Monday, June 15, 2009
Cost: Free ($50 per user / year for business version)
Use Google Apps to send & receive all mail at your domain (if you're coding in rails you can also use Gmail as an SMTP server). This is great because it means you can check your mail from anywhere & also don't need to set up mailman or another mail server on your Server (thus saving resources). You can also use Docs to share documents between colleagues.<!--more-->
The great thing about Google Apps is that you can utilise DNS to point to a particular folder or subdomain for each app:
Understanding what your visitors are doing should be one of your main priorities once the site is launched. Google Analytics is about as comprehensive as a free analytics service gets, some of the things you should be looking at doing are:
GoPlan is a simple & effective Task Management / To Do List application that allows you to quickly organise a project, share it with people & see how they're progressing. At StoreCrowd we use GoPlan to put ideas down in the development list (which I can then priortise by dragging & dropping).
Price: Free ($45 / year for premium)
Evernote allows you to keep notes synced between multiple computers, clip webpages & store photos. One of the unique features with Evernote is that you can search text contained within images, so I can scan business cards & find them later or store local copies of bills & throw them out. Neat.
Price: Free ($45 / year for premium)
If you want to combine subversion hosting along with project management then Unfuddle is a secure way to do with without having to set Subversion up on your own server & maintain it. If you need another reason to decide why unfuddle kicks ass here it is.
Price: $19 / month (per agent)
Building & maintaing your own support system can take away from precious application development time. Zendesk allows users to submit support requests & you can assign requests to whoever you want to take care of it (even by email if you wish). You can also respond to customer queries or simply host a comprehensive FAQ to answer commonly asked questions.
Price: $19 / Month
UserVoice is a great way to allow your community to suggest new features for your rapidly evolving startup. Often it's easy to get lost in the development stages of your own idea but 9/10 the customers never lie, keep them happy & you're onto a winner.
There's no better promotion for your startup than to create some events locally or attend some, we've found that this is a great way to network & meet potential business partners. If you're developing in Rails then organise a Ruby on Rails meetup or if you're looking to find writers for your blog then attend one of the blogging meetups.
DropBox gives you 2GB of free storage that you can access from anywhere. It's a great way to share files between a remote team & also to take home with you. Other uses include secure backups of important folders or photos.
Price: $4.95 / month
Never underestimate how important backups are. Most people never really realise until it's too late. Mozy allows free unlimited secure backups of your PC/Mac. So if your Hard Drive dies & you can't recover then have no fear Mozy will restore it easily.
Price: Varies on Skill Level
If you can't find anyone locally to help you develop or write content you might consider outsourcing it. oDesk is a fantastic way to interact with experienced people all over the planet based on the criteria you set. For example you can get a decent PHP developer for around $17/hour, a far cry from the $60+ they charge locally.
Price: Free ($60 / year per static number)
You more than likely already have Skype installed, but have you realised its true potential? Skype is a startups dream, it technically allows you to virtualize your entire office without paying hefty telephone bills (skype to skype is free remember):
Price: Free (Pro is $15 / Month)
Yuuguu integrates with Skype & allows you to host web conferences, share your screen & also initiate real time collaboration with anyone. You're limited to 100 mins / month with the free version.
Price: From $19.95
As with all startups you'll want to get a decent host that can scale with your needs. Linode starts off at $19 / month & allows full access to your Xen VPS. Install Ubuntu 9.04, Nginx & your language of choice then watch the server fly. You can easily clone your Linode & scale upwards whenver you want. Check out StoreCrowd for an idea on latency & responsiveness of Linode.
Price: Varies on stock
Buying or renting a warehouse is expensive business & if you have no capital lying around then you're out of luck. Luckily Amazon will allow you to outsource your Storage & Fulfillment to them. You can even use it to also list your products on Amazon.com for sale. You're charged to store the stock & also handle it.
You can never get enough information on what everyone else is doing, CrunchBase is a great way to tap into the Startup market & see what's happening out there, who's getting funding from who. If your application grabs the interest of the TechCrunch staff & you get a positive writeup it can have a massive ripple effect, I spoke with someone recently who's hard their startup featured twice & had over 400 leads from TC alone.
Price: Free ($85/month for Empower)
Time is money, the more efficient you are the more you'll get done. Allow you team to keep an eye on where they're spending most of their time. If you upgrade to the Empower version employees can see how they're tracking compared to everyone else (everyone likes a challenge, right?). This software also helps you keep an eye on contractors to make sure they're doing the amount of hours they're billing you. Whilst the Empower version may cost you $85 / month if you can make people 10% more productive then you've more than recouped your costs.
Earlier we discussed understand your visitors with Analytics. ClickTale provides an even deeper understand than Google Analytics is capable of:
Inc Tools is a must bookmark for any startup, essential tools & guides to help you with the nitty gritty day to day stuff. Get access to free templates for just about anything:
If you're planning to meet people & network a bit it's important to get a Business Card that stands out from the Crowd. It's also important to explain what you do & what your application does on the card (otherwise it'll get discarded like the rest of them). Moo does great business cards (including double sided ones & also prints from Flickr).
Price: $49 / Month
Eventually you'll have to stop doing your accounts in Excel Spreadsheets. Good thing is that Xero syncs with most major banks so you can do invoicing, payables, expenses & see your transactions at a glance. Perfect for a complete overview of where your business is at.
Zoho CRM is a free CRM system that you can use to manage Customers, Opportunities & Sales. It's free for anywhere up to 3 users & has lots of nice features including an API, Dashboards & Inventory Management.
Price: $44.95 / Month
Work Etc is a great tool that combines a CRM in with Project Management & Billing. This system is perfect if you want to consolidate everything into one interface.
If you decide to stick with Zoho or GoPlan you'll need a way to track time & generate invoices. Freshbooks is perfect low cost way to manage this process.
Last but not least is Twitter, a CrowdSourcers dream. You most probably already have an account & actually probably came from Twitter to this post, in that case I don't need to explain anything but on the off chance that you didn't: