Google Spreadsheets

I’m encouraging every Provo Labs portfolio company to set up a shareable Google spreadsheet to keep track of daily web statistics. One of the keys to success in an online company is to look at very simple web stats every day to find opportunities and problems. For example, someone needs to look every day at the top referrers to your web site and the top search terms that are bringing you visitors. Every domain that sends you traffic becomes an important part of your company’s ecosystem. These partners need to be watched, tended, encouraged, and rewarded.

I like to look at the top 5 referrers every day and log them in the spreadsheet. I hope to see new top referrers regularly as we get more sites linking to us. But I also check for declining referrers, sites that used to send us lots of traffic but no longer do.

If you have a small team, the Google spreadsheet is perfect. Each person can update their own little piece. Whoever is over sales can input the daily revenue numbers. Customer service can track number of calls and emails. Your marketing team can input how many emails went out, new affiliates, new landing pages, and how many new incoming links were recruited. You can also keep track of new articles published online as well as press releases–both of which help with search engine rankings. And you can have a separate tab to keep track of your SEO efforts and your rankings over time.

Another good use of a Google spreadsheet for a startup is to keep track of the cap table–who owns the company, who has options or warrants, and how the ownership changes after each round of investment. Cap tables are notoriously difficult to keep track of. You don’t think about them every day. But when an investor or employee needs to look at the ownership structure, it would be nice to invite them to View the current spreadsheet, but not have Edit rights.

Google spreadsheets are fantastic. The shareability outweights some of the current limitations for simple applications like daily stats and cap tables.

Sometimes the opposite is true. Some online applications have shareability but their limitations outweight that fact. When one of my startups tried Quickbooks Online a couple years ago, I love it for its shareability, but the person who used it everyday found the data entry so tedious that it wasted his time. So we switched back to the software version.

What online apps do you find most useful for your startup company?

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the note about Google spreadsheets, Paul. Just yesterday I was looking for a way to share our database of leads we got a tradeshow with my employees, and this looks like it might be a great answer.

    As far as other online apps go, we use backpack extensively both to share files and to keep track of our priorities.

  2. Blaine E.

    Paul, what about security? Web traffic would be great for shared Google spreadshets. I’ve used Google’s shared calendar before, but not for anything mentioning a company name or other appoinmtnets I would not want public on the Internet.

    I’m not sure I would want a cap table out there?

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