Of course at the beginning, you need high level PR and high level marketing. But if you can’t afford to bring in a CFO, what you really need is a good accounting system. It is worth the couple of hours to train yourself, because the company finances are the bottom line of your business. Without that, you don’t have a business.
Founder - Lord Jameson Dog Patisserie
From the start, you should be careful with data collection and analysis. Make sure that all of your data is collected in the right way, and is accessible to all of the tools you select. If a tool doesn’t integrate with your core data, don’t use it. Make sure the tools you choose work with what you need.
CEO - Mention
I would tend to go cheap, not get over invested, and I would not worry about having a particular product for each task right away.
Co-founder - Matchnode
Leverage your skills and, where you do not have the skills, find some tool that will do it for you. It has to be flexible and connect with all the other big names so that it’s easy to connect them all up. Sometimes, getting a pre-packaged solution is better than getting custom solutions. Custom solutions can be costly to make and hard to maintain. Avoid the glitz and glamours and go with something that you can control.
Founder - Bamboo Supply
Go for something that saves time even if you have to spend a little more. Too much cost optimization does not work in the long run.
Co-founder & CTO - MineWhat
When it comes to certain things, just trust Google Apps. Google Apps tools work so well together and are perfectly integrated. Look for things that integrate with one another. Find the one that is the most comfortable to use, as the purpose is to get things done and not go insane. There may be a tool that completes the task 10% better than the tool that you like to use, but if you like a certain tool, you are going to get more done with it anyways. If you find something that you actually like, you will enjoy your time more and you’ll be more productive.
Founder - Companion Maids
I don’t think enough emphasis is put on cost. You should break down how much the cost of an additional tool will impact your business. Calculate realistically how much you are spending per customer on that tool. Oh and please, use Gmail as your email sender. It is way better than all the other ones.
Founder - GrandBox
Your goal is to have your MVP out there. Find a tool that makes it easy--look for startup tools. Look for tools that integrate well with each other. Be careful, because scaling can get expensive. Start cheaper and look for things that do not require a support engineer online. Make sure that for things like email marketing, the tools you choose do not require a developer to operate.
Co-founder - Trove
Take advantage of the trial period to really assess the fit of a new tool; get tactile and hands on. Do not let your decisions be guided exclusively by the interaction with the sales reps of a company. Tools are supposed to make our life easier, and getting everyone on board with something new is a slow process. Do not drop tools on the people that need to utilize them--ask their opinion.
VP Marketing - Moogsoft
I suggest focusing first on developing your company, and when you hit roadblocks, then look for the tools. If you start with a lot of tools, it can be hard to manage. Tools should be just an enhancement--not to slow you down.
Co-founder & CEO - BottlesTonight
It is always worthwhile to do your homework in advance. Sometimes you have to do a lot of work to switch a tool when you understand that it is not going to work for you.
Co-founder & COO - Fizz
You really want to have the right tools for your business. For us, it comes down to following our mission statement. We are looking for things that are effective to run our business and are very customer service oriented.
COO - Higher Ed Growth
Do not get too concerned with the tools, keep in mind that they are there to get the job done. Do not overspend on cloud services. Do things manually at the beginning to learn what you really need. Do not let the tools manage you--make sure that you can manage them. It’s about understanding what's growing your company versus what is just operating it. The stack that you use should provide traction. Keep on top of the tools, as there are always new good ones, and a tool can change the way you run your business.
Founder & CEO - CloudPeeps
Make sure that you are picking tools that are efficient and scalable, like Intercom. Focus more on what matters the most. The best tools are seamless with how they work with your existing tools. There is no wasted time spent on setting them up with an IT department, or on watching endless tutorials to learn how to use them.
Founder & CEO - Do
Get the HR administration right from the start. The infrastructure to take care of the people in your company is really important.
Founder - Andy OS
Try not to let your mind be poisoned by what you think you know. Be open minded. Be willing to learn. Sometimes, you are better off trying to figure out stuff without technology. Think.
Founder & CEO - TelecomQuotes
Benchmarking is the name of the game. Get the recommended tools & services from someone that caters to the same type of audience. It’s equally important to be passionate about your customer base. Our goal here at Kin HR is to help small businesses get better at things and that’s what drives our entire team. Using other tools and services won’t help if your team doesn’t have clear goals. If you want to be the best customer service provider in your industry, look for someone that is passionate about what they are doing and offers great customer service even in a completely different industry.
Content Strategist - Kin HR
Focus on the need that you have and do not get distracted by the bell and whistles. Try to solve your problem--you can always add services later.
Founder & CEO - Instapage
Put in the analytics first to track and collect data--that will reduce the bounce rate. Focus on branding, so that you can send out the right message. Do it right from the beginning. Do not try to get away with cheap tools; invest in something that is good for your company.
Founder & Chief Doer - March Media
Trust the reviews and not the marketing pitch of the company.
Founder & CEO - MySiteAuditor
Pick the right one. Don't get too entrenched in anything too quickly. Limit the scope to building your business process around a tool and find the process that works for you. That way, when your need or if the tool changes, your process doesn’t have to.
Co-founder & CEO - Stylisted
Listen to your employees. They are the people that use the tools daily, and they know what they need.
Co-founder & CEO - Articoolo
They have to be simple and able to integrate with the majority of your key products.
Co-founder & CMO - Terminus
Make sure you can try at low cost before you make any significant investment in a tool. A lot of these tools are overrated.
Founder & CEO - Mifold
Do not enter long-term agreements - you do not need fully baked enterprise solutions from day one. Don’t have preconceived notions with what will work for your new company. Sometimes people come in thinking that a tool that they were using at a previous company will work great for the next one. It is not always the case.
Founder - Engine
Don’t get trapped with Salesforce. It is expensive and you never get a chance to compare it with other tools. Understand your need and then go out to buy. Engage with salespeople only after you have done your research.
Co-founder & CEO - Tenantify
I wouldn’t tell them to go to with something that was very recently launched, because I have seen SaaS companies change their business model completely. There is a lot of impulse software out there. Sometimes a new tool can be great, but you never know. When you start with something that is not right for you, it can be very costly to change. Look for a company that is established and well funded. Use services that aim at doing one thing very well. If the company is focusing on catering your particular industry, that it is even better.
