Startup Advice

The best tools to use when launching your startup, according to nine founders

Dominic Powell /

best startup tools

Mentorloop founder Lucy Lloyd and Heidi Holmes. Source: Supplied

If you’re a first-time founder, cobbling together all the different bits and pieces of a tech startup can seem like a daunting task.

Launching a business means having to manage things like customer service, cashflow, project planning, and team communication – the list goes on.

Thankfully, like in many parts of the tech space, other businesses have done the hard yards for you by developing various tools to make your life easier when hacking a product together. Many of these are free or relatively affordable.

We here at StartupSmart have done a few extra yards and collated a list of tool recommendations from some of Australia’s best and brightest startup founders and team members, along with some of the reasons they find the tools so valuable.

So if you’re a budding founder looking to kickstart a venture in the tech space, check out some of these recommendations.

Gsuite – spreadsheets, powerpoints, calendars, and more

Who says startup founders can’t have their whole kit and caboodle it too? Tech giant Google’s cloud-based answer to the Microsoft Office selection can be one of the most useful tools for a founder, but is often one that fails to get the recognition it deserves.

“When we first started out, it’s an easier one to forget (or maybe take for granted), but Google Drive was in play for us from day one,” says Heidi Holmes, co-founder of mentoring startup Mentorloop.

“As the team has grown, having a centralised, open and structured document management system has enabled transparency and improved efficiencies across the business.”

Justin Dry, co-founder of wine marketplace Vinomofo, also sings Gsuite’s praises, saying the “flexible and transparent” services provided by the product is still core to the Vinomofo business, despite the company actively trying to reduce their reliance on it.

“[It’s] definitely still crucial for us running a global business,” he says.

Newly minted Aussie unicorn Canva’s head of people Zach Kitschke says he fondly remembers using Google Sheets in the design startup’s early days, saying it was a great way to “capture everyone’s goals” and get all the pieces together for the startup’s launch.

“As with many other startups, we started out as a very small and nimble team, so it was very important to ensure we were as focused as possible, and striving towards a common vision. Google Sheets helped with managing all our priorities – from feature development, analysing user feedback, to building out lists of media and bloggers to pitch!” he says.

Vinomofo The Club building a business

Trello/JIRA/Monday – project management

Keeping all your staff aligned with the projects you’re working on or the different parts of your startup in development can be a tough task.

One of the most common recommendations from startup founders is to use one of the project management offerings provided (or acquired) by home-grown team-building software company Atlassian.

“Creating personal, business and major projects Trello boards are great to keep you accountable for what you need to achieve,” says William Strange, founder of sportstech startup SPT.

“Generally, the software is perfect for keeping track, but every morning I write a list of what I want to achieve for the day on a to-do planner from the Trello boards and make sure these are completed before I leave.”

Evan Wong from Checkbox also sings the praises of Atlassian’s products, using JIRA along with Confluence and BitBucket for technical documentation and code repository, saying “it makes our internal workflow easy so we can focus on better things”.

If you’re looking for a non-Atlassian alternative, Ashley Farrugia, founder of ActivePipe recommends a tool called Monday (formerly known as Dapulse) as an “amazing” visual project management tool.

“Monday allows us to manage all of our day to day projects in a visual way. It takes a less linear approach to project management and simplifies the reporting allowing users to really understand what is blocking a project from moving to the next stage,” he says.

Hubspot/Capsule – customer relationship management (CRM) tools

Are you either A) trying to get a customer, or B) trying to retain and manage the customers you already have? Or maybe you’re C) – all of the above (and also 95% of any startup, ever).

Finding a CRM service that works for your business can be tough, and Holmes from Mentorloop says her team recently migrated their CRM to one provided by Hubspot but used a “light touch” CRM called Capsule in the startup’s early days.

“It’s competitively priced and did everything and more we needed it to do in the early days. [My co-founder] Lucy and I still both talk about it fondly today much to our team’s annoyance! Now we’ve grown and our sales and marketing has become more sophisticated Hubspot is working well for us,” she says.

Wong from Checkbox also reccomends Hubspot, calling it a “super cool CRM”, albeit a bit creepy.

