ship.
Having a deadline (like knowing a friend is coming to visit) forces you to tidy, focuses you, and restricts you from tackling anything too ambitious. External judgement and validation can be a powerful motivator to prioritise.
When a huge megacorp such as Amazon blatantly rips off your work, you can respond by complaining, by writing angry tweets, by reducing your prices, by panicking, or... by putting together a hugely entertaining ad.
Always a good reminder that every day we get a chance to influence the world around us: vote with your wallet.
I saw this tweet and it made me want to smash the “reply” button and disagree. But then I resisted – it needed more words, more thought.
As with most topics, and controversial points: it's nuanced and it depends.
Businesses grow up to inherit traits from their leaders – good and bad
From everything I can see, startups (and all companies) naturally adopt the culture and behaviours of the people running them.
Whether it’s the aggressive, winner-takes-all approach of Uber (and Travis Kalanick), the hungry, fast moving, detail obsessed approach of Stripe (and the Collison brothers), or the decisive, crazy, design-obsessive approach of Apple (and Steve) – I struggle to think of a company that isn’t an extension of the identity of the people in charge of it.
That’s not to say that the company can’t adapt or adjust to address the shortcomings of the founders. In fact, it has to to succeed. We all have flaws – and the bigger the business, the more publicly known those founder flaws are.
I find this all the time at GoSquared – as I’ve grown up, I’ve tried to increasingly make myself aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I try to ensure we hire for people that fill the vast gaps in my own skill set, and I try to ensure I keep my mouth shut on topics where I really don’t consider myself an expert.
Your identity doesn't need to map 1:1 with your business
The reason I struggle with this tweet, is that it’s a two-way statement – it’s stating your startup = your identity. I find it much easier to agree that one’s startup is heavily influenced by the founder’s identity. I find it much harder to agree that a startup defines the founder’s identity.
GoSquared defining my own identity has honestly been its own small challenge for most of my adult life.
It's been a challenge in small ways and large – for example, my first Twitter account was not "@jamesjgill" it was "@GoSquared" – the very personification of GoSquared and myself on social media back in the day were the same thing. It was this decision to not start a personal Twitter account earlier that almost certainly caused me to miss the opportunity of being "@jamesgill" on Twitter, damnit!
It’s always hard for me to have a conversation with a friend before the question of “how’s GoSquared going?” cropping up within the first 5 minutes. Work is always a logical topic to talk about when catching up with a friend, but I find that answering this question, as a founder who has only ever worked in one place for my entire career, is a deeper question.
It’s a question of “how are you finding work?”, sure, but also “how has this career path you’ve chosen worked out so far?”, and “how is the
It’s the end of 2020 (finally), and I wanted to post one last time before we head into a hopefully bright new year.
My most recent YouTube video covers the basics of creating an OKR (Objective and Key Result) system in Notion.
Hopefully you find this helpful as we head into the new year.
You can find more about how we use Notion at GoSquared, along with a bunch of free templates you can use in your own Notion setup – these are the templates we use every day to help the company run smoothly.
In this video, we’ll cover:
What are OKRs?
Why do OKRs help?
Why use Notion for OKRs?
How do you set up OKRs in Notion?
Hope this helps you kick off 2021 with your team in a neat and organised way. Heck, you can even use this system for your personal goals too.
If you give it a try, let me know how you get on – I’d love to follow up with answers to any questions.
One of my favourite apps on the Mac (and on iOS) is Things, by Cultured Code.
It's a beautiful, easy-to-use, yet powerful to-do list app, and it helps me stay productive, and keep on top of the messiness of daily life.
This weekend I decide to put together a basic video – I just wanted to share the basics to help you be more productive:
What is Things?
How do you add tasks?
What is the "Inbox" vs "Today" vs other options?
And how can you add tasks to Things when you think of them?
I hope you find this video helpful – it's my first adventure into YouTube movie making, and I know I have a lot to learn!
But if you find this even vaguely helpful – either for yourself or your friends, then please let me know – I'd love to share more about the tools I use every day with the aim of helping others get more from their day.
I’m a total Apple geek, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
As soon as I had a chance, I pre-ordered the iPhone 12 Pro with the goal of receiving it on launch day.
The unbelievable strength of Apple’s marketing prowess dawned on me – I didn’t make a rational decision, I didn’t think too much – I decided and I purchased.
My previous iPhone has been the iPhone X – and it’s been a fantastic companion for three years.
To Pro or not to Pro
This was the primary area where I was surprised at how little I thought about the purchase. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are both incredibly good devices. And there is hardly any trade off by choosing the 12 vs the 12 Pro. It’s primarily about cameras and “look and feel”.
There are some software features that Apple holds back for the Pro only – primarily, one could argue the reason for some software features only being availble on the Pro is the extra 2GB of RAM. But it feels like there’s increasingly a decision from Apple to use software to distinguish between models, rather than just hardware.
What I realised in this process of choosing the iPhone 12 Pro is that Apple has made me classify myself. I knew I wanted the Pro instinctively. I mentally tuned out of what the 12 could do and jumped straight to the Pro. Why? I don’t know – it feels like it’s hard wired into me.
