Name: Tim Gasper
Title: Keepstream co-founder, The Appconomy contributor
Location: Austin, TX
Tell us about your educational/professional background.
Technology has always been a huge passion of mine, but it took me a while before I really knew which angle I would take to get involved in tech. I went to Case Western Reserve University for Engineering and Physics, but as most college students do, my interests evolved. I ended up graduating with degrees in Economics and Marketing.
More importantly though, the last two years of college I was involved with a startup project. Our first idea was spawned at Startup Weekend, a great event where you go from idea to prototype in a single weekend. The goal is to force you to take the initial step toward becoming a real company — because often that first step is the hardest. The company was called CorkShare at the time, and it was my first experience as an entrepreneur. I was only 19, and I learned more than any class I could have ever taken in college. It taught me to set my own agenda, be accountable to myself, and to do the work that actually impacts your business’s bottom line.
In between college and working on Keepstream and freelance full time, I spent a year working at Hyland Software. They are a business software company for streamlining business processes and helping organizations go paperless by using electronic or scanned documents instead of paper. I was a Software Product Evangelist, becoming an expert on the product and creating a lot of content collateral. A strong focus of the position was on doing presentations, both in person and via online webinars.
Tell us about your current job.
Over the course of three years, CorkShare morphed into Keepstream, where as Co-founder and CMO I do marketing, business development, and community engagement. Keepstream is a social media curation tool that helps organize tweets, Facebook posts, and website bookmarks into shareable, embeddable collection pages. Collections are useful for bloggers, marketers, or just about anyone who wants to curate the chatter from a conference or event, a news headline, or a hashtag chat. Working with startups this long has been hugely rewarding because of how dynamic it is. At any minute I may be working on a different project, whether it’s talking to potential customers, creating marketing collateral, or pitching bloggers and journalists.
I am also a contributor to The Appconomy, where I blog about mobile apps, companies, and trends. The Appconomy’s mission is to serve as your trusted, original source of best practices, profiles, features, and commentary covering the rapid transition to the mobile, app-based economy, aka the appconomy. In addition, I contribute articles to the Austin Examiner on the Austin technology scene and interesting technology trends.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day is usually split about half and half between my freelance activities and my startup work. I like to start early because I’m a coffee addict — my morning joe is my most productive time block and is when most of my heavy duty writing gets done. This represents mostly freelance work. After my morning writing is done, I’ll usually go for a workout.
My co-founders are night owls, so after all this we’re ready to head to the Keepstream office where I’ll wrap up any additional freelance, and then focus on whatever project is most urgent for Keepstream. As of writing this we are preparing to do fundraising, so I’m focusing mostly on drumming up customer interest in preparation for a stronger investor pitch. I usually have a couple meetings with a Keepstream user or potential customer, or coordinating with my freelance employers. Throughout the day I use Boxcar (for notifications) and HootSuite (for conversations and sharing) for social media community engagement.
I usually stay in the office until relatively late. That means not much free time, but the work I do is fun and engaging, which makes the long hours extremely engaging and rewarding.
What kinds of documents do you produce?
I produce a lot of varying work. Examples include blog articles, white papers, web copy, software tutorial videos, fact sheets, presentation slide decks, spreadsheets for tracking initiatives, marketing or business plans, etc.
What communication skills are needed for your job?
First thing that comes to mind is dealing with massive amounts of email, both inbound and outbound. Thank God for Gmail! I have to be quick, to the point, and well organized. I have to work with a lot of different people in a relatively informal way, so I have to clearly communicate expectations, be very transparent about progress, and place a lot of trust into delegation and accountability. In general, I have to be an effective writer and speaker across many mediums and be comfortable regardless of context, whether it’s online, a coffee shop one-on-one, a networking event, or the boardroom.
How did you prepare for your job?
My preparation came mostly from working with other people, both in school and professionally. I did a lot of extracurriculars in school such as the event programming board, marketing club, economics honor society, and others. Writing and communications skills came mostly from school and these extracurriculars. Also, all the jobs I took on during and after school happened to require me to be heavily involved with writing and content creation. You learn by doing.
List three of your favorite professional resources/references/tools and tell us why they’re your favorite.
HootSuite: I love any chance I can get to profess my love for HootSuite. Overall, I think it’s the best free social media dashboard and analytics tool out there.
Gobbledygook Grader: Great tool by HubSpot for making sure your writing isn’t full of useless jargon. It also tells you what education level your article targets so you can either smarten it up or dumb it down depending on your audience. David Meerman Scott, who wrote the awesome book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, helped create the tool. He uses the word “gobbledygook” to describe what the rest of us call buzzwords or fluff.
AP Styleguide: It’s the go-to guide for writing style and etiquette for me, especially regarding journalistic formats.
I won’t consider it one of my three, but my company Keepstream gets an honorable mention. It’s a great way to incorporate tweets or other social content into your blog posts and websites. Plus we’ll be moving into a lot of analytics soon that will be super useful to Social Media Managers, PR agencies, and writers… so stay tuned.
How do you stay up to date in your field?
RSS and blogs are still the best way to stay up to date in my opinion. I use Twitter for conversations and running into information serendipitously, but I use Google Reader to bring in a consistent flow of good blog articles around Marketing, Technology, and Social Media Measurement. A couple blogs I really like include:
- Tech / Startups: A Smart Bear by Jason Cohen, A VC by Fred Wilson, and Chris Dixon’s Blog
- Marketing / Social Media: Flowtown, Kissmetrics, and BrandBuilder
How would you define professional writing?
Good question. I don’t think I’m the best person to answer this question, but I think you can look at it in two ways. One, is writing your primary activity? And two, do you make money from writing? I think the first question gets a little closer to the matter, because I’m sure there are many professional writers with an engaged audience out for more than just making cash. The more you write, the better you are at it, and the cooler your job title, I suppose the more serious people will take you when you say you are a professional writer.
Do you have any tips to share with other professional writers/editors/designers?
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before — write regularly. Or if you design, design regularly. It’s the only way to keep your skills sharp and your audience engaged. Also, expose yourself to a lot of newness. New news, new people, new places, new ideas. It spurs creativity and gives you interesting content and perspective. Newness can also mean variety. I’ve noticed that some of the best writers and designers I’ve met have built up experience in many sizes, formats, and mediums.