From day one you need to build a prototype for your startup. You need to test your hypothesis and your model fast using the most cost-effective means. Once you get closer to your desired idea or outcome, you will find funding and build a strong team to further develop your concept. I have researched hundreds of products across functionality and purpose that can ensure a quick lift off for that important first step. The following is a list of the products that I have decided to go with:
(I have started the list with ten or so, but Ill add more as I find time.)
Although there are more complete e-commerce solutions out there (like Volusion.com) Shopify has the friendliest interface and its built on a highly scalable platform that is designed to grow fast through third party apps that connect to the platform.
Shopify is two years away and one additional round of funding from being the best e-commerce solution on the web. It will do for most of the typical needs for an e-commerce store. If you favor a larger set of tools over ease of backend administration, Volusion is your best bet, but if you are just starting up, need to get your store up and running and need an easily customizable and back-end administration, Shopify is the way to go.
Marketing – Voice: CallFire.com
If you want to develop your own voice apps, look at Twilio and enjoy the freedom of no-boundaries creativity. However, if what you need is to create a quick targeted voice or text campaign stay with Callfire.
Marketing – Email: MailChimp.com
Mailchimp is all you need for your marketing campaigns. It is also built on a lasting and highly scalable platform that will just continue delivering exciting new ways to engage your audience.
Task Management: Producteev.com
As far as task management for workgroups goes, I am a Producteev fan. It gets rid of annoying delegation emails and the nagging of follow up emails to your team.
Web and Mobile Apps: WidgetBox.com
Hands down the killer app for easy widget creation on your website and, more importantly, mobile apps for your startup or organization.
Analytics: Google Analytics
I feel that I don’t need to emphasize how much Google Analytics has improved the level of information organization are now able to access about the demographic of their visitors. Their mobile app is just the cherry on top.
Secure Password Vault: MSecure
When you start a company you will notice that your web services providers will grow into the hundreds very quickly. To manage all of those logins and passwords as well as the credit cards and technology settings of your company you will need help. I use MSecure to store my records securely. I have it on my iPhone and on my laptop. Both sync to keep the records backed up and up to date. It also allows you to share them with your partners’ mobile phones. Its probably an app that I access everyday.
Budget Tracking: Mint.com
Sure, you already knew that it was the best personal finance tracking site. But guess what? it also works as a free alternative to DInero.com for your startup. Of course this is no replacement for a Quickbooks-like solution or web service, but its a nice and more importantly, effort-free window to the areas that are soaking up your budget.
Communication: MS Outlook 2010
There are a ton of great web-based email solutions, but Outlook continues to be the centerpiece of small business. Of course, you should have you teams’ email setup on a Hosted Exchange setup, this way you don’t have to manage your email system, it backs- up automatically and you can use all the functionality that Exchange offers such as shared contacts, calendars, folders, etc.
CRM: MS Outlook Contact Manager 2010
Although it is buggy once in a while. It’s the easiest out of the box CRM solution. Of course, there are plenty of great web alternatives, but for an entry-level and easy to use CRM system for a workgroup of 5 people, this is it.