SimpleCrew Updates

Key Android App, Database, and Server Updates

Over the last week, we’ve shipped a couple key Android App, database, and server updates to SimpleCrew.

The updates addressed a couple of the most urgent scaling issues we’ve faced to date.

Here’s a look into the recent updates, and the problems they addressed.

System-Wide Server Crashing – Android App and Server Update.

In our update a few weeks back, I disclosed a heavy load issue on our server that was causing system-wide crashing.

During this time, some users were experiencing login issues, photo upload failures, and slow connections.

Over the past few weeks, Mike identified the issue as a flaw in an old version of our Android app where, when a photo upload failed due to low service coverage, the app would get into a never ending loop of re-posting the photo to our server.

At the time, since the server was forced to accept any photo being uploaded, the never-ending upload loop would cause the SimpleCrew server to crash and be inaccessible to other users.

Mike made a number of server updates to combat the self-destructive mobile app, and using insights from our analytics/tracking system Mixpanel, we were able to identify which user’s Android apps were stuck in infinite loops, and contacted them directly to ask them to re-boot their apps.

Finally, we contracted a mobile app developer to update our Android app and resolve the issue completely. The updated Android app was released this weekend. Download it in the Android Market.

1000+ Photos Issue – Database Update.

This was an interesting issue that some of our biggest customers were expeirencing when their campaigns would reach 1000+ photos.

Our original database design (MongoDB for the techies) was not optimized for querying large numbers of photos.

The design was optimized for more flexibility, but as we came to find, it would eventually break down when campaigns reached 1000+ photos.

Over the last few weeks, Mike was able diagnose the issue, and built updates to the database schema design and application.

Then, this weekend – the trickiest part – Mike was able to migrate all the existing campaigns to work with the new system.


These scaling issues presented some of the most urgent challenges we’ve faced so far in our (brief) history, so many thanks to those of you who’ve been patient with us and helped us with feedback as we worked through them.

Today, you guys are submitting over 1,000 photos on our system every day, and your campaigns are reaching 1000+ photos with greater and greater frequency.

Though the issues were frustrating, we reminded ourselves that in the grand scheme of things, scaling issues are an indcation of a useful product being used.

For that, we’re thankful, and will continue to work hard to make SimpleCrew the best solution for your business.

– Alan VanToai


Business Lessons Learned from Atlassian

I like picking out heroes in business (and in life). People and companies whose mindset, actions, and achievements I respect and admire.

Folks like Paul Graham37Signals/Basecamp, and Instagram – these guys have been there, walked the path, and have left plenty of inspiration on everything from product features to marketing copy to business strategy.

Today, I stumbled across a Forbes article chronicling the rise of another badass company that’s firmly in this camp for me: Atlassian, a software company that makes collaboration, project management, and communication tools for enterprise companies.

These guys have turned the traditional sales/marketing model for the enterprise market on it’s head:

Unlike the model of behemoths like Oracle , or even contemporaries like Workday or Box, Atlassian chose to minimize costs by not investing in sales staff or marketing, focusing instead on research and development. It simply sold their competitively priced products on the website.

“We felt if we could sell something at a reasonable price and sell it on the internet then we’d be able to find a market there. And that’s what worked out,” Farquhar said.

Like many start-ups, early sales were from friends of friends and acquaintances. But the company knew it had broken through when, without solicitation or any human interaction, the credit card information for a purchase from American Airlines came through.

Sales and marketing will continue to play a huge role in how we push SimpleCrew forward, but it’s inspirational to see Atlassian pushing the boundaries of whats possible with just a maniacal focus on product and development.

That, and they just seem like a cool bunch of guys and girls. Hero status confirmed.

SimpleCrew Updates

April product updates, and upcoming mobile app release.

Happy Monday, folks! We’ve been busy over the last several weeks. Here’s a laundry-list of product updates now live on SimpleCrew.

First – a word on Mobile. Over the last few weeks, several people have experienced photo uploading issues from iPhone. The latest update of iOS (iOS7.1) has caused crashing and upload issues with our current SimpleCrew app.

Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve been working closely with our friends Nico and Cristian from to design and develop fully revamped and redesigned mobile apps for both iPhone and Android.

Along with an updated design and several key feature updates (including the ability to create new campaigns and add/remove people from campaigns in the mobile app – shoutout to our friends at DAWGSinc: we’re comin’ for ya!), the new mobile apps will address the crashing issues some of you have been experiencing.

The iOS app was submitted for iTunes review last week and should be available shortly. Android app soon to follow.