This is crazy, because in many ways I love the look of the iPhone 12 – with aluminium band, and the fact it’s a little lighter.
Pre-order day came and I made my purchase. Launch day came, and I eagerly anticipated the delivery.
There’s been some fuss around the new iPhones coming in a tiny box and Apple choosing to not include a power adaptor or headphones.
Initially my reaction was: “come on, Apple!” With regards to the lack of a charger – especially given the cable that ships in the box is a new USB-C cable rather than a traditional USB 2.0 cable. For those unaware, USB 2 ports are the kind that people started wiring into their wall sockets in the UK several years ago, somewhat shortsightedly.
In reality, the decision to remove these accessories makes a ton of sense – and I am finding it hard to complain. Smaller boxes (considerably smaller boxes – to the point where I thought the delivery driver had given me a SIM card and some O2 packaging, and not my iPhone) are good for the planet, and therefore everyone.
I have enough old Apple Lightning cables and adaptors around my house to keep me going for some time. In actual use, the lack of adaptor in the box is nowhere near as big of a deal as the now ancient switch from Dock Connector to Lightning. Everyone will be fine.
Everything’s faster – it feels so snappy – like having a new watch. Every animation, every tap, every interaction feels almost instant.
Hand washing – it works. Features like this truly change behaviour. Try as I might – I have not been washing my hands for 20 seconds every time. Just as I love to close my rings, this is another habit I’m now far more inclined to build.
The set up for everything sleep related was fantastic. There were a lot of options, but everything was extremely clear. I experienced “Wind Down” last night as my iPhone and Watch were both telling me “James, get to bed now, for heaven’s sake!”
The Watch went into a mode similar to Theatre Mode where the screen is switched off and unresponsive. You have to wake it by hitting the Digital Crown and then turning it a satisfying amount to unlock. And notifications are removed from you Lock Screen on iPhone to keep your bedtime routine as distraction free as possible.
Sleep tracking – I tried it last night, and I’m not totally sure what data goes where, now that I have about four apps all helping me sleep better. Needs further investigation.
No more Force Touch
Lack of Force Touch – haven’t felt the loss of it at all in my first 24 hours. All interactions I stumble on regularly have been replaced Force Touch with a button or other interface element that’s easily visible.
I still find the instal process for watchOS updates pretty convoluted. Maybe I’m too keen and should just let it install overnight while I’m sleeping. Yesterday I spent part of my lunch hour messing around with ensuring my Watch was on its charger, charged more than 50%, on WiFi, that my iPhone was close, and it also was connected to WiFi. And then I just waited. Progress seemed slow. I did something wrong, or something went wrong – either way, it wasn’t perfectly smooth.
Thankfully, eventually, it was all done, and as if by magic I had watchOS 7 ready for the evening. It felt like I had a new Watch.
Go get it
Every year, iOS and watchOS get a little bit better. This version of watchOS is a delight on so many levels. Go install it if you haven’t already!
Patrick’s list includes the first version of Amazon Prime (six weeks), the first iPod (approximately 290 days), and Disneyland (366 days).
This weekend I also read a profile on Elon Musk in Rolling Stone – this quote stood out to me (emphasis mine):
Beyond all this, most maddening or exciting for Musk’s employees, depending on which one you ask, is the time scale on which he often expects work to be done. For example, one Friday when I was visiting, a few SpaceX staff members were frantically rushing back and forth from the office to the parking lot across the street. It turns out that during a meeting, he asked them how long it would take to remove staff cars from the lot and start digging the first hole for the Boring Company tunnel. The answer: two weeks.
Musk asked why, and when he gathered the necessary information, he concluded: “Let’s get started today and see what’s the biggest hole we can dig between now and Sunday afternoon, running 24 hours a day.” Within three hours, the cars were gone and there was a hole in the ground.
Not everyone is comfortable moving fast, but I don’t think there’s any option when running an internet business: you have to move fast or you die.
When someone says something will take two weeks, you can either take them at their word, or you can challenge them to think: what would it take to achieve this in two days? What needs to change?
Since remote working became default, we've all been trying different ways of working – from those adopting Slack or Teams for the first time, to doing one-on-ones over Zoom.
There's never been a better excuse to try radical changes to team collaboration.
The weekly kickoff
Every Monday morning we start the week with a kickoff.
We have a Notion doc that everyone has access to, with a clear agenda and structure.
The person who owns each “department” of the business outlines how they're doing against their objective for the quarter, and their action plan for the week to get closer to achieving it.
We used to do these kickoffs in person in our office. And then one of the team moved to Scotland (who can blame them!), so we started do do our kickoffs with one person on a video call and the rest of us in the office.
And then 2020 hit and we were forced to all join our Scottish colleague and communicate via Zoom in these Monday morning meetings.
Lack of engagement and no lack of chaos
We started to notice a few trends in these meetings:
Some people would speak for more than they needed, while others would speak less.
We saved questions to the end and found many of the team would not have the opportunity to ask what they needed.
Regardless of Zoom it was often hard to digest numbers and explanations on the spot when spoken aloud.