Founder & CEO - AppGyver
It has to fit your needs. Focus on what the problem is and what the possible solution can be.
Co-founder - Sorc'd
Speak with your whole team when committing to a new platform or piece of software. We burned through three different project management tools before settling on Trello because we failed to understand our needs before implementing a new application.
Co-founder & CEO - Opternative
Take your time to fully evaluate multiple tools, whether it’s free trials, reviews, or combination thereof. Project into the future growth trajectory of your company and ask whether the tool and its costs can adequately scale with your company. Only make a decision on cost out of the products that make it past your quality test.
Founder & CEO - iPyxel Creations
Get core systems set up early – like accountancy and CRMs. As you grow, it is much harder to integrate and streamline.
Co-founder & CEO - YouCanBook.Me
Not commit to tools until you are sure that they are going to work for your business.
Co-founder & CEO - AMPY
Research the tool, but do not overanalyze it. Try out the tool and you will know after a couple of days of using it if it is right for you or not. Spend a few hours searching, but then try to implement what you believe is the best fit.
Co-founder & COO - TradingView
Ask similar stage companies. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Founder - HandUp
You invest a lot of time when you choose a service to use. And, if you later on choose one that is better, it's hard to switch. Don't be in a hurry to choose a tool and start using it. Start doing something the manual way and keep at it until it's cumbersome. Then choose a tool.
Senior Scientist - Applied Brain Research
At the very beginning, you should keep your budget in mind. Using multiple tools can get costly. Start with few of the good ones and eventually increase later.
Co-founder - LivePoll
Coming from other companies, we adopted many tools that that we were used to. We get recommendations from other startups in our workspace.
Co-founder & Chief Architect - SwiftIQ
Keep it simple.
Founder - PeachDish
Talk to other people. Not random people but people you trust.
Founder & CEO - LifeLine Response
Start simple. Be aware that no decision is permanent. Pick the tool that helps you get the job done and eventually change it later.
Founder & CEO - Coach.me
Trust reviews across multiples locations. It has gotten past the time where a company could pay for reviews. Not all of them can be gained. It also made software companies aware that their software has to be a great tool in order to succeed.
Founder - ZipBooks
Before you buy anything, try it out.
COO - Reverb.com
Founder & CEO - Nomiku
The challenges you're facing are likely not entirely new. Ask other entrepreneurs for tips and tactics, and be generous about sharing what you learn, too.
Director of Operations - Artsy
Don’t use Amazon Web Services, it’s down all the time. Use premium servers because they pay off in the amount of time you don’t spend managing them. Try to do things in ways that have been done before. Don't look at the new shiny tool. See what you can do with Python. One of our servers was up for 322 days before we had to reboot it. It’s about reliability over shininess. This is why we don’t use tools like Slack and use IRC, because it’s going to exist forever. If you jump onto a new tool and then that tool stops being cool or gets discontinued, you need to start using a new one. If you use what’s reliable, you can avoid using tools that end up not being maintained. And, if you’re gonna work security--hire somebody who understands security!
Founder & CEO - Coinkite
If we are thinking about introducing a new tool, we evaluate it at the management level and then demo it with a few members of one of the segments of our team. If it’s successful, we then introduce it to everyone starting with quick and regular meetings to discuss policies of use. We learned the hard way that a broad switch can throw everyone off their game, so it is certainly best to go slowly and garner buy in along the way.
Founder - Neumarkets
Choose a tool that has more capabilities than you can see yourself using right away. This is especially true if it offers a SaaS model where you can upgrade to more features. You will discover that you need much more when you get serious about it. And invest a ton in analytics from day 1. You cannot build metrics backwards; put them in place, even if you just have a small beta. It will be the most powerful tool you have to figure what to build next.
Founder & CEO - Peerlyst, Inc.
Most startups believe they’ll be perpetually supported by investors and can explore different growth models, revenue models, and make mistakes. It’s a thought process that a lot of startups go through, and for a majority of them, it's not true. You read online about the minority of startups that have managed to consistently raise venture capital, but a majority of startups are struggling to do it. My advice is to find a revenue model from the beginning, and make your own money. It relieves pressure, and it gives you the freedom to run your own business and gives you leverage when you’re raising a round. Start small with friends and family, but after that, find a revenue plan and implement it quickly. Don’t be reliant on the venture capital system to prop up your company.
Co-founder & CEO - Inkshares
Find a user experience that you love. Leverage your tech stack first, but always do proof of concept. Make sure something is flexible enough to do what you’re going to do with your product or platform in the long run.
Founder & CEO - Wizeline
Try out different tools. They all have have free trial periods, so take the top 3 in each category, play around with them, and see which one(s) you need!
Founder & CEO - SprinkleBit
Don’t try to innovate, just go for the mainstream tools and services. I lost some time at first trying to optimize custom tools and I don’t think it’s actually worth it.
Co-founder - Bubble
The number one thing to look at is cost. And number two is learning curve. If you’re truly cash-strapped, you’re going to want to be lean. If you’re on Google Drive, then move to Asana, it can take a strain on you. So until you close that first round, you have to be lean.
Co-founder - Sutro
You don’t know what you’ll be using in the long-term, so be flexible. Once you’re at 100 employees and at the growth stage, your needs will be different for your systems than when you’re just starting out. Flexibility is most important early on; reliability will be most important later on.
Co-founder & COO - Club W
Don’t go crazy on tools! Choose them based on what problem(s) you’re trying to solve, and always choose ones that are easy to deploy. You don’t need 3 months of build-up time to get tools setup; just add tools to your stack as they’re needed. Companies have way too many tools that do the same thing, and we all need to consolidate our tool sets. Always choose the best in breed, and don’t have a lot of tools just to have a lot of tools. The more tools you use, the harder it is to train people. And always keep the tools clean; don’t leave old data on tools if you want to keep their utility high.
Co-founder & CEO - AdStage
Pick the first tool that works for you, and then move on. Don’t spend too much time seeing if it’s “the best” tool. There are much more important things you should be spending your time on!