On to the other app updates… a big list for ya! Check it out:

Updated “Stats” roster in campaigns

Previously, the “Stats” page in campaigns included everyone on your team, regardless of whether or not they were assigned to that campaign. In this update, only team member associated with each campaign will show up in the Stats page for that campaign.

That, and Admins and Owners are labeled since they have access to every campaign.

Change password option

Users can now change their passwords by going to their “My Account” page, from the link in the top right hand corner (when logged in on the web).

Download all photos

Admins and Owners can now download all photos of active campaigns from the “Export All Photos” button on the dashboard!

The download does not include archived campaigns.

Support page

We launched a support page, which is accessible at We will be expanding this into a full knowledge-base of the app, including video and written tutorials that will help our customers get the most from the app.

Link to download mobile app

You can now download the mobile app by going to from your phone or online. We also included a link to this from our website.

When you go to the link from your computer, you have the option to enter your phone number, and we’ll send you a text with the download link.

Phone numbers on team member accounts

Users can now add a phone number as part of their contact info on member accounts. We plan on rolling out more management features including individual user profiles soon, and having access to phone numbers will be a part of that.

Exciting stuff here. Stay tuned 🙂

SimpleCrew Updates

New in SimpleCrew: Updated campaign design and functions

This week we released an update to the SimpleCrew campaigns. Here’s what’s new:

Updated Timeline Design

We updated the look of the timeline with new photo cards, new style, and a cleaner overall design. You can now hold your mouse over any photo on the left side, and the corresponding map pin with be highlighted.

Expanded Map View
Click the “Expand Map” button in the bottom left corner of the map to view a larger map with thumbnails.

Campaign Stats
Click the “Stats” tab to see the updated campaign stats page. The number of photos and people assigned are front and center, along with a breakdown of how many photos each person has posted.

Share Campaign
Click the “Share” button in the top right corner, and you can make a campaign publicly shareable.

You can now include cover photos with your publicly shared campaigns, and they look awesome – check it out!

Edit Campaign Title and Description
Click on the pencils icons next to the campaign title and description to edit the campaign details.

Photo Viewer
Click on any photo or map thumbnail to bring up the photo viewer. The updated photo viewer now includes a map that shows the location of where the photo was taken. Click the left and right buttons on your keyboard to flip through the photos.

Works great on mobile
The updated design is now fully responsive – meaning it works great across mobile devices and iPads/tablets. You can even upload photos from your smartphone using the “Add Photos” button.

We hope you enjoy these new improvements, and thanks for using SimpleCrew 🙂

-Alan VanToai
Co-Founder, SimpleCrew

Street teams

Street Team 101: Part 5 – How to Communicate with your Street Team

This is the fifth installment in the epic “Street Team 101” series

1. How To Recruit a Street Team.
2. How To Prepare a Street Team.
3. How To Incentivize a Street Team.
4. Street Team Marketing Ideas.
5. Street Team Communication. <= You are here!

Bonus: 3 Awesome Apps for Street Team Communication.
Bonus: 6 Street Team Software Applications To Help You Manage Your Street Team.

Welcome back to the next entry in our Street Team 101 series!

In this post, I’ll lay out the best practices for communicating with your street team, so everyone stays on the same page and works together like a well oiled machine.

First, a word on why you should be communicating with your team and what’s the importance. Basically, as common sense would betray, it’s important that you maintain clear lines of communication to and from your street team.

Good communication will ensure that your team clearly understands their goals and responsibilities at any given time, and that they can get in touch with you or someone else on the team for help when they need it.

Additionally, good communication should foster a sense of community (something we’ll touch on later in the post), which will in turn make the street team more fun to be a part of, which in turn will make the whole thing more effective for you!

So, let’s get to it. In this post we’ll break down a couple key channels of general communication you should use, then we’ll touch on the importance of accountability and reporting, and last we’ll circle back to the concept of meetings – not a necessity for all street teams, but certainly a bonus for extra credit.

General Communication

The three tools that I’ve seen most successful street teams using are private Facebook groups, email, and phone/text. Each of these tools serve different purposes for different times, and together, they will work to help you and your street team do your thing.

Remember back in the first part of the series, How To Recruit A Street Team, we put together a Google form for your street team members to fill out, including email address, phone numbers, etc…

The Google form will put your entire team’s contact info into a spreadsheet for you, so you have all this information handy. Now, let’s look at how each of these tools might be used.

