Startup Trello Manifesto

This article summarizes the fundamentals we learned from this YC article and its implementation using Trello. Please read this to get more context.

Product Development Cycle Fundamentals

Let’s assume we are making an app to connect service providers to clients or “Facebook for services”. Features being worked on in this particular cycle include sign-up, login, user-search, profile management.

Let’s get into it then:


  • Backlog: Tasks that should be considered but have not been actively committed to (scope creep).
  • Todos: Tasks that should be done in the cycle.
  • Doing: Tasks that are in progress.
  • Testing: Tasks that have been completed but need confirmation before they are considered complete.
  • Completed: Tasks that are done and have been fully tested.


  • Have as fewer cards as possible. Group tasks into cards which have a chunk of tasks.
  • Use checklists to describe the tasks in the card.
  • Set deliberate labels for the card’s priority (high, medium, low, urgent).
  • Sort the tasks according to priority (high priority at the top)


  • Decide what needs to be done at the beginning of the cycle. Be realistic about how much can be done depending on complexity and team members.
  • Categorise them into modules/stories/cards and create a trello-card for each. Keep the card as independent as possible from other cards.
  • Set the priority of each of the cards and sort them. A card can have a number of tasks in it. Be as detailed in the tasks as possible. Create a checklist of tasks for each card.
  • Assign relevant people to each card. You will have a number of people on a card eg designer, developer, tester etc.
  • A card that is being worked on is moved to “in-progress”. Resources relating to that card are uploaded on the card e.g designs.
  • Each member of the team can only have one card in the in-progress list. This prevents the illusion of progress. Try as much as possible to have people work on a card together to prevent “race conditions”
  • High priority cards are worked on first, then medium priority cards and finally low priority cards.
  • When all tasks in the checklist are done, the card is moved to “in-testing”.
  • At the end of the cycle, during the review meeting, the team determines the quality of cards in the “in-testing” list and moves them to the “completed” list. Tasks that don’t meet standards can be fixed immediately or moved to the next cycle.
  • Delete all tasks in all the lists at the beginning of every cycle. It is important to start from a clean slate. Hopefully, the tasks that did not get to “completed” are the low priority ones so that isn’t so bad.
  • Success is measured by how much you get done i.e. how many tasks got to completed vs how many are in the other lists.
  • Cards that are carried forward from the previous cycle should be regarded as new tasks and be reviewed. There is probably a reason why they were not worked on. Don’t carry dead weight and zombie cards.


Startups are hard, but not every part of it has to be. Build a culture that values what is important. Here is a sample of how we have used it ourselves in building a product. Any suggestions, contradictions will be greatly appreciated.

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Evans Munene
I pour milk before my cereal!