If you are starting a startup then this blog will help you choose the best pieces of software from the outset.
I have split my choices into 3 groups.
- Essentials: The must-haves for any startup. These include Slack, Asana, G-Suite, Google Analytics, Xero, Tide and Squarespace.
- Specifics: Great products but not essential for every startup. These include Medium, Sketch, Sendgrid and Tinypng.
- Hidden treasures: Some newer and lesser known favourites we have used along the way at pilcro. These include Hunter, Lucr, Medusa and, obviously, pilcro!
I will give a brief summary, opinion and price for each one.
Summary: Messaging platform.
Opinion: Everyone uses Slack. It is the quickest way to communicate inside your team and also a great way to market your startup (by joining public Slack channels). Slack’s notifications are so slick and well thought through. Slack is cool too. Well done Slack.
Price: Basically free unless you are a big company.
Summary: Task and project management.
Opinion: Asana… Trello… Asana… Trello, oh I don’t know. You have to pick one and we love Asana because it is slightly better for tech projects. Trello is more visual and easy to use, but Asana offers slightly more functionality.
3. G Suite
Summary: Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Gmail and lots more.
Opinion: Google offers one hell of a package with G-suite. For just £3.30 per user initially, you get so much.
Google docs and sheets are superb for collaboration. Early on, Google Sheets can act as your CRM and the home of your social, marketing, sales and financial strategies.
Google Calendar is the easiest way to manage your calendar, especially when used alongside Gmail.
Gmail is the best way to sort out email addresses with your domain name (e.g. email@example.com), and to have a noreply or support address for free (by using email aliases).
Google forms are the best way to collect market research and user feedback.
Every startup should just feed on the feast of software offered by G-Suite.
Price: £3.30 per user per month initially.
4. Google Analytics
Summary: Analytics on your website hits and customer acquisition.
Opinion: Google Analytics gives you complete visibility over your marketing funnel. There is a steep learning curve but, if used correctly, you can track a customer from the first time they interact with your brand to the moment they click on that target button you want them to click so bad. Setting it up is a bit fiddly and requires someone with some technical know-how.
It is worth reading about UTM parameters too. These help you to determine the exact origin of your website hits, right down to which individual button or link a visitor has clicked on to get to your website.
Summary: Accounting software for startups.
Opinion: Really easy to use and usually has an offer for the first few months to make it cheaper. The price scales as you grow, which means you don’t need to pay for an accountant straight away. Also, when other apps build integrations with accounting softwares they always implement Xero first (e.g. Tide).
Price: Starts at £10/month.
Summary: Banking for startups.
Opinion: Quick and easy to set up. There is no branch you have to visit and no messing around with paperwork. You can do all your banking from your phone and it integrates deeply with Xero. There are good categorisation options for payments (e.g. expenses) to make your accounting easier, and these categories match those in Xero.
Price: 20p per bank transfer, and £1 per ATM withdrawal.
Summary: A place to build your landing page or website.
Opinion: This area we know slightly less about at pilcro, since we have made our own website from scratch. However, we love Squarespace’s marketing website and have heard that they offer a fantastic package for getting your landing page off the ground.
Price: £10/month initially.
…and social media
Social media platforms are essential for any startup. However, I haven’t included them in detail because I don’t want to waste time describing them all.
The difficulty with social media platforms is knowing how to make the most of them. My advice is to spend time on them every day, contribute and make comments, and start on them long before launching your product.
We have had significant traffic to our website from each of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Now let’s look at some products which aren’t essential for every startup but are extremely useful in most.
Summary: Blogging platform.
Opinion: At pilcro, we love Medium. For content marketing and also for just writing what you want to write, it is an elegant and beautifully built platform. Although they have now paused the ability to put your startup’s blog on your own subdomain (e.g. blog.domain.com), we still love it. I even became a member just because I love what they offer!
Price: Free (or $50 for a year’s membership if, like me, you just love it).
Summary: A design tool.
Opinion: Sketch is great for drawing up designs really quickly. It is intuitive and the learning curve isn’t too steep.
Alternatively, Figma is perhaps the name to watch out for in the digital design space since they offer a cloud-based design tool, which enables collaborative designs.
Price: $99/ per year but… if, a year down the line, you don’t want to pay for year two, you can keep the app but you just don’t get any more updates.
Summary: SendGrid automates your emails for you. They specialise in transactional emails, i.e. the ones like a forgot your password email or a welcome to our platform email, although they are now starting to do marketing ones too.
Opinion: They do a good job but their website is a bit slow and clunky, and it isn’t much fun configuring it all up. We continue to use it but, if we were to do an email marketing campaign, we might try out MailChimp instead.
Price: Free initially but the price scales as your grow.
Summary: Compresses images so that they are much smaller.
Opinion: Just a great little tool for one particular purpose, namely, reducing the size of images.
Price: Free unless you want to use their API.
And now for a few lesser known products that have made me smile since starting a startup.
Summary: Find email addresses for a given domain name.
Opinion: Bit of a cheeky product, but so useful when starting a startup.
When you are being bold and doing some cold emailing, half the battle is actually getting hold of valid email addresses.
Price: Monthly SaaS model starting with a free tier, followed by $39/month.
Summary: A platform to get you early test users.
Opinion: Really new startup, but we love their idea. Test users are incentivised to try out software because they may win prizes. Startups are incentivised to list themselves on Lucr.io because they can get feedback and build a user base. Win win.
Summary: A really simple and free live chat widget for your marketing website.
Opinion: This is a very new company, competing with the much larger incumbents Drift and Intercom, but Medusa is free, stripped back, customisable and without any noise.
…and of course pilcro!
Summary: A mac app for all the stuff marketing teams need but can’t find. Drag-n-drop your logos, colours and your favourite snippets directly into your work, saving time and promoting consistency.
Pilcro is integrated with G-suite so you don’t even have to create a separate account, you can just log in with Google. Find us online or in the G-Suite Marketplace.
Opinion: A beautifully designed and extremely useful app!
Price: Still in beta…
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