Private Facebook Group
Private Facebook Groups are terrific. Go here and make one for your team: After you make one, invite everyone on your team. If you have an assistant or a team leader, you can give them the job of getting everyone on the group, otherwise it’s not too hard to do yourself.

Private Facebook Groups are great because of their convenience. A lot of people check Facebook quite often, and by default they will receive notifications when there are posts and updates to the group.

The group also facilitates interactions – so your team members can post and share stuff themselves, and comment/interact with all the other content in the group.

Because of the notifications and the convenience, Facebook Groups are a great place to post quick updates and smaller things that you want the group to know. Things like new tasks, giving props to any individual for good work, or other random updates for your team are all fair game for a private Facebook group.

However, because of the social, constantly updating nature of Facebook, it’s not necessarily the ideal place for bigger, more important messages and updates. For that you have Email.

Slightly “heavier” than Facebook, email is the best way to send the more important messages to your team. Things like new project launches, project recaps, and more important updates are all better done through email.

A great idea we’ve seen teams do is send a bi-weekly or monthly Street Team Update to their entire team. These recaps can basically serve as a regular newsletter to your team, and can include things like all the important announcements from the last few weeks, all the initiatives for the next few weeks, upcoming events, and even fun stuff such as “most valuable player” shout outs and other rewards.

Finally, the last obvious piece of the puzzle is phone and text. This channel is highly personal and real-time, making it most ideal for important details *during* a campaign or mission.

Things like confirming guest lists, coordinating marketing materials, and checking in on your team during their work hours are all best suited for calls and texts.

With a Facebook Group, emails, and phone/text, you’ve got a solid foundation for general communication with your team. Next, let’s look at how you’ll manage accountability and reporting with you team.

Accountability & Reporting

Accountability and reporting will play a critical role in making sure your team is running smoothly. We like to compare reporting to working out at the gym with a partner – when you know you’re not alone, you end up pushing yourself harder and doing your best work.

Reporting helps in a couple ways. First, as mentioned, it will help your team hold themselves more accountable for their work. Second, if you’re responsible for reporting your team’s work to a boss or client, it’s important to have documentation to show them.

Finally, ideally your team will have access to the rest of the teams reports, so they can see what everyone else is doing. This transparency will give them the bigger picture of what your team is doing, so they can work together more effectively and get that special feeling they get when they see they’re part of something bigger than just themselves.

Reports typically come in three forms: written, photos, and video. For reasons I’ll explain here, I think photos are the best way to go, but let’s take a look at all three.

Written reports
The first and arguably least effective of the three methods of reporting are written reports. In a written report, you can ask your team members for brief paragraph descriptions of their work including things like date/time, event, number of flyers & posters distributed, crowd reactions/interactions, and general reflections.

Because these reports aren’t necessarily easy to go over at a glance, they don’t scale as well – meaning once you start getting more than 7 or 8 in a day, it becomes hard to digest all the info. Also, they’re more of a pain and more friction for each team member to write and send to you.

The best use of written reports I’ve seen is when managers have split their team up into smaller groups, each with a team leader. They then have put the team leaders in charge of submitting a weekly written recap of their sub-groups activity for the week, along with photos of the work that’s been done.

So, yeah… photos are key. Let’s talk about that.

Photos (SimpleCrew)
This is where our internal photo sharing app, SimpleCrew shines as the perfect solution for your street team accountability needs. We focus on photos, so let’s talk about why photos are necessary for you, and how you should use them.

As I’ve experienced, photos have been the best way for street teams to repot their work and maintain accountability. Photos are easy to take, and easy to digest (and with the right tools *cough*simplecrew*cough*, easy to send & collect).

The saying would have it that every photo is worth a thousand words. In a photo, you’ll be able to see exactly what your team’s been doing on the ground. Everyone on your team will be able to see exactly what everyone else has been doing on the ground.

What you should be asking your team to do is simple – take photos of the work they’re doing in the field, and send them to you.

Enter SimpleCrew. The idea for SimpleCrew actually came from having a ton of street team photos emailed to me – it was a ridiculous pain in the ass. You can imagine – a messy inbox filled with photo attachments of all different file types, and none of the individual team members being able to see what the other folks were doing.

SimpleCrew solves that problem – team members take photos of their work using the mobile app for iPhone or Android, and then everyone can log-in online to see organized timelines of all the photos that have been submitted.

Every photo includes who took each photo, the date and the time, and then we use the GPS location from the smartphones to pin every photo on a map. It’s beautiful, see for yourself.

We offer 14 day free trials of SimpleCrew. Start yours here.