Co-founder & CEO - Bold
You can spend a lot of time looking at choices, and looking at what saves you a dollar. But you really need to think about the push and the pull. You need to think about how often you need a tool, and if it makes more sense to build it yourself; we build a lot of the stuff we need. You should also wait until it’s more of a “hair on fire” problem before you look for something to solve a problem. For example, when you’re just starting out, look at what you can do with just email. When that’s not enough, then you get something like Trello. You should wait until your problem is clear before integrating a bunch of tools.
Co-founder & CEO - Open Listings
Be willing to switch. Our approach has been to try something for a few weeks, and then if we like it, we go with it. If not, we go with something else. That’s the nature of our businesses; you have to be adaptable and quick on the move.
COO - Chat Sports
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. People start to think, “I’m going to build my own (insert tool or service here) because my company is so unique and specialized.” But the reality is, while your company may be unique, it’s probably not that unique in terms of how you manage your accounting. Don’t waste time on something like that! Spend your time building out your product.
Co-founder & CEO - Neurotrack
My biggest piece of advice is to get information from people who have done this before. You should prioritize good hiring, and then let those people do the jobs they need to do. This includes getting them the tools they want and need. If you hire the right people, they know which tools you should use.
Co-founder & CEO - Townsquared
Avoid “bright, shiny object syndrome.” Don’t go for tools just because they sound cool, or you’ve heard about them a few times. Define your requirements, and what problem you’re trying to solve. Make sure you have a distinct business need or problem before you look for a tool for it. Then do your research and spend time evaluating the tools, and find what meets your requirements best. The number one requirement should always be, “Is it easy to use?” Remember that your team has to use it every day! Once you find the right tool, run a pilot and make sure it meets your requirements in a real world setting. This way, you won’t have to change tools every 2 weeks and drive your team crazy.
Co-founder & CEO - SpeakUp
(1) Don’t choose too many tools to start out. Too many people choose too many at the beginning. (2) Get the tools that are essential for you for daily tasks first. (3) For any undecided and unknown products, try them out on your own, and learn what you need. Trial and error will help you figure out which tool to use.
Co-founder & CEO - Blue Bite
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Of competitors, friends, reporters, or even people you admire. We’ve all been there, so ask away!
Founder & CEO - Arment Dietrich
I answer this question a lot on Quora. Basically, you’re a startup, and you’re going up against the big guys. You have to make sure you can move that quickly, for as long as possible. Your biggest resource is time, and you have limited amounts of it, so use it wisely. Trying to copy the big guys is not the right way to do it; trying to become the slow-moving monster is not the recipe for success. Don’t start to pay for $2000 benefits, and the most premium accounts, for everything you do. Don’t start spending on tools and services until you absolutely need to. We try to stay on free tiers for as long as possible. For example, we won’t spend money on making Streak automated until the cost-benefit is clear.
Co-founder & Co-director - Boomtown Accelerator
Be a good listener, and be patient!
Founder & CEO - Roomi
Don’t be afraid of spending a little money to get going. But also have a concrete budget to start. Be willing to spend a little money on ads to bring traffic to your site, and test out your idea. Be open to things like hiring a virtual assistant that can help you get part of your project done that you can’t do yourself.
Founder & CEO - Museum Hack
Be open to changing whatever tools you’re using. And don’t pay a lot of money for anything; any good tool will give you a free month, or a free number of users.
Co-founder - Monarq
You have to experiment with different types of platforms to figure out what’s best for your team and your needs. Early on, it’s important to have tools that make sense for the actual personalities and working styles of the people on the team as well as something that’s a fit for the business’s needs more generally.
Co-founder & CEO - Priori Legal
Flesh out your ideas first, without spending a penny on development. It’s really important to wireframe and get down and dirty with your ideas. It’s also very important to become knowledgeable with the space before you waste time or money. Read books, identify your MVP (minimal viable product), and learn from the mistakes that others have made, so you can avoid them. Read about companies you trust, and see what tools are trending; there’s a reason they’re trending. And just like you’d follow trends in UI and UX, follow the trends in tools as well. I would also recommend Stacklist!
Founder & CEO - Brick & Portal
Starting a business is overwhelming, even in the best of times. Make choices that help you achieve your business goals, and don’t spend all of your time trying the latest and greatest apps. All of these great tools and apps come out constantly; you’ll try them, and then you want to switch to the next thing. But it’s hard to migrate over to something else, so be aware of that. At the same time, you always have to be open to learning something new all the time.
President - Martin Waxman Communications
Speak to other companies and founders. I love getting advice from companies that are one step ahead of me, and have been where I am now. That is the most valuable thing for me. They have a good understanding of business needs, and which tools solve those needs. They also have an understanding of limitations, in relation to the stage you’re currently at. They can tell you how effective a tool is, and how that is tied into the processes of a company at a similar stage.
Founder & CEO - Shoppimon
I would have to evaluate each situation on its own, and then if my tools would benefit that particular entrepreneur, I would refer the tools to them.
Co-founder & CEO - Comeet
Focus on the problems you need to address, not on the tools. It’s very easy to get excited by shiny objects, but what you need to do is just really take a lean startup approach. If you don’t have a problem, you don’t need a tool for it. The only tools we really needed when we got started were an issue management product, QuickBooks, Google Apps, and Balsamiq. When you actually have a problem, then look for the tool to solve that problem.
Co-founder - BuzzStream
My advice would be to not obsess over selecting tools and services, because this can be a huge time suck that leads to analysis paralysis. Just get started using something, and if it’s not working, you can always switch. It can be a pain to switch, but there’s no such thing as the perfect tool, so you have to just start using something. If you spend too much time obsessing about which tools to even start using, you’ll never figure out what’s best for your team.
Growth and Business Development Strategy - Lob
I would definitely advise entrepreneurs to seek out advice from other entrepreneurs. A site like Stacklist is a good idea!
Founder - Qbox
Absolutely decentralize the decisions about selecting tools and services. As the CEO, I shouldn’t be making all the decisions. The leaders of each team should be autonomous, and have the power to make those decisions. Also, most of the tools will give you a free trial period, and if they don’t offer it off the bat, you should negotiate a free trial period. Negotiate the trial period and use it exhaustively.
CEO - Zumper
Tools don’t matter, it’s the people that will be using the tools that matter most. Spend your time and energy choosing the people that work best for your company, and then choose the tools based on what they want to use. The actual tools are not important.
