Meet a Mentor: Ed Buchholz

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"That’s bullsh*t." is a phrase commonly heard when Ed is in the office. After 13 years of building and working with startups, Ed has no qualms about calling it how he sees it. Though he’s lived in the Midwest his entire life, Ed has built a resume that you might expect to see from a Silicon Valley native. After leading the product team at ExpenseWire, Ed founded 60mo, a financial forecasting product that went on to be acquired by Edinburgh-based FreeAgent. Beyond running companies, Ed mentors at Bizdom and LaunchHouse and advises several Midwestern startups. We caught up with Ed to learn how he makes it happen.

Current gig:
US Program Manager at http://freeagent.com, and advisor to several NEO startups.

Location:
Cleveland mostly, sometimes San Francisco, sometimes Edinburgh.

Current mobile device:
A well worn iPhone 5. I refuse to put it in a case except for a battery case when I travel. Also, an iPad Mini which primarily gets used when traveling.

Current computer:
Mostly a MacBook Air 13” hooked to a 27” Cinema Display, but I have a PC for testing browsers and the rare gaming session.

One word that best describes how you work:
“Obsessive”

What’s your average day look like?
I usually get up around 7:30, check email, shower, make breakfast, and get to my desk by 8:00-8:30. I work from my home office, so my dog Dottie is my personal assistant and sits beside me most of the day. Most mornings I’ll have a call or two via Skype with my colleagues in the UK, then I’ll either reach out to partners I’m working with or talk to US customers. For lunch I usually try to meet with someone or read up on the latest industry news while eating. Afternoons are pretty similar to my mornings, except for once a week when I mentor at one of the Cleveland startup accelerators.

I like to spend my evenings at home with my wife, watch a little tv, walk the dog, and maybe make dinner. I’m usually in bed by 11:00, watching Mary Tyler Moore with Anna and checking Twitter and Reddit on my phone.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Except for my current gig, most of my work is heavily based in quickly iterated prototypes of new products or features. For this, I spend most of my time in a few particular products:

For wireframing app screens I use Balsamiq to get the major workflows in place and then make most of the design and color decisions in Photoshop. Once I have hi-fidelity mock-ups, I share them with my colleagues via Basecamp to get feedback and iterate changes.

When getting down to code, I use Sublime Text, iTerm, and GitHub. Most of my experience is in front-end HTML/CSS and Javascript, but I’ve been learning Ruby on Rails lately in order to stay up to date.

I like to keep my files in sync across devices with Dropbox, but use Google Apps a lot for working collaboratively on documents and spreadsheets. When I need to chat with teammates around the world Skype is my tool of choice, especially since it works across my devices.

What’s your best time saving trick?
I don’t bother asking permission.

What’s on Your Desk Right Now

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I like a spartan workspace. Clutter makes it hard for me to concentrate. Wires are my enemy.

Usually I just have my laptop held in a stand, plugged into my external monitor, with a wireless Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse. I can’t get used to using a trackpad for really detailed design stuff, so I haven’t made that switch yet. I usually keep my iPad Mini plugged in and open for testing responsive CSS, and a large moleskine and Copic Multiliner pen at standby.

I keep photos of my wife Anna and our dog Dottie in view, and have just a simple lamp for lighting up paperwork. If I’ve got a book or magazine I’m working on, I’ll keep it on my desk as a reminder that it exists.

Really the most important thing about my workstation is my chair. I’ve been obsessed with office chairs forever and fell in love with the Herman Miller Embody when it was released. It took an incredible amount of effort to justify the cost, but I finally got one a few years ago. It’s absolutely incredible and literally feels like sitting on a cloud.

What do you listen to while you work?
For music, Pandora is my weapon of choice. I absolutely love being able to start a station and ignore it while I work. I’ve been a paying subscriber with Pandora for 10 years so it knows me pretty well by now.

Lately I mostly listen to indie music, but my taste is pretty eclectic. I’m a big fan of The Black Keys, any of Jack White’s projects, The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead, etc.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I actually think I’m terrible at most things. I sort of grade myself on a curve for everything I do. If there is someone out there better than me at something, I think I suck at it. Some people would say that I’m great at presenting, but to be honest, I’m deathly afraid of speaking in front of crowds. As soon as it hits 10+ people I get really nervous.

I’m really good at cutting through the bullshit. Overly complex processes are my nemesis. I pride myself on my ability to sit down and discuss a project with someone, dissect it, and be able to immediately spit out a list of action items that need to be taken to achieve the desired goal.

What are you reading right now? (Paper or e-Book)
I’m finishing up the latest book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and should probably get to that stack of business books I’ve been neglecting, but next I’ll probably read the new John Scalzibook. I really prefer the physical sensation of holding a book, but e-books have slowly crept into my life simply because the iPad Mini makes them so easy to consume when traveling.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Someday, a crazy wild-eyed scientist or a kid may show up asking about that book.” But really, “Trust people until they give you a reason not to.”

Anything else?
Everyone should follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ebuchholz/ and check out my blog at: http://startupped.tumblr.com/