Whether you're looking for a productivity app or a podcast to download, most of us ask our network for a recommendation. Why read a random website review when someone in your network has an opinion? Do the number of app downloads really matter if someone you trust loves a product? In the digital-age default of leveraging a network, when I wanted to know the apps, conferences, and podcasts startup founders are using as they take on the challenges of scaling their ventures (while trying to keep their sanity), I turned to a select group of founders in my network for recommendations:

  • Gillian Morris, CEO of Hitlist, a personalized mobile travel agent. The app has been recognized as a "Best New App" by the App Store and was named one of the best apps of 2014 by Next Web. Investors include the founders of JetBlue and the former chairman of Orbitz.
  • Sarah Perry, CEO of SnapComms, a global leader in internal communications software, with more than 1 million users and serving organizations in 42 countries. SnapComms has offices in the U.S. and U.K., and is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Lise Snelgrove, co-founder of This Space Works, a startup connecting local businesses that have extra meeting spaces-even if it's just for one afternoon-with business professionals who need interesting places to meet and work.
  • Rachel Hofstetter, VP of marketing at Chatbooks and co-founder of PR School. In November, Chatbooks, a subscription service for printed photo books, acquired Rachel's self-funded startup Guesterly (a company creating pocket-size printed event guides).
  • Tiffany Pham, founder and CEO of Mogul, a platform connecting women to trending content personalized to their interests. Visited by women from more than 196 countries and 25,000 cities worldwide, Mogul was named one of the best websites for finding top talent by Inc.
  • Elissa O'Dell, co-founder and COO of Elm, an online destination to figure out life. Elm provides the knowledge and tools to live your best human experience. Elm hosts interactive guides curated by influencers and uses education to move a generation to further value their mental, social, and emotional intelligence.
  • Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO and co-founder of Wanderu.com. Wanderu is the leading ground travel search site and smartphone app that allows people to easily find and book the best deals on bus and train travel across North America.
  • Sian Morson, founder and CEO of Kollective Mobile, the Bay Area's premiere mobile development agency. Kollective Mobile helps agencies and startups design and grow their mobile business, by providing strategy consulting and building great apps. Sian also created Cast Beauty, an app changing the beauty industry, one personalized beauty recommendation at a time.
  • Jennifer Li, CEO and co-founder of MuseFind, a venture-backed SaaS platform that has transformed influencer marketing into an on-demand, scalable channel.
  • Jibolu Ayodele, co-founder of Thandos, Africa's first foldable ballerina flat that is fashionable, comfortable, and convenient. Thandos aims to create a platform for creative talent on the African continent by crowdsourcing designs from creatives in Africa.

Trello, Slack, and Streak are startup favorites-so is being able to get as many things done using as few different platforms as possible (according to Wanderu's Polina Raygorodskaya). If using your time more efficiently and increasing productivity are your priorities, then these are the apps you need to get organized (as well as for peace of mind):