Co-founder - Chrobrus
Try--and test--everything. Everything has free trial periods now. If something doesn’t have a free trial period, don’t use it. The majority of the time, when choosing these tools, it will all really depend on your and your team’s personal preferences, and how you like to work.
Founder & CEO - Venwise
Due diligence is a good way to start. There’s so much good data from similar companies that starting from scratch is silly. The second step is to stay agile. Don’t commit to big-ticket tools and long-term contracts. For example, if you’re just starting an email strategy, pick simple, low cost tools to start. Once you understand exactly how your strategy will play out in the long run, you can choose to expand your options.
Co-founder & CEO - PivotDesk
Only choose something that can increase revenue immediately. I would pay extra to have a service that always has drivers hired. I would pay someone quite a bit of money to do that.
Founder & Owner - Campus Delivery
You are going to try a lot of things--many of them will work, and many will fail. Don’t get locked into long-term contracts as a startup, as you need to change course to find what works best for your team.
Senior VP Communications & Marketing - Karmic Labs
Do your homework. Check Stacklist, and then check with all of your friends. Make sure you have multiple sources of feedback, and try not to be biased toward good or bad reviews until you get the full story. If you do hear bad stories, those can definitely be red flags. For example, with TriNet, I heard from my most trusted sources that it’s great. But then I heard from others that they had bad experiences with TriNet. So if the reviews are 50/50 negative feedback, don’t go with a questionable one to avoid a bad experience. Always try to negotiate because you’d be surprised how often people can be persuaded. It can be easy to get discounts, if you ask for them. Even on rent, or like we did with Justworks, when we were about to sign with TriNet, we talked to Justworks, and they gave us great discounts, and they get to steal market share from TriNet. Always try to get the best deal.
Co-founder - Datavore Labs
Make sure a tool or service you’re using is recommended by someone who has actually used them. Don’t try to evaluate these things yourself. You have no chance of evaluating these tools well, or efficiently, as you’ll have no basis for comparison. You’ll talk to a sales guy, but that doesn’t really help you evaluate a company. And if you choose the wrong company, it will set you back significantly. When you’re starting out, time equals money; you really can’t afford to use a tool and then start over a few months later, or fire your developer four months in and start over again.
Founder & CEO - messageLOUD
Salesmen are salesmen for a reason. They’re good at selling you on their services and keeping you there. Maybe this is not a problem for new entrepreneurs, but for new startups, it doesn’t matter if you like someone or they send you cookies--make sure you’re looking at the landscape and getting the right tool for your business and the stage you’re in. We’ve been really lucky that major partners/tools have been willing to grow with us and take our product feedback seriously. Slack adds new integrations all the time from listening to their customers, and Mobile Commons has built their product alongside our needs. Technology changes so quickly, so what might have been great six months ago, isn’t necessarily what’s best today. We’ve saved so much money by switching tools (insurance, web platform, etc.), so bottom line: Don’t be afraid to change tools if you find something that suits your needs better.
CEO - DoSomething
Even though it may look shiny and awesome, don’t always choose what’s new and trendy. Make sure they have really solid customer service. Go with the company that has the best customer service that can help you through growing pains, because you will definitely have them. For example, Cobot is young, and they’re in Germany, but they always send us a response within 48 hours, and their support is phenomenal.
Chief Operations Officer - CTRL Collective
Evaluate a few solutions and look at what human resources you have. There are a lot of tools that are good, and free, but they may require developers or human input to get up and running. There are others that are good, and not free, but they may be usable right out of the box. The relative cost of human capital is always something to consider.
Co-founder & CIO - Enplug
It was the biggest pain in the ass that we went through. It was torture! I think the most important piece of advice would be to ask other like-minded entrepreneurs for what they’re doing and using.
CEO & Co-founder - Plum Print
The key is experimenting. Try everything. Get advice from others, but then actually try and see what works best for you. What works for others might not work for you.
Co-founder & COO - RealLife Global
Look for free options, and don’t spend money on stuff until you absolutely have to. There are plenty of free options out there.
CMO & EVP of Sales - ExecRank
There are so many things out there, the tricky thing is to manage it all. It’s nice to have tools, but sometimes we have feature creep when we’re using too many things. You have to figure out your system of how you like to use tools. And don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.
Co-founder - GoKid
Don’t listen to anybody! The important thing for people to do is discover all the tools themselves and take them for a test drive. Use trial offers and don’t sign full contracts. And if something is not working for you, don’t force yourself to stick with it. All these tools are designed for a certain people, teams and processes, and you have to try them out and find what works for you. It’s a bit like dating!
CEO & Founder - DK New Media
Find the tool that you can make work for you. Don’t use tools that make you fit to it, find the tool that fits to your business. You have to talk to people that are in the same position and stage as you are. If you’re a 10-person team, with no intent on growing anytime soon, there’s really no need to get a midsize team tool. But if you’re going to grow past 10 soon, it would work to get a midsize tool.
Vice President & Content Strategist - DK New Media
My advice would be to reference as many peers as possible. Use something like Stacklist, along with talking to other founders. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s sometimes hard to understand why a particular tool is worth the money. Leveraging the insights and experiences of others is the best route.
Founder - Built for Teams
A lot of these tools & services have exclusive offers or networks, and there are startup deal sites that offer a few months' free trial for a lot of products. So try to pick one and take advantage of these special offers so you can make sure you really like the product before you commit.
Founder & CEO - Codementor
My advice is to not overdo it with tools. When people subscribe to Cloze, they have so many tools. Everything is spread over so many apps. Only get apps as you really need them. Don’t waste your money and time trying everything out. You can get quite a bit done with just some core tools. And only expand when/if you need them.
Founder & CMO - Cloze
When you’re picking a core tool, be very aware of your current use case, but also think ahead to your use case in 6, 12, even 18 months. How long will the bandwidth last before you have to upgrade to something different? Don’t commit to things with incremental benefits and month-to-month and integration expenses. On the service side, my recommendation is always, “Don’t go for cheapest option if it will cost you significantly more down the road.” Work with a partner that will provide a quality return on what you’re paying them for. This is the best way to minimize your cash burn.
