2014-01-22

Co.Labs

A (Nearly) Complete Online Toolkit For Startups

Starting a company isn't just about product—it's also about project management, finances, payroll, customer support, and a bunch of other things that require special software tools.



When you’re launching a startup, what’s the one thing you need? Initial funds? Organization? A plan? Well, yes—but also tools. Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there are tons of web apps out there—many of them free—to help handle the business side while you catapult your product into the market.

1. Backops.co

Great for: Back office number crunching

How it works: Keep all your accounting and HR reports in the cloud to keep everything straight—and saved.

2. Appical.net

Great for: Onboarding new employees.

How it works: Onboarding takes a lot of time—and a lot of paperwork. Appical is a standalone mobile platform that uses picture pages, video pages, and augmented reality to get employees implemented super fast.

3. Zao.com

Great for: Finding new employees via social networks.

How it works: Zao is basically a referral program based on social media. You can see how you’re connected to candidates, use a sign-up wizard to post jobs, and makes it easy for people to refer friends based on skill set.

4. Pipedrive

Great for: Sales CRM.

How it works: Make customer relationship management your #1 priority by using Pipedrive on mobile or desktop. Set up a board that reflects your sales pipelines, using cards to document different clients and deals.

5. AnyPerk

Great for: Managing employee perks.

How it works: Use this customizable platform to request new perks in your area, and AnyPerk will see what they can do.

6. PowWow

Great for: Scheduling user meetings.

How it works: This app syncs with your Google Calendar to find open meeting times to schedule interviews. Send out the available times to participants and let them pick the time.

7. Branded Bridge Line

Great for: Conference calls

How it works: If you’re really on a strict budget, then a conferencing platform like Skype is going to be your first thought. But keep in mind—that can backfire. Some clients get wary doing business with companies that might have to rely on a free service to conduct partnerships.

8. Expensify

Great for: Bookkeeping

How it works: Few startups can afford accountants, so save money and track budgets with Expensify. It handles your bank statements, and helps you come up with budgets and restrictions on your spending. Plus, it syncs up with other accounting apps.

9. EchoSign

Great for: Document signing

How it works: EchoSign is a simple concept: online signature software. If you need something signed by multiple parties, get it done by e-signing. E-sign a document, send it back, track its status, and check it off your to-do list.

10. Docracy

Great for: Collaborating on legal docs.

How it works: Managing legal documents can be painful and expensive for young companies. Docracy works like a GitHub for legal documents, allowing you to use open source boilerplate documents for things like contracts and partnerships.


Project Management

When you’re launching a business, you need to make sure you’re spending the right kind of time on the right kind of tasks. Enter project management.

11. 10,000 Feet

Great for: an all-encompassing view of your team’s productivity and capacity.

How it works: Use this interactive scheduling system to see which team members have the capacity to take on tasks, which ones are tied up, and which projects are coming down the pipeline. Use the status bar to keep team members updated on where the company’s at, adjust budgets, reschedules deadlines, and make sure the right people are working on the right things.

12. Pivotal Tracker

Great for: Bug and ticket tracking for engineering and customer support teams.

How it works: With Pivotal Tracker, your tech team can fix bugs, break tasks down into smaller projects, and stick closer to deadlines. Once you’ve used the tracker, it can even start to estimate how long a new project should take, based on your past projects and performance. You can accept or reject changes, keep track of how many tasks are getting completed, and monitor progress to find out what your biggest bottlenecks are.

13. Casual

Great for: a small or medium sized team that routinely does similar projects—mostly because once you create a workflow, you can then reuse the template.

How it works: Casual is less a scheduling assistant and more a workflow manager. It’s great for the planning stages. You can set out the big picture, and then create a workflow that stems from the main idea.


Marketing Tools

14. Video Rascal

Great for: affordable marketing videos.

How it works: Part of starting a business is explaining to consumers (and potential investors) what your business does. Outsourcing video can cost upward of $1,000. Video Rascal creates animated videos on the cheap. They offer templates and examples of previous projects for inspiration.

15. Grader.com

Great for: someone new to SEO and analytics.

How it works: You need an easy way to actually track your marketing efforts. Grader.com “grades” your efficiency, and it can measure your authority on social media and your SEO efforts and explain your keyword rankings.

16. Campaigner

Great for: beginning email remarketing.

How it works: Campaigner is a great tool for anyone new to email remarketing. It offers email templates, contact lists, segmentation, and even email marketing training.


Social Media Tools

A must-have to spread awareness and get consumers to interact with your brand.

17. IFTTT

Great for: automating social media actions.

How it works: IFTTT (if this then that) is a great way to collect social data. Say you want to post a message on all of your social media presences. That takes time, having to visit all the channels. With IFTTT though, you can post once and have it syndicated to the rest. How? If this, then that. Twitter becomes your “if.” You select the trigger you want, and then add a hashtag to your status that signals it’s a tweet you want posted across all your other online social media presences.

18. Buzz Bundle

Great for: bundling keyword analytics with social media personas.

How it works: It bundles together keywords, brand mentions, reviews, and links while still managing your social media accounts. You can schedule posts out, comment in forums, and create multiple personas in the same place.

One of the biggest advantages of Buzz Bundle for a startup is that it can eliminate the need to hire a social media-only employee—you can create tons of personas from behind a proxy that makes it seem as if you’re posting from different locations.

Alexis Caffrey is a freelance writer with a focus on technology, new media, and design. You can reach Alex via @AlexisCaffrey or alexiscaffrey.com.

[Image: Flickr user Italian_Bicycles]






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