YouTube videos
Back when I was just cutting my teeth in street teaming for the Disco Biscuits, I stopped taking photos during flying missions and just kept a camera rolling. After a few minutes, I’d have a video to upload to YouTube and would send that to my manager Erik over at

Here’s one:

Pretty self explanatory. They’re great, but probably not the easiest thing to glance-over if you’ve got more than a handful of people sending them to you.

Clients will love them though, so keep this option in mind if you’re being contracted to do work on behalf of a client.


Finally, we can return to the idea of the meeting. Back in “Part 2: How To Prepare A Street Team” we went over how to run an orientation meeting so your team would get started on a good foot. Well, turns out that regular meetings are a great thing to keep doing over time, if everyone’s local. (Obviously if you’re managing a team outside one regional or locale, this becomes less feasible).

So, given that you’re a local or regional team, meetings are great for a couple reasons: they help reduce team member turnover, they keep your team motivated, and they help your team build a greater sense of community.

Reduce turnover
A common challenge many street teams face is dealing with team member turnover – that is, the challenge of dealing with team members who just sign up and then leave the team. Turnover’s a challenge because it makes it harder to plan, harder to manage, and less cohesive.

With regular meetings, you can help reduce turnover by keeping the team more engaged. Meetings will give your team face time, so you can become familiar with everyone and they can all become familiar with each other. With this, team members will be more motivated to stay on board and not leave the team.

Another tip to reduce turnover is just to make sure that there’s consistent things for everyone on the team to be doing. That doesn’t mean just make up shit for them to do. More, that means not over-hiring and building a team of people that you don’t need in the first place. If you don’t have that much work going around, it makes sense to keep a smaller, reliable, consistent team.

Motivate & Reward
The second thing you can do through meetings is keep your team more motivated. Linked in with reducing turnover, meetings will give your team members a sense of reward. They’ll feel a part of something bigger, and will have a chance to meet their manager and peers which is a huge benefit for internal motivation.

You can also use meetings to give recognition to team members that have been killing it for you, either on a monthly or possibly annual basis.

Build sense of community (fun!)
Last but not least, regular meetings will be fun! They’ll inspire a sense of community in your team, giving them, again, something to be a part of. And the tighter that community gets, the stronger your team will grow for you. It’s a win win, so if you can swing it, regular meetings are the way to go.

Next: 3 Awesome Apps for Street Team Communication

SimpleCrew Story

SimpleCrew’s SaaS Metrics Dashboard

Check it out – here’s a snapshot of the business metrics dashboard the we’re going to be using to measure ourselves internally this year (and beyond):

Looking back on 2013 – we really didn’t pay too much attention to tracking and logging product data or business metrics. We’ve had Google Analytics on the marketing page, Mixpanel in the app, and have been using basic accounting software linked up with our bank account from the beginning.

We’d check in on certain numbers over time, but really, before a certain point, most of what a startup does is qualitative. 2013 was a year of building, shipping, and selling something people would find useful. And it doesn’t take many numbers to measure that. It takes more phone calls, emails, and basic observation.

But looking forward to 2014 – it feels right. It feels like it’s about that time that these numbers are going to grow into themselves and actually become meaningful, useful metrics which we can use to make our product and our business stronger.

It’s a work in progress, so please -share your feedback if you have any!

SimpleCrew Updates

Updated Public Share Timeline, Photo Pop-Ups, and Cover Photos

Happy holiday’s Crew Nation! A fun little update for you guys…

This week, Mike pushed out our new Public Share timeline design for all customers. Check out this example campaign from our friends at Blackspy Marketing. The new design features a sleek new look with a couple key points:

  • The re-designed Photo Thumbnails are bigger for easier viewing
  • Mouse-over any Photo Thumbnail to highlight the corresponding pin on the map
  • New Cover Photos let you prominently display your company or brand
  • Clicking on the thumbnails on the map now brings up the pop-up photo viewer
  • Download all photos as a .zip archive by clicking the icon in the top right corner

The update also features a redesigned pop-up photo modal that comes up when you click on any thumbnail:

  • The new modal includes a map that shows the location of the individual photo
  • See who took each photo, the date and the time info, and any comments for every photo
  • Use the Left and Right Arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate through the photos (like Facebook)

These changes will start to make their way into the redesign of the entire app that we’ll be releasing in increments over the next few weeks and months. Let us know what you think 🙂

Special thanks to designer Simon Goetz who did a fantastic job working with us to create the new design for the timeline and photo pop-up.