Founder & CEO - Nomad Financial
Pick the product you know, and go with it. And the more integrations they offer, the better.
CFO - Makeable
We try to use as many Gmail integrations and tools on centralized platforms as possible so that we aren’t distracted by so many different platforms. Also, don’t over-spend on tools at an early stage--you’ll do this later. If you’re early-stage like we are, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot for tools when you can find a free one, or find an enterprise-level platform that will let you use them for a year or two for free. AWS has really nailed this model, and their churn rate is so low because of it.
Co-founder & CEO - BarterSugar
There are so many great tools, so just make it part of your day to test these tools. You should also make it a practice to look at the company’s financials, as well. A lot of people get stuck on the latest and greatest startups that they want to use. We’ve signed up for services that didn’t exist two months down the line, and that will continue to happen as the market shrinks up. When you select tools, you’re making an investment in the company to be there when you need them, so make sure it’s a solid company. You don’t want to sign up for a company that’s made up of developers with no business sense. I love using tools from new startups, and I’ll support them openly and promote them to my network. But I’m not going to sacrifice my business just for the sake of using a new startup--it has to be a good product and company with a solid foundation first.
Founder & CEO - Alley
Be very judicious with your time, and always take advantage of the free trials that almost every company offers. The trial period lets you use the app before paying for it. But, at the same time, don’t try every app. Don’t spend all your time fooling around for apps.
Founder & CEO - Writing It Right For You
Do your research and take all factors into consideration, like price, convenience and adaptability. We try to always find tools that do a lot of different things for us. This allows us to grow with them, and them to grow with us. It’s also extremely important to get tools that are customizable, so you can jerrry-rig them to fit your use case if something specialized does not already exist.
Director of Marketing and Operations - mbaMission
Don’t look at features, look at workflows. Workflows are what you are going to have to live with. Features are just bullet points. The experience is what you have to live with. That will be the difference between being satisfied in a year or looking for another tool in a year.
President & Founder - SmarterU
Don’t think for a minute that you can ever stop raising money. You should be spending about 25%-30% of your time raising capital. Create a “milk-money” jar for travel – I firmly believe you have to look someone in the eye to truly know whether they are right as an investor/partner. This is very difficult to achieve electronically, and investors aren’t coming to you. As for tools and products, look for easy-to-use and widely-accepted. Get Capshare, QuickBooks, Evernote, Skype, UberConference, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. For starting up, get these programs and apps and forget about the rest. You don’t have any time to take away from what’s most important—developing your technology or product and building your business. Don’t waste time looking for products and switching back and forth. You really need to do everything you can to avoid wasting time--you’ll need it for sleep!
Founder & CEO - Halo Life Science
Now I’d say go on Stacklist! We’ve gone through so many project management tools, to the point where we just built one ourselves. For things like PM tools, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. It’s very easy to get started in most of these tools, but they don’t last. And the tools that last are the ones that are really hard to get started on. So we’ve built some custom tools of our own, but that’s a ton of work too. I would say that for areas that are non-core to your business (accounting, email marketing), try and get good, high-value tools. For areas that are core to your day-to-day operations (project management, source control, design tools), those will change as you go. Also, don’t try to decide on tools for the entire lifetime of the company. Solve your current problems. Just make sure the tools won’t keep your data, so you can switch tools easily down the road. When you’re a startup, you can’t optimize for problems that you’ll have one year down the line. Just pick a tool--most of them look the same--and get the cheapest one that reflects your maturity of understanding what your problem is. If you know what you’re doing, it’s better to start out with spreadsheets for a bit. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s better to get a good tool for the current stage of your company and try and understand how it works/best practices, and apply those to your business.
First, know what you want. Know the factors that are most important to you. Secondly, you can try out a bunch of tools and let your team play with it, because they’re the ones who will be using it on a day-to-day basis. Let tool selection be a democratic process, and stick with what works best. I think most tools are open to having trial extensions, so make use of those. Specifically for project management tools, try to do a live test run with one project and see how it works out. Everyone on the team should be OK with the tool before you make a final decision--it should be a bottom-up selection process.
Founder - Brightpod
My advice would be to build good habits from the beginning. When you’re thinking about tools, it is critical to think about the problems you need to solve now. But you have to think steps ahead, to “how will I solve problems that I’ll probably have later?” To quote that infamous Donald Rumsfeld quotation, “there are ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns,” and you have to plan accordingly. Even if you’re bootstrapped or you’ve raised capital, if you’re not anticipating operational expenses, fixed costs can spiral out of control very easily. You have to remember that every second of your time counts, and it’s very easy to get sucked into the void of research, which is why Stacklist is helpful. Don’t forget to put a price on your own time. There are great services that can help fill the gaps in your team. You’re not always going to have people that fit every need; for example, you might not have designers, but you can take your sensibilities and leverage products, like how we’ve used Noun Project to fill in the gaps left by not having designers at the beginning. You need to move quickly and not worry about things you don’t know that much about, and instead find the right reliable tool to fill in those holes for you.
Co-founder - Quill
If you’re not going to use a tool, be honest with yourself, and don’t use it with your team. Don’t create ugly habits for yourself. Choose tools that complement your organizational style. For example, if you’re messy, go with simple and to-the-point tools. Process gets in the way of progress.
Co-founder - Aviary
Get the best tool that you can afford. This, of course, depends on which stage you're in. Be mindful of long-term implications of the tools you select. There is very little point in saving money in the near term if it will cost you a huge amount long term. This is what happened for us with SugarCRM--it wound up costing us a ton of money, as well as productivity and switching costs.
Co-founder & President - Work Market
When you’re starting a new company, you are going to be pulled in multiple directions. It will be very easy to get sucked into the tool loop of spreading everything out into too many places (like how we use Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote). In the early stages, people focus on optimizing and having the perfect tools, but that’s irrelevant. Don’t worry about that. You’ll smooth things out as you scale. There’s so much desire to get things perfect before starting, but when you change one thing, it all crumbles. So just keep it lean, but don’t worry about being polished until you’re more confident.
Founder & COO - Book In A Box
If you’re going to start using a new tool or service, make sure you get agreement and buy-in from the people who will be using it. We tried a few task management and time management products, and none of them stuck because there was no buy-in from our team.
