stu 25 Tools for Bootstrapped Startups

Monday, June 15, 2009     Comments

As a bootstrapped startup, here at StoreCrowd we're always looking for tools that can help us innovate; but without breaking the bank. After all, cutting costs & reducing the need for extra resources at this stage one of our main priorities. Over the past few months we've trialled over 100 tools (which in itself is a time consuming process). So, save yourself some time & have a look at our favourite tools for startups & bootstrap businesses.

Google Apps for Domains - Email, Document & Calendar Sharing

Google Apps for Domains

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:

  • Mail - mail.yourdomain.com
  • Documents - docs.yourdomain.com

Google Analytics - Analytics & Goal Tracking

Google Analytics

Cost: Free

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:

  • Track Goal Actions - i.e. RSS Subscriptions, File Downloads, Views of a thank-you page
  • Track Ecommerce Transactions - See which keywords/referrals/sources lead to a transaction & for how much
  • Tag & Track Anything - Email, RSS or Banners you can add ?utm_source tags to track anything through Analytics
  • Conversion Funnels - See where in your Goal Funnel customers are dropping off & identify issues quickly

GoPlan - Task Management & Ticketing

GoPlan

Cost: Free

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).

EverNote - Notepad / Photo Clipper

EverNote

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.

Unfuddle - Project Management & Subversion Hosting

Unfuddle

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.

ZenDesk - Customer Support & Helpdesk

Zendesk

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.

UserVoice - Customer Support & Feedback

UserVoice

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.

Meetup - Event Organizing / Crowdsourcing

Meetup

Price: Free

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 - File Sharing between PC's

Dropbox

Price: Free

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.

Mozy - System Backups

Mozy

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.

oDesk - Outsourcing Web Dev / Design / SEO

oDesk

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.

Skype - Conferencing / Networking / Customer Support

Skype

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):

  • Set up a dedicated support number for each country you're trading in & have it redirect through to the one account
  • Instantly have meetings with anyone around the World
  • If you know a key persons name at an organisation (Linkedin?) then look them up on Skype, you might get lucky

YuuGuu - Screen Sharing & Collaboration

Yuuguu

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.

Linode - Xen VPS Web Hosting

Linode

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.

Amazon Fulfillment - 3rd Party Fulfillment & Shipping

Amazon Fulfillment

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.

CrunchBase - Startup Promotion

CrunchBase

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.

RescueTime - Time Tracking & Staff Monitoring

RescueTime

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.

ClickTale - Usability & Form Tracking

ClickTale

Price: Free

Earlier we discussed understand your visitors with Analytics. ClickTale provides an even deeper understand than Google Analytics is capable of:

  • Track forms - See how long it takes people fill out a form & at which points they're stalling
  • Usability Testing - That's right, you can watch videos of what people are doing on your site. There's no better form of usability testing.
  • Heatmaps - Locate the user focus & build key content around it

Inc Tools - Documents / Templates / Help

Inc Tools

Price: Free

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:

  • How to find capital & attract VC
  • How to hire people
  • How to fire people
  • Administration

Moo - Unique Business Cards

Moo Business Cards

Price: Varies

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).

Xero - Accounting / Invoicing

Xero

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 - CRM

Zoho CRM

Price: Free

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.

Work Etc - CRM / Project Management / Billing

Work Etc

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.

Freshbooks - Invoicing / Expenses

FreshBooks

Price: $14+

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.

Twitter - Networking / Promotion

StoreCrowd on Twitter

Price: Free

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:

  • Twitter is the perfect way to connect with Customers & Clients, you can monitor what people are saying about your brand & correct it in Real-Time
  • Advertise job positions & fill them with skilled people
  • Post deals, coupons & any other specials you might have
  • Follow your competitors & see what they're up to
  • Plus 101 other things
We're very interested to hear from other startups, in particular what tools have you used that you couldn't live without? Drop us a comment below or hit us up on twitter (@storecrowd)

  Business