The lean startup methodology hinges on one crucial factor – it is important to develop your product early on so that you can sidestep the market risks and huge funding requirements in the later stages. Now, focusing on your product is harder than it sounds. If you have just started your own business and are following the lean startup methodology, you will end up donning multiple hats as your team invests all its time and efforts into fine-tuning the product. The day-to-day maintenance and other ‘official’ activities will fall on your founder-ly shoulders, inevitably. So, if you haven’t ever made an invoice before or used cloud hosting, don’t worry! As always, we’re here to help.
Below we have a list of the apps that you can use in the initial days of your lean startup. Some of these may become redundant once your product is fully developed, but in your lean phase, these apps are life savers. Check them out!
AWS / DigitalOcean
It’s the age of the cloud, or cloud hosting to be precise. Among all the cloud hosting services available, we would recommend the Amazon Web Service (AWS) and DigitalOcean. Every brand needs a website and both AWS and DigitalOcean make it easier to have a website up and ready in an easy and reasonably-priced manner. DigitalOcean’s rates are among the best on offer currently, but Amazon scores higher on the trust factor and the backend assistance. If you have never used either of these before, we recommend you give them a try. This way you will have experienced the pros and cons until you have a fully-developed product to display to the world, and yet make your brand’s presence felt online.
As a founder/co-founder/CEO you need to send out emails, and lots of them! When writing to investors or people critical to your business, a silly grammar or spelling error can hinder your chances of getting through to the other person. Schoolboy errors do not behove the founder of a company playing for the high stakes. So, what do you do? You install Grammarly, my friend! Whether you get the full version or the Chrome extension, this nifty spell-checker will ensure that you always send out error-free emails and communications and create a good impression every single time.
Sendy / Mail Chimp
Email marketing services like Sendy and MailChimp are a boon for SMBs. Depending on the numbers of users you wish to reach out to and your budget, you can choose between Sendy and MailChimp. Mail Chimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Beyond that, it starts getting expensive. Sendy has practically unlimited emails for one-time license fees. Plus, both Sendy and MailChimp give you extensive analysis of how your email campaign performed the results of AB testing, click rates etc. which are important metrics for any business.
As a lean startup founder, you learn one basic trick pretty early. It’s called the Art of Micromanaging, without seeming like you are. A collaboration tool like Trello helps you immensely in becoming the super-boss who knows everything even when they are not directly involved. Trello is a collaborative tool that organises projects into boards, cards, and lists and gives you a visual overview of what is going on, what has been done, and what still remains. This way, you are always on top of your organisation’s activities even when you are travelling, nor do you have to send umpteen emails asking to be briefed on every single project. The facts are right at your fingertips, always.
Buffer is a web and mobile software application that acts like a social media scheduler. There are many of these available, but we like Buffer for its ease of use and simplicity. With this app, you can schedule social media posts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in a single go. Instead of spending hours daily trying to think of something worthy to post, Buffer lets you schedule social sharing in your free time or on the go. Buffer allows you share pictures on Twitter that are hyperlinked to your content, you can’t do that directly on Twitter.
Everyone is familiar with WordPress as a blogging platform. While this tool is great for starting your company blog and sharing tidbits with the world, there is a lot more that you can accomplish by using this CMS tool. For starters, WP can be used to create a brand website. And if you are an e-commerce lean startup, you can create a beta version of your site on WP before using other options. Even when the product is complete, most businesses choose to continue to host their blogs on WordPress as its out-of-the-box solution makes it easier for SEO purpose.
There are many stock photo sites online that a lean startup can use. 123rf is among the ones that are more reasonably-priced. They offer most of the features available on other sites like lightboxes, the ‘fave’ feature where you mark an image as a favourite, easy downloads and packages. Stock photos are an easy hack for a lean startup that does not have a portfolio of its own images. You can add them to emails, or your blogs until you get your own stock of images ready.
For those one-off transactions when your client needs to pay through credit card or make an international payment, Instamojo is a good payment gateway to use. The process is very simple, and opening a merchant account on this platform is as easy as pie! Moreover, they have a dedicated customer care team which will help you out in the case of any hiccups.
Zoho is a lightweight invoicing and customer relationship management software. It is easy to use and has features that keep track of client payments and pending transactions. The app integrates with your laptop, phone and tablet allowing you to send and manage invoices while travelling or when working remotely. Through Zoho, you can also send payment reminders to those clients who need a slight nudge to pay up. In a very friendly manner, of course!
As a CRM, Zoho is one of the best you will find on the web. In fact, it is an award-winning CRM software, which has been well-reviewed for its simple UI and extensive features. This tool helps you keep track of leads and contacts. It also gives you a handle on the sales pipeline of your company. You also have greater control on purchases and other activities.
G Suite is the new name for Gmail and all the other goodies – Hangouts, Calendar, Drive, Vault et al – that come in the package. It is efficient, intuitive and collaborative. And if anything is missing, there are extension and plugins available, like YAMM for Mail Merge that we are going to discuss next.
YAMM is a free simple solution to merge and track emails. It comes with a default quota of 50 emails per day. For every new install referred by you, YAMM gives out an additional quota of 50 emails capped at 500 emails per day. Beyond that, there is a paid plan which is also limited to 1500 emails per day. However, it does serve the purpose of sending out operational emails. Funny, how they have trivialised their product name- Yet Another Mail Merge.
So, that was our list of smart apps which many lean startup founders use. They are uber helpful in the early days of building a brand. Do you have any more to add to this list? Do comment and let us know!
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