“Not only does it automatically track your leads from emails or calls, but it allows you to do a whole bunch of other things that generate value like create email templates which save response time, and receive notifications for when people open your emails (creepy!)” he says.

Paul Wenck, Evan Wong, and James Han.

Slack/Telegram – communication for your team

A classic used by many startups, messaging app Slack is often taken up by teams as an easy way to communicate and share documents, especially for startups with members spread out geographically, or with multiple contractors.

News aggregation startup Inkl’s founder Gautam Mishra says his team fits that bill perfectly. Inkl uses Slack to manage the team it has spread across Melbourne, Sydney and Colombo, with contractors in the United States and Vietnam.

“We have major clients in Warsaw, Manila and Washington. Slack has made it possible for all of us to collaborate in a nuanced fashion at the drop of a hat. For small, disparate teams the use of email has been outmoded,” he says.

Mishra also uses a plugin for Slack called ReviewBotwhich collates all the incoming reviews of the startup and sends them to the team as a notification.

“Being across your customer reviews (glowing or awful) is the only way for a team to learn. Our entire team reads and discusses each and every piece of feedback that comes through,” he says.

But for crypto-focused startup intimate, co-founder Leah Callon-Butler is an advocate for chatroom alternative Telegram which she says is essential for those looking to get “in” with crypto communities.

“Telegram is where it’s at. Little crypto communities are popping up all over the place in relation to events, upcoming token sales and general knowledge share. So if you want to connect, learn and share in the global crypto space, download Telegram now,” she says.

Appear.In – simple video chat

Callon-Butler also says it does her head in when people ask to connect through services such as Skype, Zoom, or any “other shitty video apps”. She’s pusing for more founders to use simple chat tool Appear.In.

“Appear.in just works. Believe me, you are going to thank me. You can create any URL you like (a new one for every chatroom if you so please) and all your guest has to do is ‘click a link’ to join. If you are always needing to connect with far-away people, just try this app (I guarantee you’ll be hooked),” she says.

“It’s so damn easy. Also, did I mention that it just works?”

Canva/Biteable – graphics and videos for your startup

Jess Blomfield, founder of employee wellness startup Coworkally tells StartupSmart she would be lost without the tools provided by a couple of “awesome Aussie companies”.

“Canva has been great for producing beautiful designs and content for social media, the website and images within the Hey Jess product. It’s fast, easy and amazing quality,” she says.

“Biteable has been my go-to tool for videos. I’ve made explainer, sales and demo videos using all the easy and stylish templates and content. These videos always get lots of attention and compliments!”

iPads/Airpods/Extra monitors – hardware to help your startup

Sure, software’s cool and all, but what about the gadgets that can help your startup grow? Strange from SPT is a big fan of the humble extra monitor, admitting he’s a “sucker for multi-screens”, recently purchasing a portable secondary monitor to go with his laptop.

“[It] allows me to tab through multiple projects quickly and make me substantially more efficient. Going from three screens to one when travelling is not ideal, so the portable 15” screen helps me get back up to speed working,” he says.

SPT

SPT founder William Strange. Source: Supplied

Strange also sings the praises of Apple’s wireless Airpod headphones, calling them a “lifesaver” that let him multi-task more efficiently.

“No wires are key to being able to stand up and move around with two hands whilst listening to conversations and acting on what you are talking about at the same time. Obviously, important calls require full attention, but 90% of the rest of calls can be done whilst replying to emails, checking customer questions and answering employee slack questions,” he says.

Finally, Dry from Vinomofo recommends startup founders invest in a few iPads to help them show off their product or website.

“We first started using these when we’d travel out to wineries to show them our site and what we were trying to achieve. We now also use them at events to make signing up and purchasing easy for new mofos,” he says.

Honourable mentions

  • Xero – cloud-based accounting software
  • Mac Notes – simples notes that sync with your iPhone
  • Facebook Messenger – does what it says on the tin
  • Lucidchart – data visualisation
  • Toggl – tracking team workflow and productivity
  • Campaign Monitor – email marketing
  • Typeform – customer feedback
  • Jenkins – CICD automation server

NOW READ: Nine top productivity tools for entrepreneurs

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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