  1. Nuzzel helps aggregate the articles shared by people I follow on Twitter. This personalized crowdsourced curation helps me keep up to date on the most relevant information in the least amount of time. Nuzzel has become my go-to news app. (Gillian)
  2. Pocket helps me cut down on the number of browser windows open by saving articles for later. (Sian)
  3. Audible.com allows me to turn low-value activities such as housework, gardening, exercising, and driving into productive time. I can listen to the latest business books and inspirational and best-practice thinking without having to take time out of the working day. (Sarah)
  4. I signed up for the Guide to Finding a Job With Meaning. During the guide, I was held accountable to apply practical tools for staying grounded in the midst of stress. I was also challenged to see the big picture in launching my company, and was able to find enjoyment in the midst of what felt like chaos. (Elissa)
  5. I'd love to have pretty Instagram quotes-or whip up a graphic without going to our designer-but my Photoshop skills are sadly lacking. Enter Studio: It's the super easy way to add text and design filters over your photos (with pro-level results). It's great for easy Instagram promos and creating sharable graphics. (Rachel)
  6. I use Buffer to schedule my social media posts. I find it the most intuitive of the many post scheduling tools, and with the Chrome extension I can add a post to my editorial calendar with two clicks. (Gillian)
  7. Crowdfire is a great way to manage social media accounts. (Sian)
  8. Love PersistIQ has made our outreach efforts with our customers so much easier and streamlined. (Jennifer)
  9. The Typeform user interface makes it a very fun and engaging survey tool. I like how customizable it is as well as its optimization for mobile. We used it to crowdsource our second collection, and the engagement far exceeded our expectations. (Jibolu)
  10. Conspire is great for tracking down the most relevant person to make an intro. It replaces Rapportive and Refresh, other good networking apps that were bought by LinkedIn and subsequently limited. (Gillian)
  11. On the flip side, Tiffany recommends Rapportive. As she says, this free CRM tool integrates her contacts' LinkedIn profiles within her address book. It also indicates whether their email addresses are correct.
  12. The startup hustle requires lots and lots of emails-and sending them fast and furious. The Google Unsend setting is life-changing: It's now in all Gmail settings, and you can have all your outgoing mail delayed by five to 30 seconds so you can choose to cancel-it's saved me more than once! (Rachel)
  13. Unroll.me lets you clean up your inbox, unsubscribe from unwanted emails, and roll up the others into one digest. Perfect! (Sian)
  14. Streak replaced my many Google Sheets of investors, press contacts, etc., with a totally intuitive, native to Gmail CRM. (Gillian)
  15. Our best find this year is Streak. All of our bookings are done with web forms and email. Our volume was increasing so quickly that using traditional email was no longer manageable. We needed a way to keep customer requests on track without having to cut and paste every interaction into a separate CRM tool. (Lise)
  16. Streak is great for entrepreneurs who need a streamlined inbox. One of the many advantages is the notifications feature, which alerts me when a recipient reads my email. (Tiffany)
  17. Trello is a lifesaver; it makes sure that our team is consistently on the same page and held accountable. We stress transparency in our organization, and Trello helps us facilitate this. (Jibolu)
  18. Trello is a great tool for keeping track of, all in one place, the various projects my team is working on. It allows me to review the work that has been done and provide immediate feedback to keep things going, even when I am away from the office. (Polina)
  19. Slack is a brilliant communication tool for businesses and team collaboration. (Sian)
  20. Slack is a must! During the month before Elm's launch, I started to lose track of important information and conversations in my unorganized inbox. So we decided to transition all communication to Slack. Slack is a simple, enjoyable communication tool where all information can be stored. We are now saving time and our inboxes. (Elissa)
  21. We use HipChat at the office to stay in touch with one another at all times. It's perfect for one-on-one chats, but it also lets you create different chatrooms, so that people from each team can stay connected and exchange ideas or share information that requires immediate attention. That way, internal communication is much faster and we don't have to deal with endless e-mail chains. (Polina)
  22. Asana takes the cake for project management and keeping everyone in the loop. We love that we can also integrate it into Slack so we're always up to date with our product development. (Jennifer)
  23. Sidekick is an awesome tool for sales and lead generation. Knowing when and how your email recipients get your emails could be extremely powerful when following up. This has been particularly useful for us when following up with investors and retail partners. (Jibolu)
  24. FullContact for syncing my address books across phone, business and personal accounts, Facebook, and LinkedIn. To scale your communication, you need to be able to contact groups of people at the same time, and FullContact ensures I'm never leaving someone relevant out. (Gillian)
  25. The Personal Capital Finance app measures everything in terms of your net worth. It's really helpful and offers a real person when you need help managing your money. (Sian)
  26. Square Invoices is a quick and easy way for clients to pay. Our first customer came to us before we officially launched. As we were talking to him on the phone, we were simultaneously signing up for a Square account. It took us two minutes. We were able to collect payment from our customer on the spot. It's a tool we love that keeps getting better. (Lise)
  27. Hangouts Dialer is a one-penny-per-minute app that lets you make long-distance calls on Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world. Essential for founders who travel frequently! (Sian)
  28. I rely on the Wanderu app to find the best available travel deals. I am constantly on the road traveling to conferences, partner meetings, and speaking engagements, and as is the case with most startups, I have to stick to a tight budget. The app also allows me to book my upcoming trips on the go, which saves me a lot of time and energy. (Polina)
  29. HotelTonight is excellent for finding last-minute hotel deals, and since I am always traveling last-minute, it has helped me save tons of money! (Polina)
  30. Hitlist has genuinely transformed the way I travel (and how about 400,000 other people do as well). Hitlist helps individuals monitor trips they'd like to take and alerts them when airfares drop. It's also increasingly used as a business tool by companies with distributed work forces that need to find the best time to schedule periodic meetings. With Hitlist, it's fun and intuitive to set up alerts for everything from upcoming conferences to your bucket list vacations. (Gillian)
  31. Pillow, the sleep cycle tracking alarm clock, helped me improve my quality of sleep. I went from waking up every three hours to sleeping eight hours straight, because the app tracked what time I needed to go to sleep and wake up to be the most rested and productive. (Elissa)
  32. Calm is a great app to help calm my mind and take a two-minute meditation break at any time of the day or night. (Sian)