Most of all, we started to question the very purpose of these meetings – what's the point of us all getting together at the same time on a call if we aren't going to interact? If we are just going to speak at each other?
Meetings are expensive.
“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin
Take an hour for the meeting (assuming it starts on time and finishes on time), plus the hour before to prepare, plus the 30 mins after to fully get back into your flow, multiplied by the number of people in the meeting.
Add all this up and you quickly realise you're taking 15+ hours of the team’s time.
Every member of the team is incredibly skilled, ambitious, and driven. One resource that is impossible to replace is their time – once it’s spent they’re not getting it back. So I try to be extremely cautious of any time we take from anyone on the team. In that time, does every member of the team feel like it was valuable to help them grow, perform better, and achieve their goals? Or do they feel like that meeting just robbed them of an hour of their life?
15 hours is a lot of collective team time, and when you also consider that everyone is being paid to be there, a lot of money being spent too.
Efficient, well run meetings not only matter morally but they make financial sense too for
I came across Ulysses after asking on Twitter if there was a better way to write blog posts on my iPhone or iPad, instead of relying on the Ghost web interface.
It appears there is – it’s called Ulysses and it’s what I can only describe as a delightful native app for iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS.
It’s so great, the (rather talented) developers would rather you paid for a subscription.
Subscribe to an app for writing? Really?! It’s a very reasonable subscription (£5 / month), but it still feels weird to pay a monthly fee for an app to write when so many free options exist.
I took the plunge and I am going to see how it performs – if I write more because of Ulysses then it’s easily worth the 2 coffees a month for the experience.
I’m writing this in Ulysses right now and the writing experience on both iOS and on my Mac is just delightful. I love Markdown and I love the balance they've found between complexity and simplicity to make an overall experience that is easy to get started with, but advanced enough to cater to every need I've had so far.
The Scaleup podcast is led by Charlotte, CEO of Equalture, as she chats with other founders and CEOs from all over the world about their journey of building a team and the impact that their teams have on their businesses. Milestones, failures and lessons learned.
I was honoured to speak with Charlotte earlier in July, and we had a fun discussion about some of the highs and lows of running GoSquared, about mistakes we've made along the way, and we dug into the back story of starting GoSquared in the first place.
Be sure to check out the full series for many other honest and open discussions with founders.
For the first time, you can now send emails to your contacts using GoSquared, without needing any external tools or integrations, and benefit from the wealth of data, insights, and segmentation options that we've been building for years.
Automation has been a long time in the works.
I remember when we released Customer Data Hub (at the time, we called it People Analytics) – back in 2015(!) – one of the top requests we received from customers from that point onwards has always been: I want to use the data in GoSquared to send better emails to customers.
It's exciting to have this huge new set of functionality in the platform. So many hours of hard work across the team went into this release, and I am so proud of what we've all achieved together to get to this point.
If you run a software business, and you're in the market for a better way to engage with your customers, you should take a look at what we've been up to.
Today is Sunday 26th April – the date of the 2020 London Marathon. Except it's not happening today.
Last year, I ran the marathon – for the first time, and it was one of the best days of my life.
Before the memories of the day blur too much, I wanted to write them down. Perhaps someone else is thinking about taking part on this incredible day once the world returns to some form of normality.
Here's my story.
The build up
“Good luck! I’ll be watching from the pub.”
This was the first person I saw after leaving the house – a black cab driver – on my walk to East Dulwich station. What an appropriate way to start the most London of days – by bumping into someone with the most London of professions.
It was early. It was quiet. And it wasn't raining. Not hot, but also not cold. Perfect running weather.
It was eerily quiet – was it really the right day? Was this just a dream? Can I return to bed?
I had nothing but nerves. I could barely speak from the moment I woke up.
Should I drink more water? Should I drink less? Have I eaten enough? Should I eat more? I don't feel hungry! I don't want to be sick! Will my top rub? Will my knee hold out? What if I trip? Are my trainers going to be OK? What if my timing chip doesn't work and my times don't get counted? What if my bib number falls off? Did I actually register everything OK? What if I injure myself and have to pull out – my whole family are following me from the app? Am I going to get there too early? Too late?
Once I reached the station – the platform was quiet, but a handful of other runners turned up. Clearly they've done this before. This is the correct day! This is the correct time.
When I arrived at London Bridge Station, the atmosphere became real – it was busy, despite being so early on a Sunday. People were shuffling around, following coloured flags to different platforms.
When I reached the top of the escalator up to the platform for the train to Maze Hill there were plenty of police around and lots of runners. The helicopter in the sky set me off – this is real. This is the London Marathon – and I am taking part in it.
Police were everywhere – looking after the runners, helping guide everyone to the right place. An immediate wave of positivity, of excitement, but also of collective nervousness diffused through the air.
London Bridge is where you must say goodbye to anyone you've been travelling with up until this point. You're on your own from here. I had to disconnect from the warm reassurance of Lauren. What I'd do to go and sit in a cafe and have a bacon roll right now...
The train journey vanished past, and before I knew it, we were at Maze Hill station.