Co-founder - LiveBinders
Even though Stacklist exists now and it’s great to see what other founders are using, make sure you are still doing your due diligence and speak to other entrepreneurs about their experiences with various products. With publicly listed reviews, you can never be sure how transparent a reviewer is being. It is worth the extra phone call to understand the good, the bad and how to best optimize the relationship.
Co-founder - Bundle Organics
Try to understand the process you're trying to create before you pick anything. Running the process manually first will give you better insight into where and how technology would fit in. On the benefits and payroll side, find someone to do that. Whether it's Zenefits or TriNet, that's stuff that, oftentimes in the beginning, entrepreneurs don't want to spend money on. They want to minimize the spending on external resources and do it themselves, and that's fine for something like accounting, but payroll and HR you should suck it up and pay for.
Founding Partner - Blueprint Health
Knowing how to work with lawyers was something I wish I'd known more about when I first started. We work in healthcare and enterprise sales, and both of those are super-regulated and bureaucratic industries. We definitely had some hiccups with our legal team and making sure that they were working with business goals in mind, so I wish I'd known more about the legal side of things when I first started out.
Founder - SenseHealth
Take the time to find the right tools. It might take a little bit of time and effort upfront, but it will make things easier to scale and ultimately allow you to focus on bigger things.
Director of Operations - Inxent, Inc.
Invest heavily in knowing the costs of your business and knowing when to spend / not spend money on a service. Some services we pay only ~$25 a month for end up saving us 15+ hours a week.
COO, Developer - Lightmatter
Just get started!
Founder & CEO - Publicize
If you have the know-how to build your own tools, do it. You won’t have to pay another company to do it, you won’t have to give them all of your data, and you won’t be scrambling to make up for deficiencies if they get acquired; you will have complete control.
Co-founder - Claim It!
Price shouldn’t always be your driving force. Cheaper isn’t always going to help you meet your goals, and the most expensive product isn’t always going to be the best. Always make sure that a tool fits within your budget, but also matches the goals you’re trying to achieve. Also, make sure it evolves with you and can grow with your company.
Founder & CEO - Sociallybuzz
Honestly, don’t stress about selecting tools and services too much--you can always change them later. We’ve changed services in most of these categories at least twice. When you’re starting a new company, you do need to cover your bases, but you should be focused on your product first and foremost.
Vice President of Technology - Golf Genius Software
A lot of people try to solve their problems with software, but if you don’t have a good process in place already, a piece of software isn't going to solve that for you.
Co-founder & COO - Casper
Moving from one product to another is hard. You have to make sure you can use the tool for the next 12-18 months. I have a fairly good idea of what we’ll need for next 12-18 months, so I’m always looking for specific benefits from any given product. I’m not trying to get everything from one product. At present, we are adopting a best-of-breed approach to selecting tools. This will also help us consider how these tools could be unified in our platform. It’s a continuous learning exercise.
Founder & CEO - UnifiedVU
A lot of tools are free, so try them out. And with team software, you have to try it as a team. If you’re going to test something out, you have to commit, which also means accepting the pain and possibility of switching. The tool that your team is most comfortable with is the best tool to use. Comfort level is more important than feature set.
Editorial Director & Editor-in-Chief - ReadWrite
My best advice would be to not go necessarily with trends, unless they fit with what you're trying to build and they fit your use case. Don’t go with something just because it is the latest and greatest. Always go with tools that fit your needs, and always think about your user experience and your customers--your tools will affect them, too.
Founder - Jurnid
Look for tools that are easy to use. Many of the legacy enterprise tools are still stuck 10 years back in terms of UX/UI--they're hard to use, take a lot of time and require a lot of upfront learning. These should be so much easier to use, more flexible, and onboarding/setup should be so much simpler. So don't just look at the well-known, more established companies--look at some of the new players that have paid a lot more attention to these UX issues.
Co-founder & CEO - sli.do
It’s great to save money, and do your due diligence in terms of free trials/referral bonuses/coupons/etc., but don’t skimp on anything that’s important for your company. A lot of the tools you choose are going to shape both you product and your culture, so it’s important to pick the tools you need, the ones you think will really help you do your job better, regardless of the cost.
Co-founder - Eager
Start with as few tools as possible--use what's immediately accessible to you on Google. You will get far with those. Assuming you're new to all tools and new to a team, start at the simplest level possible so you can get a sense of how your team communicates, what types of projects/priorities you have, ways of delegating, and which ways of categorizing are right for your team and your business. Don't force systems that you ultimately have to separate from--just start at the most basic level and see what you need. Also, if you're going to do any email with customers or mass emails to subscribers, use MailChimp.
Founder & CEO - Nine Naturals
Get your first dollar fast!
Founder - SilviaTerra
There's so much startup advice available--you can go on Hacker News or Quora, and everyone is giving you advice. It can be extremely overwhelming to hear all of this differing advice from very successful entrepreneurs, so one thing is very important: At the end of the day, no one is as intimately involved with your company as you are. If you are confident in the team you're working with, and confident in your ability to be rational and think logically, 9 times out of 10, that is more helpful than any external advice you can get. Don't over-value external advice while undervaluing your own logic and decision-making.
Co-founder - Point
Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer - Contently
Talk to more users. Too many engineers want to just sit and code and not talk to anyone.
Founder & CEO - Knozen
Figure out what you're great at and pick a really small market that's close to you. It's hard to get enough feedback to improve quickly in a global market. So get comfortable locally and then expand. Also, don't confuse short-term and long-term success; long-term success is way more important.
Co-founder & President - ALICE
Try all the free tools first, and when you want to start building something, just double or triple however much money you think it's going cost, and make sure you have the resources to jump into that project. Don't jump into product development too early.
CEO & Chief People Person - Founders Bloc
When it comes to tool selection, I would say that everyone's going to have different preferences, so it’s worth trying out a few options before settling on one (especially since most have free trials). As for general advice, you should always be learning. It's okay to mess up, but you have to learn from it.
