As with many startups, Minneapolis-based Civic Eagle has gone through a significant pivot in terms of both product and customer since their launch in 2015. “We started as a B2C mobile app in 2015, and then we pivoted to a B2B SaaS platform beginning of 2018,” CEO Damola Ogundipe says. “Now, we help organizations manage government policy and legislation with an automated software platform.” The change seems to have paid off—in the last year Civic Eagle has gone through a Techstars Accelerator, was a finalist in Sir Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge and is currently a finalist in the MEDA Million Dollar Challenge.
When we asked Ogundipe what tools and apps he and his team are using to manage and grow the company he was prepared—Civic Eagle tracks all of their tools in detail. He explains, “We want to know what we’re using, how effective it is, what we’re paying for, where it needs to go, how often we’re using it, and who’s managing each account. We do this so we can go back every quarter and say, ‘We’re paying for this tool, it works in this way, we do, or we don’t find it to be effective,’ and then make adjustments if we need to.”
Airtable – a collaborative and interactive spreadsheet + database
We use Airtable on a day-to-day basis. It’s just more dynamic than Excel—it looks better, it feels better. The collaboration on it is a lot better. It’s just more feature-heavy, and so we can use it for a lot of different reasons. We use it as a CRM, and we use it to do things like tracking our business tools. We use it to do our weekly and biweekly sprint planning to track our expenses. We use it for keeping track of tickets, either feature request tickets or bugs, and tickets that need to go with the development team. It’s just so rich; you can use it for everything.
Zeplin & Sketch – prototyping tools for designing and bringing software products to market
As we go through feature iterations, our Chief Product Officer uses these tools to sketch out and prototype products. So, if we’re adding a new button or we’re adding a new page or something like that she uses Sketch to do the initial UI design and then Zeplin to do the final UI (User Interface) design and the final prototype. The Zeplin file with all of the development specs gets sent to the engineering team who can then actually code into the software.
Our goal is to have our product be the most usable UI, the most pleasant, delightful, surprising, platform. The space we work in isn’t used to good design and good user experience. That’s a priority for us. We want to create the best user experience possible, and we take that very seriously.
Crunchbase & Angelist – online searchable databases of angel investors, venture capital funds, and more
We use AngelList and Crunchbase when we’re raising money for things like identifying investors and how to find them. We used AngelList more in the past when we were looking for angel investors, and we’re now looking more at funds so are more focused on Crunchbase. It helps us know who the funds are, what areas they invest in, what companies they’ve invested in before. It’s just a good tool for raising capital. We did a rolling pre-seed round, so we raised money throughout the last year.
Zoom & Parabol – Video conferencing and a retrospective meeting app that Civic Eagle uses for all meetings
We use Zoom every day, multiple times a day. We use it for our team meetings; we use it to demo the products; we use it if I’m the one setting up an investor meeting; we use it for basically every meeting. We have three folks in Minnesota; I float between Atlanta and MN, then one person in DC and one person in Montreal, Canada. Because we’re distributed, we need to use a best-in-class video conferencing system. We used Hangouts for a little bit, but Zoom is just superior, and we want to make sure that we have the best virtual tools possible. Zoom does that for us.
We love Parabol. We use it for our bi-weekly retrospective. Zoom is the conferencing part of it, while Parabol is the engine behind the meetings that runs and powers the meetings and makes us more effective when we meet together.
Superhuman – an email system that uses artificial intelligence
I pay for Superhuman for myself because I use it for everything. It’s a personal preference thing—it’s fast; it makes me feel more efficient and effective. I kind of AB tested it. I tried Gmail and said, “We’ve done Gmail, but have we done Superhuman?” I’m about 30% faster using Superhuman and basically, 90% of my time is spent on email. If I get 30% of that time back, that’s a pretty good ROI, so I like it.
It’s the shortcuts that they have, the way it’s configured. It makes sense with how people work on email now. It has a very simple UI, nothing sexy there but there are shortcuts, commands you can use, you can kind of customize it to fit your workflow. There are best practices for email workflow that they kind of enforce on you. I like it so far. I’m giving it a year to decide whether or not it’s worth 30 bucks a month.
Hotel Tonight – an app for booking last minute hotel stays
I use Hotel Tonight for hotel stays. I don’t have a preference for hotels, and Hotel Tonight is really convenient and it’s cheaper. I can just get to a location and just pick a hotel that’s the cheapest one based off a radius that I’m trying to stay in. I don’t have to plan ahead of time, I just get there and find it. I’m in New York right now. I landed at 8:30, went straight to the gym. Worked out at 9:30, then went to where most of my meetings are going to be. Opened up Hotel Tonight, did a two-mile radius, and found a pretty cheap hotel for 200 bucks tonight. You can book a day of with no stress, no pressure. I don’t have to spend time finding a hotel or like that. It feels like I’m getting the best possible deal, so I like it.
Copper & Pipedrive – Customer Relationship Management tools
We use Copper for our investor, mentor and advisor CRM. When I send my monthly updates, it’s through Copper. I use Pipedrive for sales CRM. Pipedrive is a little different than Copper and has the ability for making sure we know where each customer is in the customer pipeline. Our customer mix is pretty diverse right now. It’s split between non-profits, and organizations that do policy advocacy work, and corporations that do government affairs work to lobby state and federal Congress on behalf of their companies.
Slack – collaboration software that Civic Eagle uses for internal communication
I love being on Slack. It works really well. We’re pretty good at keeping everything in different channels. We have like something 20 different channels. Conversations happen in those channels. You can mute channels if you want if that’s not the area of your focus. For example, the engineering team mutes the sales channel. I like it a lot, and I think the rest of the team likes it, too. We’re in pretty good communication virtually. Our Slack is really organized. We pin the right things. We set the topic for each channel. We spent a lot of time organizing our workspaces. We have to be because we’re distributed. But if I had to guess, we’re in the top percentile when it comes to organization.