Seeking updates or inspiration? The podcasts and newsletters these entrepreneurs turn to are:

  1. The Information's 411 technology updates. The Information has the highest quality in-depth tech reporting. The site breaks great stories, but I find its op-eds even more interesting, in particular the ones from founder Jessica Lessin that step back and evaluate the broader impact of many of the stories we're reading. (Gillian)
  2. My favorite mindset shifts right now are coming from The Happiness Project podcast by Gretchen Rubin. It might not immediately sound like a favorite startup tool, but Gretchen has distilled the science of what motivates us-in work and in play-to easily graspable and actionable concepts that I use constantly with my self and employees. It's the best "I'm working but still having fun" podcast. (Rachel)
  3. Sian's must-listen podcasts are: Behind the Brilliance by Lisa Nicole Bell; Harvard Business Review IdeaCast; The New Yorker Radio Hour; Positive Impact Podcast.
  4. How to Start a Start Up is an awesome podcast that has some of the brightest entrepreneurs and VCs in Silicon Valley giving invaluable lessons on building a startup. The lectures are about 20 in total, and each one is absolutely worth a listen or two or maybe even three. (Jibolu)
  5. Sian recommends Mattermark and First Round Review newsletters.
  6. My go to startup blog is Both Sides of the Table by Mark Suster. Mark does an amazing job breaking down complex topics for new founders. (Elissa)

And here are conferences and organizations that these entrepreneurs take time away from their ventures to attend:

  • I'm a member of the global Entrepreneurs' Organization, which allows me to meet like-minded entrepreneurs both locally and anywhere I travel. EO's global conference "universities" are the best I've ever been to and heaps of fun. (Sarah)
  • The Launch/Scale Conference is very insightful, because it gives you firsthand exposure to the best practices of running a startup. My biggest takeaway was a panel hosted by Eric Moore of Base Ventures that featured the rapper Too Short and focused on the importance of hustle in startup life using Too Short's personal story. (Jibolu)
  • Summit at Sea is a three-day voyage in which tech titans, thought leaders, and change makers disconnect from the outside world and gather to form innovative partnerships. (Tiffany)
  • TieCon Canada was the best conference because of its attendees and speakers. Then there was the added bonus opportunity of being one of five startups chosen to present at the conference in front of all 300 attendees. Give a presentation that leaves a lasting impression and the right people will find you. That's what we did at TieCon, and it turned out to be the best conference of the year for us. (Lise)
  • The Phocuswright Conference is an annual gathering of travel industry professionals, which makes it a great opportunity to make new connections, learn about new technologies, and exchange ideas with other team leaders in the travel field. (Polina)
  • I've been to a few tech conferences in my time, and Start Up Grind stands out as one of the best. The conference attracts a unique group of entrepreneurs from around the world and amazing speakers worth spending a day listening to. My co-founder and I walked out of the two-day event with new friends and valuable information to launch our startup. We even met our future adviser and mentor during Start Up Grind. (Elissa)
  • WPP Stream Africa is different, and I love the unconventional nature of this "conference"! There are no keynote speeches or panel sessions. Instead, the panelists set the agenda and get involved. Best of all, it's free, but by invitation only. (Jibolu)
  • The American Bus Association's annual Marketplace is one of the biggest conferences in the bus industry. As the CEO of a company that helps people find and book the best deals on bus and train travel, I find the event extremely useful for meeting in person representatives of various bus carriers and finding out about the latest trends and developments in the bus world. I take what I learn to provide an even better service to travelers across the country (Polina).