CTO - Bowery
When you're a Seed-stage startup, you don't yet know what you don't know, and you don’t know what you're looking for. We've had some time to see that play out and figure out what matters, what doesn't. When I'm looking for a tool/service, what I'm looking for is, "If I'm going to have somebody else provide this service, I want them to have invested a lot of money and time into making that tool really full-featured and fantastic." The assumption many entrepreneurs make is that this is someone else's job, and they assume someone else can do it. But a lot of times, the tool doesn't do much; it has a lot of bells and whistles, and it's not that great of a tool. They haven’t done enough to justify their cost. So it’s really important to do your due diligence before jumping in.
Co-founder & COO - TeePublic
Manage your cash flow. Don't overspend on frivolous items.
Co-founder & CEO - SponsorHub
Do a ton of market research.
Founder & CEO - Socure
Take it one step at a time while keeping the larger picture in focus, but not to the degree where it will distract you from getting things done.
Founder & CEO - Coin Out Inc.
Research and track down the most common tools used by companies, regardless of your physical location. In the case of Chimani, we would love to use local/regional resources, but are constantly switching to more startup-friendly services that are generally located in Boston or Silicon Valley. A classic example of this is basic banking services: We would have gone with Silicon Valley Bank from the start had we known about them, versus a local bank which was not very startup-friendly.
Co-founder and CEO - Chimani
Start with free tools. You can get pretty far with them, and most will be free for small teams.
Founder - CheckedTwice
There's never a "right" answer, only a "right-er" answer. Just figure out whether or not what you're doing now is good enough.
Ron J. Williams
Managing Partner - proofLabs Group
It's very important to have an awesome co-founder. I was fortunate enough to go into this with a friend whom I knew really well. Even though I had the market experience and background, we went in 50/50, and that was one of the best things we could have done. There's so much stuff coming at you, times get tough and there's going to be so much to deal with. So when you have an equal partner, the interests are aligned. At the end of the day, little cracks in equity become an issue if founders are on unequal footing. It's important to have a co-founder that has real skin in the game.
Co-founder - Jump Ramp Games
For anything that requires credit, address that before you start your own company. Once you start your own company, you don't have a regular paycheck anymore and those things become problematic, particularly in New York.
CEO & Founder - inSparq
Be careful when picking your team, but be equally careful when picking your board members and investors. They're just as much your partners as your co-workers are. Don't just take money from anyone who offers it. We've been incredibly glad that we were a little more careful about selecting our board.
Head of Content - CreativeLive
Rank and order your biggest assumptions systematically, then test and validate them to eradicate risk.
Founder - Green Peak Labs
1. It’s cliche, but get the team right. That’s so, so, so critical. 2. Know yourself and if/when it makes sense to move forward. 3. Be willing to take your grandmother's money, even if she doesn't have a lot, and if you don't have that level of sustainable conviction, let it go (at least for now).
Founder - ExecCoach.Me
Don't rely on services and tools for every aspect of your business. It's sometimes more cost-effective to operate on your own.
Co-founder - Drop Global
Time is your most valuable asset. Think about what you spend the most time on and target efficiency in those areas. Hire great people who can grow with you and eventually improve in areas where you can.
CEO - DeansList
Most people don't realize that the world is a big place. Staying humble is probably the best thing you can do because word gets around.
Co-founder - Cooperatize
Focus on the most important, meaningful, effective tasks, and don't get too caught up in the "startup world," lest you become a permanent member (never reaching a point where your company is no longer a startup).
CEO & Co-founder - SideProjects
Don't grow before you find the right product market fit.
Founder & CEO - Pollfish
When we were starting out, we were bootstrapped, so we looked for free solutions for everything. We also went to some deal sites to get coupons for free/cheaper services.
Founder & CEO - Pollfish
Take your finances seriously. Someone out in California just got fined $200,000 for running his business out of his personal Bank of America account.
Founder & CEO - NextGenVest
Early on, you don't need complex systems. Documents and spreadsheets will get you pretty far. Our first CRM was a spreadsheet. Keep it simple early on, because any system you put in place will have unintended challenges.
CEO & Co-founder - Movable Ink
Make sure you really understand your customers. Understand who they are, what problems you're solving for them, and where your value is, in their eyes.
Co-founder - Keen IO
Decide on your tools as quickly as possible, and don't even worry about switching tools if you are already happy with the ones you've got. Building a product is so much harder.
Founder & CEO - Framed Data
It's easy to just say you need a "mentor,", but really what you need is an entrepreneurial psychiatrist. There's a massive emotional toll on a daily basis when you're starting up a company. You need someone who knows what you're going through, but is removed and level-headed. Having someone like that to talk to is huge. Also, you're going to have to act fast, screw up, and figure it out afterwards. Most of the time, you can recover from hasty decisions and, a lot of times, your instinct is correct. Don't sit around thinking about everything too much.
Founder & CEO - Founder Shield
Minimizing complexity is a big deal for us. Every day, we just want to come in and focus on building product, so every point of friction along the way really hurts us. The efficiency of getting your tools and processes smoothly integrated really quickly is very important to us. Also, it’s important to work hard to recognize the things we're not good at, and finding people/products who really have those complementary strengths. When people invested in us, they invested in us based on our strength, and to spend time on things that don’t play to our strengths does a disservice to everybody.
CEO - Dasher
Part of it is just committing to the work. It's so easy to get discouraged, but when you just keep chugging away, things will happen. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that it's easy to get spooked. You can tell which teams will be successful right away because they jump in, they're resilient, they have good support systems. It's those things, not the idea or cleverness, that make something work. Spend time investing and reflecting on those factors.
Co-founder - Tuckerman & Co.
If you're in the business of selling something, then you should start selling it. Don't spend too much time waiting around to get the perfect infrastructure set up. Just sell.
Founder & President - Upraised Learning
I think the most important thing is to just start NOW. Optimize for speed and go fast. If you think there's a tool that can get something done quickly, just get it and make it happen. Waiting around for the perfect tool at the perfect price will hurt you.
Co-founder & CEO - Zapier
You actually don't need as much money as you think you need to get started. You'd be surprised at how far it can go if you stretch it.
Co-founder - BananaDesk
Force adoption of tools/services across the organization. Pick fewer tools and do more with each, rather than getting too many tools.
Co-founder & CEO - Ampush
More important than the particular tool you choose is getting everyone excited about it--building a culture around that tool. It's easy to lose a lot of time and spend a lot of energy on side-by-side comparisons. There are a lot of great tools out there, and the most important factor is driving adoption across your organization. So if you have a tool that one group is particularly fond of, just go with that one and use it.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief - The Information
Use analytics religiously! The more data you have, the better.
