Great ideas are rarely born in a vacuum and I’m excited for the innovation that could arise from that.
Ada Chen Rekhi is founder & COO at Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for your entire team. Notejoy brings a fast and focused workspace for businesses and individuals to get on the same page and leverage team knowledge. She also writes on marketing and startups at adachen.com and on Twitter @adachen.
Where did the idea for Notejoy come from?
Notejoy was born out of the experiences my co-founder Sachin and I had working inside of teams large and small at companies like LinkedIn, SurveyMonkey, Mochi Media, imeem, and others. We were frustrated with how much knowledge and context was getting lost in the noise of email and chat, and how often this resulted in rework and reinventing the wheel. Most of the time, the expertise is living in someone’s head or their personal notes. By creating Notejoy, we wanted to create a fast, easy to use collaboration tool for teams to capture and discuss their ideas, and make it easy to search for later on.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day varies, but usually starts with a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. I’m a big believer of the idea fo finding flow, that blissful state of effortless productivity where distractions vanish. One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur on a small team is that finding flow is a lot easier; rather than constantly being pulled into meetings and context-switching, I have the opportunity to deeply engage with my work over an extended period of time. I use Asana to manage my to-do list and pick a “theme” to focus the day, like spending the morning deep-diving into a specific topic like acquisition metrics and then afternoon on something else. To ensure I’m spending my time productively, I do a regular lookback on how I’m spending my week and make adjustments to how I’m investing my time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
A leader I look up to once told me, ideas are a dime a dozen, what matters is picking and execution. I’m in complete agreement with this. Too many excellent ideas executed poorly still result in no traction. I keep track of ideas in my notes, like a freeform brainstorm. And when it’s time to think about what to do next, on an infrequent basis I’ll sit down and evaluate all of them. In the evaluation stage I’ll also lean on people I respect to mature the idea into something more concrete by talking it out and getting their feedback. For Notejoy, we try to revisit our ideas once a quarter to decide what needs to be done and then spend most of our time focused on execution.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The future of work. The trend toward teams being more distributed, faster moving, and more global is resulting in more conversations and collaboration taking place throughout organizations. Great ideas are rarely born in a vacuum and I’m excited for the innovation that could arise from that.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I make it a habit to try to learn something new every year, often not even related to work! For example, one year I learned how to swim proficiently. The conscious exercise of going from zero to proficiency in a skill is a great way to stay sharp and remind yourself that there’s always something to learn.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Relationships matter and you should invest time with those who really matter to you. This applies to so many aspects of life, personal and professional. It’s very easy to get carried away and allow a calendar to dictate your life. When I reflect back, it’s amazing how many key inflection points in my life have arisen from bouncing ideas off of others or a seemingly chance conversation revealing an opportunity. I think it’s important to make a conscious effort to allocate time to deepening the relationships that matter most, from family to personal friends to colleagues.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
If you are an early-stage founder, you should not be delegating tasks that you haven’t mastered yourself. In startups, sweat all the details because the details matter. I’ve been in teams big and small, and while delegation is a key skill for scaling organizations it’s a poor strategy for founders to delegate tasks that they don’t understand. You lose so much of the detail by handing it off.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
At the end of each year, I spend a day writing down a year in review. I cover all kinds of topics: what happened, what went well, what didn’t go well, what I’ve learned, what I found most challenging each year, and what I hope to accomplish in the last year. I also read my prior year’s review as well for context. Taking the time to reflect is an opportunity to reflect on both personal and professional milestones and decide on what changes I should be making if any.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Invest in one strategy at a time. Making a concentrated effort at getting one strategy initially working and then scaled often takes a series of experiments and optimization. For example we are spending time looking at app stores like our recently launched Trello and Slack integrations. Talking to the customers, other developers, and continuing to make tweaks and optimizations ensures that we’re getting and providing value to all parties.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve missed out on easy opportunities to tell great prospects about my product because I was being self-effacing and didn’t spend the time communicating the product and the vision effectively. It may be just my own weird thing, but I often feel self-conscious taking up all the airtime telling people about me and push the conversation back to them. I’ve come to realize that when people ask what you’re working on, they’re often genuinely curious and it’s an opportunity to engage. Since then, I’ve spent time reflecting on how to hone the message and getting more comfortable about sharing proactively.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An alerting and monitoring product for the business functions inside of a company. I’d love to get an alert if my email unsub rate spikes unexpectedly, credit card processing goes wonky, my sales leads count is trending at 100 when it should be 500, or if my search traffic has gone to zero on a key page, for example. You see a ton of options available for technical functions, for example site outage alerts or incident responses, but as a business revenue owner it’s often a manual game of forensics after the fact rather than a proactive alert.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A class-pack at a fitness studio in my neighborhood. I’ve found that regular exercise boosts my energy levels and makes me way more productive throughout the day. Plus, it’s a great way to unwind.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
The Captio app on my iPhone. Pure genius on how simple it is to use. It’s one of the fastest ways to send yourself an email. I email myself with ideas and things to do all the time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. Fascinating look into the creation and rise of Nike. Love that it’s not just a storybook tale but covers the bumps in the road too.
What is your favorite quote?
Sheryl Sandberg is inspiring when she asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
- When you’re growing your business, invest in one strategy at a time and make a concentrated effort to understanding and make it work for you.
- Rather than letting your calendar overrun and dictate where you spend time, make sure you’re making the time to invest in important relationships because they matter.
- Don’t delegate away work too early in startups, sweat all the details because the details matter.
- Great ideas are a dime a dozen, what matters is picking and execution.