Thanks for reading! Have a Happy New Year – here’s to going big in 2014!


Getting Started with SimpleCrew (as a Team Member)

Over the weekend, our friend Jim over at 3Dot Entertainment asked me for a one-sheet to send to his staff to ensure their accounts and phones were set up properly and ready to go.

Realizing that this was probably a good thing to share with the rest of our customers, I figured a quick post would be appropriate. So, here you go Jim 🙂

First, what is SimpleCrew?

Great question. SimpleCrew is a mobile photo app for groups and teams. Think of it as Instagram, except instead of being public for a social network, it’s private for groups and teams.

If you’re a marketing/street team, you guys are going to be using SimpleCrew to track the progress your marketing campaigns in the field.

You’re going to upload photos via the mobile app (or website), and will be able to see timelines of all the other photos your team has submitted, with information including who took each photo, and date and time information.

Click here for an example from All Good Music Festival

Additionally, the app uses the GPS location from your phone to map the location of every photo on a map, so you guys will be able to get an overhead view of all the work your team has done in the field.

Using SimpleCrew, your team will be able to work together more effectively 🙂

Getting Started With SimpleCrew (… as a Team Member)

True to our name, we’ve kept this as simple as possible. Here’s the gist:
1. Your team manager invites you to their account via email.
2. You’ll receive an email inviting you to create an account. Follow the link and create your account.
3. Once you’ve created an account, download the mobile app: Android Market // iOS App Store

… and you’re done! With these steps, you’ll be up and ready to go. If you’re having issues, refer to the FAQ below. If you can’t find your answer here, feel free to shoot us an email or call and we’ll help you get started!

Do you only see a blank dashboard with no campaigns?

This is important! You can only see campaigns that your team manager has added you to! So if you log in and all you see is a blank dashboard with no campaigns or anything, your manager hasn’t added you to any campaigns yet!

Email your team manager and ask them to add you to some campaigns so you can participate, or shoot us an email and we’ll help you get it sorted.

Are your photos not showing up as pins on the map? 

If you’ve uploaded photos that are showing up in the timeline but not on the Google Map, you need to enable your GPS settings on your phone! This is super easy:

1. Open your normal Camera app
2. Click on the gear icon
3. Scroll down to GPS Tagging and “Enable”

1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Settings
2. Find SimpleCrew and toggle ON

Do you see a dashboard with only an Example Campaign and no other team members?

If all you see is a dashboard with only an Example Campaign and no other team members? Chances are you created a new Company account on accident (instead of joining your team’s existing SimpleCrew account).

If this is the case, email your team manager and ask them to re-send your invite, or email us and we’ll help you get sorted!


SimpleCrew’s Sales Strategies for Startups

Here are the slides from the presentation I gave to the Start-Up Chile community yesterday.

In this presentation, I shared the philosophy, tools, and strategies I learned selling ads for Yelp, and how we’ve adapted them for selling Simplecrew to SMBs.

Follow me on Twitter: @VanToai

Download link (PDF)

Street teams

What Is A Street Team?

In today’s marketplace, artists, brands, and promoters have to get creative in order to stand out from the crowd and reach their target audience. The proliferation of free and cheap online marketing channels has made it easier for everyone to market their products and services, but this proliferation has caused an information overload.

Would be customers and buyers are bombarded with impersonal emails, Facebook invites, and display ads, and they tune out. What’s a promoter to do?

Enter the street team.

A street team is a group of passionate people who promote and market an event, product, etc… Working a combination of both online and offline tactics, street teams help get the word out on a much more personal and direct level:

  • Hanging posters and other promotions materials around town
  • Distributing flyers at relevant concerts and shows, and throughout local businesses
  • Posting and sharing stickers with friends
  • Inviting Facebook friends to events, and to like Fan Pages
  • Sharing links and event fliers on Facebook and Twitter

On social networks, on the street, and on message boards – street teams work for you to generate buzz and hype on a peer-to-peer basis. It’s word-of-mouth, but organized and executed by you and your team.

Street teams typically work on a volunteer basis. Usually, it’s a passion for the artist, venue, or festival that drives a team to get involved and help spread the word.

To help inspire their passion, teams often work for non-monetary incentives, which can include things like free concert tickets, products, merchandise, meet-and-greets, and more. (For ideas on how to incentive your street team, check out our blog post on Street Team Incentives).

Street teams are a powerful way to engage your most passionate fans and help spread the word about your event. With the right combination of passion, action, and incentives, they’ll be a win for everyone involved.

Do it.