CEO - Splash
Stop thinking. Start doing.
CEO - Canopy Apps
Don't be too impulsive with your purchases. Take your time, talk to people, get a good consensus. Investors and friends can push you in certain directions, so just talk to a lot of people who've used the products you're looking at.
Co-founder - SocialRank
Hire people you want to work with, not only the most skilled. Be passionate, positive and resilient.
CEO - PureWow
Don't get tools until you absolutely need them. I feel like we just brought on some of our tools because we thought we needed them and, as it turns out, we really didn't. You can get by using Excel or online systems with trial runs. Signing on to too many tools detracts from your core focus, which should be building sales and customer service. If you need tools to help with customer- or sales-related stuff in the beginning, then get them, but you don't need a lot of support tools right off the bat. Eventually you do, but not when you're just starting out.
Co-founder - Journey Bar, LLC
Everything will take longer and be more expensive than you expect.
VP Finance & Operations - willa
You think you need tools earlier than you do. Google Docs and spreadsheets can take you a long way--rely on the free tools for as long as you can when you're still in Seed stage. But once you do have funding, don't be afraid to invest in some tools because they'll help you scale. Salesforce was game-changing for us--it took us to a whole new level.
Co-founder & CEO - Manicube
Focus less on the tools and more on what you’re building. In the beginning, we hacked together everything, or used completely free tools, and I think that’s the right way to do it. There are definitely some great tools out there, but you can’t let them use you—you have to use them.
CEO & Founder - Greatist
Use the new SaaS tools, and start with the free version for a few months before spending money on the upgrades. Also, discuss options with your advisors, friends and board.
Founder & CEO - Zeel
Have a great team--find people who are committed to your mission and, more than just committed, but mature, responsible people to work with. In addition, you should have all of your systems in place from the beginning--HR, payroll, admin, etc. As your company grows, you’ll be able to onboard new employees more easily. It's harder to get those processes in place as you add more people.
Tools will not solve management or communication problems--they will definitely exacerbate them if you haven't solved the underlying issues already. So it's more important to figure out your processes and communication guidelines before starting to layer on tools. A lot of people add tools, thinking they will be a fix, which is definitely not the case. Work on solid processes and communication first, add tools later.
Co-Founder & Co-CEO - Plated
Before you buy a tool or service, weigh the cost of using the service vs. doing it yourself. Look at the cost of learning the service, how much it locks you in and how easy it is to build on top of or around it. You need to know how hard the API is to use if you want to integrate it with our other services. You need to consider how you will be using this service, and how it affects what you're doing now. You can learn a lot of this information just by talking to people. Also, if a service has a very responsive support team, and if you see a lot of progress happening, then you can usually accept a product that’s slightly inferior because you can feel confident that it’ll improve over time. So be sure to test out their customer support.
Co-founder & CEO - One Month
I guess we don't really run a standard startup, but with the experience I've had, I would say: Be really careful about who you hire. You don’t want to hire the wrong people, and it's worth the extra time and money to do it right. Firing people is really difficult in the early cycles of a company, so you need to be doubly careful when doing it.
Founder & President - Lionheart Software
Be your customer. Stay focused/reduce noise.
CEO & Co-founder - Forky
Focus on delivering value as quickly as possible.
Co-founder and CEO - Fantasmo Studios
Find your why (as explained by Simon Sinek): http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en
CEO & Founder - 15Five
Take the time to compare different tools. In the end, the right tool can completely change your life--it can make things so much easier to handle, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. It's a lot of work and effort to find the right tools, but it is worth doing it right from the beginning. Don't settle easily, do your homework. Also, it’s important to recognize that even if a tool is great, that doesn't mean it's the right tool for YOU.
Co-founder Stage: Seed - Sailo
Just say no! It’s the best productivity software out there.
Founder & CEO - MakeSpace
It's a marathon, not a sprint. Create a sustainable lifestyle -- whatever that means to you -- because it takes years to succeed.
CEO & Co-founder - Derby Games
It's not how well you succeed or how you grow, but how you manage the daily frustrations and setbacks that define you as an entrepreneur.
CEO - TreSensa
Process always wins over tools. No matter what you choose in terms of tools, it's mostly about making sure your processes work and making sure that, as a startup, you're not spending too much time on these decisions. I've seen this happen with people who have less experience--they get wrapped up in the hype around all these tools. There will always be new tools, and there's nothing more predictable than the fact that you'll be switching tools again in the future. So my advice is, spend as little time as possible selecting tools, and focus instead on your business and your processes.
Founder & CEO - Tinkergarten
Partner - Exubrancy
Stop talking and start doing. Execution is king.
Founder & CEO - AirHelp
The most important thing is to have good founding members. If the two or three founders can do everything themselves, that's the most important thing. If you have no money, you can't hire. If you can do stuff without hiring, you're going to be better in the long term. The more you can do with the least amount of capital expenditure and people, the better. If the people working on it are really good at it, you have a winning combo, and no amount of money or effort can make up for that.
Founder & CEO - Pair
Don’t do it for the money. You have to really enjoy what you're doing and care about it.
Co-founder & CEO - Vengo
5. In general, we are really frugal. We always want to go for the best deal.
Co-founder & CEO - Care+Wear
It can NEVER hurt to ask people for free stuff - play up the fact that you're an early-stage startup. We've gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars in free stuff, and to be honest, we probably won't even use some of it. Anytime you need something, email the company and ask for it. The worst thing that can happen is they tell you no.
Co-founder & CEO - Care+Wear
The most important rule that I try to abide by is that it's a business. Businesses make money. If it costs money, it's a hobby. Also you need someone in your team or board or outside that you can talk to as a sounding board to keep you on track. Lastly, I'm also a big fan of the 80/20 rule. Trying to go for 80% of your goal, 80% of satisfied customers, 80% of successful leads, that’s where the money's at. Trying to get to 100% costs too much.
Founder & CEO - EventBrowse.com
1%Stacklist Startups Are Using What is your most valuable piece of advice for entrepreneurs starting a new company?